Celtics Win Ugly on the Road To Reach Doorstep of NBA Finals
The Boston Celtics won ugly Wednesday night, which landed them in a beautiful place: on the doorstep of the NBA Finals.
Boston’s 93-80 victory over the Miami Heat during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals gave the team a 3-2 advantage in the series and placed it just one win shy of reaching the Finals for the first time since 2010.
Wednesday’s victory was unlike Boston’s first two wins of the series, which were logged in runaway fashion and were buoyed by elite play from start to finish. This win fell at the other end of the spectrum – an ugly, low-scoring slugfest that was reminiscent of the old-school ball the Celtics played en route to their last berth into the Finals 12 years ago.
Both Boston and Miami shot less than 39 percent during the first half of Game 5. They combined to commit 15 fouls and 17 turnovers. Bodies were flying in every which direction and players were limping up and down the court over the first 24 minutes. And the refs? They were letting the guys battle it out.
The Heat held onto a slim 42-37 advantage at halftime, at which time the Celtics asked themselves a very important question, according to First Team All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum.
“We basically just talked about: How much does it mean to us?” he recalled.
It apparently means a lot, given Boston’s performance the rest of the night.
The Celtics continued to hound, harass, disable Miami’s offense during the second half while turning a corner offensively. Boston began to display a heightened level of aggression and decisiveness with the ball that the Heat simply could not handle.
Such a blend of ingredients led to Boston pulling ahead by 23 points with 8:21 remaining in the fourth quarter – a 28-point turnaround over just 15-plus minutes of action following halftime. The Celtics cruised into the victory lane from there, as they never allowed their lead to drop below 13 the rest of the way.
“We talked about flipping the script, playing a really good second half, a really clean second half," said head coach Ime Udoka. "We did that.”
As a result, Boston has now reached a point in the series where it has showcased the ability to beat the Heat in any environment and in a variety of ways: home or road, pretty or ugly, close or not-so-close. That ability is something that stood out to Jaylen Brown, who scored a game-high 25 points Wednesday night, following Game 5.
“I mean, if you want to do anything special, that’s what it’s gonna take,” Brown said. “Winning on the road, winning when you’re not hitting shots, winning when things aren’t going your way. That is key. There’s always going to be ups and downs, so finding different ways to win is a sign of a good team.”
In this case, it’s a sign of a bit more than that.
Good teams make the Playoffs. Good teams win a round or two.
Boston has surpassed that level.
It’s the great teams that find a way to beat other great teams in a variety of ways. It’s the great teams that embrace the ugly. It’s the great teams that find themselves on the doorstep of the NBA Finals.
That’s exactly where these Celtics now stand, and that’s exactly who these Celtics are.
One more win to advance to the final round - and they don’t care how they log it.