Crucial Game 5 for the Celtics
The Celtics and Heat are in the midst of a Conference Championship series that has all the makings of a classic. In true Celtics form this season, neither team has been able to string back-to-back wins yet in the series, with only one game being decided by less than 10 points.
Both team's superstars have had good games and bad games but they have all coincided with the pattern of "win one, lose one." Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has shot 13-of-35 with 19.5 ppg in losses and 16-of-29 with 29 ppg in wins. On the opposite end, Jimmy Butler has shot14-of-32 with 17.5 ppg in losses and 15-of-27 with 24.5 ppg in wins. These two all-stars are by no means the deciding factor for either team, as these two rosters are perhaps the deepest in the entire NBA, but their leadership on and off the court certainly set the tone for these teams.
To say this series has been back and fourth would be an understatement. Two blowout wins by each team had the series heading back to Boston, and after Game 2's 25-point domination by the C's, it seemed apparent the green and white would have the advantage in game 3. However, it was the Heat that came out firing, playing some of the best defense we have seen in these playoffs while setting a playoff record with 19 team steals on their way to a close victory in Boston. This momentum shift was completely unexpected, as the betting lines before Game 3 were the heaviest they had been in the series and they were for the home team Celtics. Bam Adebayo would have his best game of the series with 31 points, 10 rebounds and being one of three different Heat players to get 4 steals.
Game 4 was Monday night and was a must win for the Celtics, as will every game be for the rest of this series. The last guaranteed home game for them and they wanted... or needed to send the Boston crowd home happy.
Not only would the Celtics cruise to an easy victory, keeping at least a 7-point lead after the first quarter ended, but they would limit the entire Heat starting-five to a combined 18 points. The defense displayed by Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, Al Horford and the rest of this gritty roster was the kind of basketball Boston fans have been waiting for since Game 7 against the Bucks. Tatum would drop 31 points while making 14 shots at the stripe, indicative of the aggressiveness he had all game. Robert Wiiliams would have one of his most efficient games in these playoffs, with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting while being perfect at the stripe, he would add 9 rebounds with 5 being offensive and 2 blocks in only 19 minutes of play.
So the tone has been set, the script has been written and the actors are all getting ready for the show. Both teams know how critical this game is, neither team will accept a loss and no man will go away easy. Both of these teams have been here before, in fact they were here just two years ago in the 2020 ECF where the Heat would win 4-2. The Celtics would end up taking Game 5 in that series but it was too little too late as they already nursed a 3-1 deficit at that point.
In the two years since that series, the Celtics have gotten more mature, especially with their young trio of Tatum, Brown and Robert Williams. They have also added key surrounding players like Al Horford, Derrick White and Grant Williams since there last appearance in May and lastly have shifted their front office around to much more suitable positions for Brad Stevens and new coach Ime Udoka.
Since their last trip to the NBA Finals, after beating the Celtics in the ECF, the Heat have kept a very similar roster. Jimmy Buckets and Bam Adebayo still lead the team in most statistics, but they have added players like Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker. They also lost a crucial piece form their 2020 team in Jae Crwoder, who waas their best "3-and-D" player, and someone who set the attitude for the team that has seemed to be missed this series.
The Heat have great veterans on their team with some youth that has the ability to shine when given the chance. The Celtics have incredible youth that shines from a game-to-game basis with some important veterans on their team. The Heat rely on their vets and hope their younger players will contribute, while the Celtics rely on their younger players and hope their veterans will contribute. Somehow two of the most opposite roster builds in the Eastern Conference are the BEST two, and have created a very interesting series to this point.
The good news for Celtics fans is that youth will almost always win out in a battle of attrition. We've already seen the effects of a long series on the Heat, with only one player over 28-years old scoring more than 9 points. The Heat have been able to keep up with their defense, but have noticeably with their offense as this series progresses.
Game 5 will start tonight, May 25th at 8:30 P.M. EST from FTX Arena in Miami. The crowd will be sold out and alive as the Heat try to take an advantage in the series. The Celtics will try to be the first team to get two consecutive wins and frankly, seem like they will have the energy, determination and grit to pull it off.
MUST WIN TONIGHT.
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Stay tuned while we continue our coverage on the Boston Celtics and the 2022 NBA Playoffs for the remainder of the season.