Don’t call it a comeback: Three thoughts on a 110-97 Boston Celtics Game 5 victory

This Boston Celtics season is still alive after a Game 5 home victory over the Miami Heat. With the 110-97 win, the Celtics have now clawed back from an 3-0 series deficit to pull within two games of a return to the NBA finals. Still down 3-2, Boston has plenty of work to do down in Miami if the team is to keep the dream afloat and extend the Eastern Conference finals still further.

Boston paired patience defense with steady offense, and firmly dictated the terms of engagement in Game 5 right from the jump. Four Celtics players scored 20 or more points, with Derrick White and Marcus Smart playing particularly well. White led all scorers with 24 points, while Smart logged 23 points to go with 5 steals. This allowed a bit of breathing room for All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who combined for 42 points of their own.

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For the first three games of the series, the Heat looked like the better team, but now in a flash, suddenly Boston appears to hold the keys to the car. The Celtics still have to win two more games, including a Game 6 on the road and a potential Game 7. But if these Celtics come to play, anything is possible. For now, here’s your recap for Game 5 between the Celtics and Heat.

Boston's offense

All season long, Boston’s offense has been predicated on volume shooting. Head coach Joe Mazzulla consistently preached 3-point shooting as a critical offensive building block. In fact, he told Celtics Wire his team needed to shoot even more during slumps rather than pivot to a new strategy.


Through the first three games of the East Finals, the Celtics couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Suddenly, however, Boston’s shooting prowess has came roaring back. Here in Game 5, the home team shot 41% from deep. It wasn’t lights out, but it was enough to get the job done.

Everything is different for the Celtics when the 3s are falling, but when Boston pushes the pace and passes the ball, that’s when this team is especially dangerous. Boston logged 23 assists on the evening and consistently looked to get out and run. This is what allowed Smart and White to have such productive games, and further opened things up for Tatum and Brown.

Boston's defense


That Boston has recaptured its 3-point mojo is a very big deal for whatever happens next in the series. But if the Celtics can maintain this defensive intensity, we may really have a series on our hands.

Miami had some success at the rim, especially when Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo forced the issue. But overall, Boston’s defense was too handsy and involved for the Heat to handle. Miami couldn’t get into any sort of scoring rhythm, especially after surrendering 16 turnovers.

While Boston lead by as many as 24, the Heat were never once in front.  Instead, the Celtics held Miami to 44 points in the first half and xx overall.  Importantly, whenever the visiting team looked poised to make any sort of run, Boston tightened the screws right on cue.

Looking ahead


Boston still has quite the mountain to climb. Yes, the Celtics logged two wins in the face of elimination. But it will take another two to avoid an early summer vacation. The series now heads back to Miami, where Boston will need to once again dig deep.

If the Celtics can replicate the same sharp shooting and patience defense that powered a Game 5 win, they’ll be in great shape to come out victorious Saturday night. If the ugly habits and poor play from earlier in the series reemerge, Boston’s goose may be cooked.

The Celtics have reminded the basketball world just how potent this club is. Only time will tell if Boston can maintain that poise for two more games

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire