After Celts they lost the first 3 matches in embarrassing fashion, they were expected to be swept away. They then won Game 4 116-99 in Miami and came home to win Game 5 110-97. The Celtics rediscovered their defensive identity, keeping the Heat below 100 points in both of those victories. Going back to last season, the Celtics are 7-1 in elimination games. They have a 4-0 record in qualifying matches this season.
In NBA history, teams have lost 3-0 in the playoffs 150 times. Of those 150 teams, 92 or 61% lost Game 4 and were wiped out. Of the remaining 58 teams that avoided a tie, 44 lost in Game 5. Of the 14 teams that won Game 5, 11 lost Game 6. Only 3 teams survived Game 6 and were able to force Game 7. None of these 3 teams were in able to win Game 7.
After the Game 3 embarrassment, the Celtics had a team meeting and said they were all on the same side and ready to play together. Joe Mazzulla, after taking the blame for the match 3 demise, said he believed his players would pull it off. Al Horford said the Celtics are not out yet, if they find their defensive DNA, they can win the series. Jaylen Brown said that they will fight to the end and that they have to go out and play with pride. They showed that defensive identity and fighting in games 4 and 5. Let’s hope they keep it up in this game.
There is a Boston precedent for coming back from a 0-3 deficit, although not the Celtics. in 2004 Boston Red Sox faced an opponent New York Yankees at ALKS. They lost the first 3 games of the series and were losing in the ninth round of game four. They came back to win the final 4 games of the series and then went on to sweep the St Louis Cardinals in World series get a title. In addition to this Red Sox team, 4 hockey teams have recovered from a 3-0 loss in the playoffs and won the series. However, no NBA team has ever achieved such a feat.
Danilo Gallinari remains out for the Celtics as he continues to rehabilitate a torn ACL. Malcolm Brogdon played through a partially torn tendon in his elbow, causing pain throughout his right forearm. He was cleared to play in Thursday’s Game 5 but struggled with zero points (0-2 FG, 0-2 3Pt). He left Game 5 after playing only 8 minutes and did not return. He is listed as questionable in this game and will be an in-game decision. If he plays, he’ll probably be restricted again. Expect Derrick White, Grant Williams and possibly Payton Pritchard to have more playing time if he is unable to play.
Gabe Vincent missed Game 5 after spraining his ankle in the second half of Game 4. He was able to finish Game 4, but was ruled out of Game 5. He is listed as questionable for this game, and his status will be based on game time. I expect him to play, but if he can’t, I expect Kyle Lowry to start in his place. Victor Oladipo will miss the entire season after patellar tendon surgery in his left knee. Tyler Herro will also miss after breaking his right middle and ring fingers in the first round against Milwaukee.
Probable Celtics starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
Robert Williams III
Two way players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) is out
Malcolm Brogdon (forearm) questionable
Probable heat starters
PG: Gabe Vincent
SG: Maximum stress
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Kevin Love
C: Bam Adebayo
Two way players
Tyler Herro (hand) outside
Victor Oladipo (knee) out
Gabe Vincent (ankle) questionable
Jayson Tatum vs. Jimmy Butler
These 2 stars are the key to the success of their teams. Butler struggled in Game 3, finishing with only 14 points, shooting 33% from the field and making just 1-of-7 three-pointers, but with little defense from the Celtics, the roleplayers stepped up and came out victorious. Butler finished Game 4 with 29 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block, but shot just 42.9% from the field and 23% from behind the arc. He once again struggled in Game 5 with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, but made only 10 shots. He’s likely to be aggressive and want to take over the game, and the Celtics have to be ready for that. Jayson Tatum needs to be aggressive offensively and defensively for the Celtics to have a chance in this game.
Al Horford vs. Bam Adebayo
After playing very well in Games 1 and 2, Adebayo played a very quiet Game 3, finishing with 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. He also had a quiet game 4 with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 1 steal. He shot 57.1% from the field. He finished Game 5 with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. He shot 53.3% from the field and did not attempt a 3-pointer. He’s dangerous around the basket for goals and rebounds. The Celtics need to keep him off the paint as well as off the boards. When he’s aggressive, he can be a big problem.
