Yes, there was actually a basketball game in Miami that night, although a lot of the event didn’t look like it. This fifth game of the semi-final playoff series in the NBA between the domestic Heat and the Boston Celtics looked more like a boxing match between two opponents who were hanging with every fiber of their bodies on the ropes. It wasn’t nice, the viewers got to see quite a mess – but that’s the way it is when a draining season pushes its protagonists to the limit.
Miami versus Boston, this duel for a place in the final, has turned into a battle of attrition. And if you look at the 93:80 with which the Celtics now secured the 3:2 lead, you can say: The slightly less damaged team has the advantage. While rows of professionals in Miami are only limping through this series, Boston still had enough fuel in the tank for at least one half to fight for the first match point. As is well known, the game will be played in best-of-seven format, but based on the impressions from this game, it seems reasonable to conclude that the Celtics will now bag the number at home in game six.
Nevertheless, those involved gave warnings that nothing had been decided yet: “We mustn’t think it’s over,” said Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who often missed this time, but still almost scored a triple double (22 points, twelve rebounds , nine templates). Even if his team now holds all the trump cards, his conclusion was: “The task is not yet over.” Tatum and colleague Jaylen Brown (25 points) were the turbochargers this time in a game in which Miami had led at half-time.
Tatum is ailing in the playoffs for Boston and Jimmy Butler for the Miami Heat
Boston’s leader Tatum, like so many on the field, struggled with an injury (he kept grabbing his shoulder), Brown with the vagaries of basketball. Shots were fired at the basket, but not in, balls were lost – at the break they saw an almost bizarre result of 37:42. “That half just sucked,” Brown said. The crux was: Then opponents Miami suddenly got into trouble.
Because half the team in the Heat was also injured at the high point of the season, the team collapsed, just like in the game before. Leader Jimmy Butler even deliberately left the Celtics unmarked. “He didn’t look like he could do anything,” said Boston coach Ime Udoka’s surprisingly candid analysis. So did many other Heat greats like director Kyle Lowry, who didn’t hit anything at all.
At Boston, the German Daniel Theis remained on the bench for the entire season and thus for the first time in the series without playing time. But you didn’t really need his digging qualities either, almost the entire Celtics squad consists of guys like him. People like Derrick White, Marcus Smart or Al Horford, horse lungs and ripped off mental players who know exactly what to do in the playoff mess. That’s what makes the Celtics dangerous: More than any other team, they have it Beautiful game long since ticked off, according to coach Udoka, they are concerned with “the mental stress and the siege” that they force the opponent into with their defense.
It’s all about Friday night in the home arena, for the Celtics it would be their first final since 2010. They won their 17th and most recent championship title in 2008. “It’s a huge opportunity,” said Jaylen Brown: “We have the opportunity to to create something special.” And the Celtics don’t give a damn whether the whole thing looks pretty.