Celtics one win away from NBA Finals after beating Heat in Game 5

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are one win away from the NBA Finals. The Celtics shook off a slow start to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals and beat the Heat, 93-80, to take a 3-2 series lead.

The Celtics can clinch the series with a Game 6 win in Boston on Friday night. But they aren’t booking any trips out West just yet.

“This is far from over,” Jayson Tatum said after Wednesday’s win. “We just went into Milwaukee and won a very big Game 6. So we know that it’s possible. We came in tonight with the mentality that it was a must-win game and we have to carry that over, go into Friday like we’re down 3-2. This is a great team that is well-coached and it’s not going to be easy. 

“But we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a challenge but it’s going to be fun,” added Tatum.

Jaylen Brown was incredible for the Celtics in the second half, scoring 19 of his 25 points after halftime. He dominated the game in the fourth quarter as the Celtics pulled away, going from goat to hero in a hurry.

Tatum also shook off a rough start to finish with 22 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Al Horford was steady throughout and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Robert Williams had six points, eight rebounds and three blocks in his 27 minutes on the floor.

The Boston defense was locked in all game, holding the Heat to 31.9 percent shooting overall an15.6 percent shooting from three. Jimmy Butler was an abysmal 4-for-18 and scored just 13 points for Miami. Heat starters shot just 15-for-55 in the loss.

It was not a pretty game in the first half by any stretch, but at least it was close for three quarters. The Celtics took control of things in the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth, as their star players really turned it up in the second half.

Tatum and Brown struggled to get anything going in the first half. Tatum was just 1-for-9 and appeared to be bothered by a shoulder injury, while Brown was just 2-for-7 with four first-half turnovers.

The Celtics turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, which led to 12 Miami points. They were even worse on the offensive glass, allowing the Heat to turn nine offensive rebounds in 16 second-chance points. 

Boston was lucky to be down just five points, 42-37, at the half. That was mostly thanks to Derrick White (11 points off the bench) and Al Horford (10 points), along with some woeful offense by the Heat. 

The Celtics stormed out of halftime to go on an 8-0 run and take a 45-42 lead. They retook the lead after Horford tracked down a long rebound and went coast-to-coast for a three-point play. Horford’s free throw put Boston on top 48-46 early in the frame.

Tatum looked more like his normal self in the third, scoring nine points off 3-for-4 shooting. After Robert Williams rejected a Victor Oladipo layup, Tatum raced down the court for a nice spinning layup to put Boston on top 67-58.

The Celtics finished the third on a 10-0 run and outscored the Heat 32-16 in the frame. Boston took a 69-58 lead into the fourth quarter.

That’s when Brown took over. He was a completely different player in the second half. He hit a three on a nice feed from Horford to start the fourth, giving the Celtics a 14-point lead. He then drained back-to-back threes to balloon that lead to 23, 83-60, with 8:18 to play.

That was part of a 24-2 run by the Celtics over the close of the third quarter and the start of the fourth.

Brown put the exclamation point on Boston’s win with a thunderous dunk with 5:16 left:

Brown completely redeemed himself from all of those first-half turnovers by exploding for 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Wednesday night’s win gave the Celtics their first lead in the series, and now they will have a chance to end it Friday night on their home court.

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