Grant Williams vs. Duncan Robinson
It will be a matchup of key reserves. Robinson finished Game 5 with 18 points, 4 rebounds and 9 assists. He shot 70% from the field and 66.7% from beyond the arc. He is a good shooter and is dangerous around the perimeter. However, he is not the best defender and the Celtics can often target him when they want to score. Grant Williams has played very well this series and the Celtics need him to be aggressive both offensively and defensively, especially when Brogdon is limited or not.
Defense “Defense will always be the most important key to winning any game, and in the playoffs it’s even more important. And the defense was the Celtics’ biggest loss in the first 3 games. We finally saw the Celtics return to their defensive identity in Games 4 and 5, and they need to continue their effort in that regard if they hope to win this game. In games 4 and 5, the defense keyed the offense as they received timeouts and forced rotations and ran for wicket baskets. The Celtics forced 16 losses in Game 5, scoring the Celtics 27 points. The Celtics must once again make defense a priority in this game.
Bounce – As with defense, rebounding will always be the key to victory. A lot of rebounds are effort and rush, and when the Celtics put extra effort into rebounding, it usually translates to other areas of the game as well. The Celtics were off rebounds in both Games 1 and 2. However, they defeated the Heat 57–35 in Game 3, with 21 of those rebounds coming on offense. This was partly because the Celtics missed so many shots and the Heat hit most of them. The Celtics rebounded 44-39 in Game 4 but overtook Miami 37-36 in Game 5 and defeated them in the second chance by 17-7 points. The Celtics need to work harder on the boards than the Heat and win a rebound if they want to win this game.
Be aggressive The Celtics need to be a more aggressive team. For the first 3 games, they allowed the Heat to be more aggressive and play with more energy and effort. The Celtics need to be more aggressive in running to the basket, rushing for loose balls, boxing and rebounding, and they need to be a team that just plays harder. The Celtics need to be especially aggressive defensively. They have to support each other and again they have to play smart defensively. Five seconds into 5’s play, Marcus Smart immediately set the tone, deflecting the ball from Bam Adebayo, lunging for a loose ball, then delivering it to Tatum for a layup and quick lead. This set the tone for the game. They need the same aggressiveness throughout Game 6 if they want to win it.
3 point shooting Three-pointers are important to the Celtics. The Celtics are 38-2 when shooting from behind the arc with 40% or more. In the first 3 games, the Celtics shot 29% on 3-pointers and 39% on 3-point open. In Games 4 and 5, they shot 40% on 3-pointers and 53% on open 3-pointers. The Celtics need to focus on moving the ball to find an open player and make the best shots, and they need to stay focused to make those shots.
On the way – The Celtics are on the road again this series. They need to forget the distractions of traveling and being away from their homes and families, and they need to avoid hostile crowds. The Celtics need to fine-tune that and play their game the right way. So far, they have played better away than at home in the playoffs and need to find their focus on the road in this match. They won Game 4 in Miami and need to dig deep one more time and get that win on the road to extend their season.
coaching – Much has been made of the coaching matchup between rookie coach Joe Mazzulla and the very experienced Eric Spoelstra. Joe Mazzulla was under scrutiny for his lineup decisions, no time-outs, and other coaching decisions in the first 3 games, but received credit for his decisions in games 4 and 5. Spoelstra clearly took the lead in the first 3 games, but Mazzulla took the lead in the last two games. Which coach will make the right moves in this match?
Judging – Refereeing is always the x factor in any match. Each crew rules differently. Some call it tight, others let them play. Some favor the hosts. Some favor the road team. Some people just make bad, head-scratching calls. Sometimes officials have a agenda. The Celtics must adapt to the way the umpires control the game and not allow bad decisions and no decisions to knock them out of the game or affect their concentration. The Celtics just need to stop complaining about every call. Concentrate on the game, not the referees.