BOSTON — We have ourselves a series, folks.
The Boston Celtics defended home court in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday, rolling to a 110-97 win over the Miami Heat at TD Garden to force a Game 6 on Saturday.
The Celtics are just the 15th team in NBA history to make it to Game 6 after trailing a best-of-seven playoff series 3-0. No team has ever won a series after trailing 3-0 in 150 instances.
Duncan Robinson led the Heat with 18 points while Jimmy Butler tallied just 14, as Miami’s offense struggled mightily with Gabe Vincent sidelined due to an ankle injury.
Here are our takeaways from Boston’s second straight blowout victory, which cranks up the pressure on Miami for Game 6:
Derrick White: Difference-maker
White had a quiet offensive series against the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 2, but he’s made a massive impact in the Celtics’ last two wins — particularly with his outside shot.
The C’s guard connected on 6 of 8 3-pointers in Game 5 — three of which came in the first quarter to help Boston race to a 35-20 lead.
White aggressively looked for his shot all night and now has 40 points on 13 of 21 shooting (9 of 15 from 3) in the last two games.
The Celtics are at their best when they’re spreading the floor and multiple players are hitting 3s, and White led the charge in that department Thursday. After hitting 15 of 36 3-pointers in Game 5, Boston is now 10-2 this postseason when it makes at least 13 3-pointers and 0-6 when it makes 12 or fewer.
Tatum the facilitator
Tatum scored 12 points in the first nine minutes of play and didn’t score again until the 6:39 mark of the third quarter. But that doesn’t mean he was off his game.
The Celtics superstar adopted a pass-first mentality after his hot start, making quick decisions on Miami double-teams to set his teammates up for open looks.
Tatum’s 11 assists are a season-high and his most since Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors (13). While he struggled from 3-point range in this one (1 of 6), Tatum still left a significant imprint on the game, sparking the C’s early with his scoring and helping secondary scorers like White and Smart get going with his passing.
Winning on the margins
The Celtics beat the Heat at their own game Thursday night.
Miami thrived on second-chance points and points off turnovers in Games 1 through 3, but Boston dominated both categories in Game 5, racking up 17 second-chance points to the Heat’s seven and 27 points off 16 Heat turnovers. The Celtics also racked up a season-high 13 steals and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds.
Smart set the tone for Boston’s hustle in the first minute by diving for a loose ball and setting up a Tatum layup. The C’s out-hustled the Heat all night, playing with a desperation that matched the do-or-die stakes.
The Celtics will need to come out with the same energy in Miami on Saturday night if they want to continue their historic comeback.
Heat feel Gabe Vincent’s absence
Vincent has been a key cog in Miami’s offensive attack in this series, and the Heat’s offense stalled without him early in Game 5.
The Heat mustered just 20 points in the first quarter, committing six turnovers to just three assists. Kyle Lowry committed two of those early turnovers while starting in Vincent’s absence and finished with a brutal stat line: five points on 2 of 5 shooting with one assist and four turnovers.
Vincent’s status for Saturday’s Game 6 in Miami remains unclear. But it certainly bears watching, as he’s one of the Heat’s few reliable scorers outside Butler.
If Vincent can’t go in Game 6 — set for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET at Kaseya Center in Miami — expect the Celtics to bring a similar defensive intensity and force the 37-year-old Lowry to make plays.