FOX Sports NBA Analyst
The turnovers turned around in the Eastern Conference Finals. Three threaten to come over the distance.
The Boston Celtics found their way into the NBA Finals last year with stingy, opportunistic defense and a steady cascade of three-pointers. It seems they recaptured this combination to keep their hopes of a second appearance alive.
Disorganized and distracted four days ago, the Celtics climbed out of a 3-0 gap with back-to-back wins over the Miami Heat and forced a Game 6 in South Florida on Saturday.
Final score: 110-97. The Celtics wasted no time building a double-digit lead. At the end of the first quarter they were leading by 15 and in the second half the lead stayed at 15 or more until the end.
The Celtics made 9 of 20 three-pointers in the second half of Game 4 to avoid a sweep and bounce back from a six-point deficit at halftime. They also enjoyed nine concedes in Miami in the second half, conceding only two concedes themselves.
Rinse, repeat in Game 5. Starting with Bam Adebayo on first possession of the game, the Heat turned the ball over five times in the first seven minutes to give Boston a 10-point lead. The Celtics, meanwhile, maintained their sharp long-range shots, hitting 8 of their first 13 three-pointers.
It’s the first time the Heat have lost back-to-back games this postseason, and the recipe for their downfall has been the same in both losses: numerous turnovers and pathetic three-pointers. Controlling the ball and punishing the Celtics from deep was what led them to this 3-0 win in the best-of-seven series.
With Gabe Vincent unavailable after spraining his ankle late in the fourth quarter of Game 4, coach Erik Spoelstra was forced to field 37-year-old Kyle Lowry, who was every 37 of his. He contributed five points, four losses and one assist in 30 minutes, a far cry from the 17 1/2 points at 58 percent shot rate Vincent had in that series.
Statistics you should know: As disappointing as Lowry may have been, the real shock was the ineffectiveness of the Heat’s two best players, Jimmy Butler and Adebayo. Butler had a steady 14 points and a plus-minus 24. Adebayo scored 16 points but had six turnovers.
Gameplay: Al Horford deflected a corner kick from Marcus Smart, deflected the miss of his own putback attempt, and then kicked the ball back to the touchline, where he made the loop until Jayson Tatum sank a three-pointer from deep. giving the Celtics an 18-5 lead.
Quote about the game: “We always have to stay positive and know that we can do it and that we will win this series. We’ll just have to lock it up at home” – Jimmy Butler
What’s next for the heat: Return to the Kaseya Center friendlies where they are 6-1 this postseason and will hopefully have Vincent (sprained ankle) available.
What’s next for the Celtics: They gave the Heat their first home playoff loss four days ago. If they maintain the energy and focus they’ve shown over the past 96 minutes, they could become the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after starting the series 3-0.
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has authored two books: Rebound, about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s disease at a young age, and Yao: A Life In Two Worlds”. He also has a daily podcast called On The Ball with Ric Bucher. Follow him on Twitter @Ric Bucher.
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