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The mentality remains the same for Celtics

The Celtics don't think about the NBA Finals. You know there's still work to be done to finish the Miami Heat. (Author: Gardener)

the NBA FinalsBOSTON -- It's closing time for the Boston Celtics. They're just one win away from the NBA Finals and can secure their ticket to the championship round with a win in Game 6 Friday night at TD Garden. Mind business on Friday night and earn some much-needed rest ahead of the finals. The heat seems to be over and the Celtics need to put the final nail in the coffin and secure the franchise's first trip to the Finals since 2010. Last time out, the Celtics were one of the last two teams in the NBA, with most of the current roster preparing to enter their teenage years. He was in his third NBA season.) But Boston's core group has come this close to the finals before. And the agony of that defeat will fuel that core on Friday night. That happened back in 2018 when the Celtics surprisingly made it into the Eastern Conference Finals. That team lost Kyrie Irving a few weeks before the postseason, but with a young roster led by a rookie Jayson Tatum, sophomore Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, the Celtics found themselves 3-2 to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Then LeBron did his thing and led the Cavs to a home win in Game 6 and then stunned the Celtics with a Game 7 win at TD Garden. It was a game that saw Tatum throw a thunderous dunk over LeBron in the fourth quarter and one that Boston was able to win before James took over in the closing minutes. Smart is now the team's starting point guard and the bulldog on defense. And Horford is here after dipping into the Fountain of Youth to provide superb two-way play and a veteran lead. The Celtics have been the best team in the NBA since January and the best defense in the league all season. The tough times of five years ago, coupled with a loss to the Heat in the East Finals in the NBA bubble in 2020, prepared this Celtics team to handle the mental gymnastics of a Friday night final. We have to go home like we're down 3-2, with a sense of urgency that it's a game you absolutely must win and not relax because we're up," Tatum said after the game win 5 Wednesday night in Miami In the long and illustrious history of Celtics basketball, the team is 40-4 in a series in which they led 3-2. Some are already proclaiming this year's Celtics champions of the east and booking flights to San Francisco just went to Milwaukee and won a very big Game 6. The Celtics know they haven't won anything at the moment and are aware that the fourth and last win of a series is the hardest to secure." Nothing changes," head coach Ime Udoka said of the team's approach to Game 6. "For our boys, it's just another step to keep working on it." At their core, reaching the final is a hurdle they still have to overcome. And it's not one that they take lightly and let go like the previous two. Leave everything on the ground," said Jaylen Braun. We had the opportunity to do something special with this group, so let's not take that for granted. "Let's come out on our home floor on Friday and play the best version of basketball we've played all season. This is a big game for us," Brown continued. "At the same time, you know, just breathe, relax. We know how important these moments are. But just come out and play our game and we'll be fine.” While Udoka is in his rookie season as head coach, he's also been here before. While on the Spurs coaching staff, he made it to two NBA Finals and played in a Western Conference Finals with San Antonio as a player. Udoka said Thursday morning that no one at the Celtics was troubled by the moment ahead. The motivation of not making it, falling short a few times, it's not really talked about, but you can feel that inner drive to take the next step," Udoka said. "So these young people were in that position before "There's a calm about them going through this situation. Nothing was said about reaching the final or anything like that. It's really the task at hand and since they've been here before they're ready for the moment. It's not too big for this young group of guys."I think our guys who've been through this before but also want to take the next step in their careers and progression, it all matters," he added.The Celtics have two Back-to-back wins that have seen their defense throw the heat in a freezer. Miami looks battered and out of gas, while Boston's offense has done what it had to do to secure victories. But the Celtics had a lot of problems in the first half of Game 5 and that's what they'll be focusing on going into Game 6. These Celtics just need one more win to reach a pasture they've yet to experience. They have no desire to return to Miami for a Game 7 and will play like they have their backs to the wall at TD Garden on Friday night.

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3 things we learned from Game 5 of Wednesday's Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals

The Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat 93-80 away in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday and took a 3-2 series lead, one win away from the NBA Finals. (Author: Gardener)

Game 5 of Wednesday'sThe Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat 93-80 away in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday and took a 3-2 series lead, one win away from the NBA Finals. Blowout wins have defined this year's Eastern Conference Finals as the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are locked in a battle over who can take a 20-point lead first! After that streak ended 2-2 in Miami on Wednesday night, both teams felt the pressure to pull off a massive win that put them closer to the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat led by five points at halftime and looked like they had the upper hand after only holding Boston to 37 points in the first half, but then the Celtics came out hot in the third quarter, beating Miami by 32: 16 and grabbed an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter. The second half of Game 5 was all about Boston as the Celtics beat Miami 56-38 to win the game 93-80 and take a 3-2 lead in the series into Boston for Game 6 on Friday take. The Celtics' performance was very impressive, not only because they came from behind to win with their offense, but because this is now the second straight game they've held the Heat to 82 points or fewer. Now, just one win away from the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics could finish first place in the Eastern Conference on their home field. Coming back to Game 4 in Boston, it's very clear to see that the Celtics are ahead of the pack in this series at the moment because of their defensive performance. Miami had plenty of success in pick and roll sets on offense in Game 1 of this series and Jimmy Butler prevailed to get every point on the floor. The Celtics are an elite defensive team and the adjustments they've made at that end of the ground have allowed them to win three of the last four games in this series of Eastern Conference Finals. Perhaps the biggest adjustment Boston has made to defense is not allowing Max Strus and other perimeter players to feel comfortable. Grant Williams and Jaylen Brown both deserve credit for their defensive ends, but one of the most effective on-ball defenders for the Celtics was Derrick White from the bench. The Heat's guards have never had room to operate outside the perimeter in recent games, and in Game 5, Miami was never able to get the shots they wanted because Boston was more physical than them defensively. Other than Jimmy Butler, no one on Miami's roster has been able to get going offensively, and that's directly due to the adjustments the Celtics have made to defense over the course of this series. Since Game 1, the Heat haven't really had any success against Boston at the offensive end of the floor. Jimmy Butler was their only real goalscorer, and with him not looking right due to an ongoing knee problem, the Heat's offense was dead at times. They've averaged 82 points or fewer in each of their last two games against the Celtics, and there's a real reason to worry if you are a fan of the heat because no one climbs. Bam Adebayo has been kept in check, Kyle Lowry is suffering from a hamstring injury, Tyler Herro has missed the last two games with a groin injury and Jimmy Butler cannot do everything for this team. With Adebayo and Lowry not affecting the outcome of the game, the only heats left are Victor Oladipo, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent to turn to. These three guys can't compete with the likes of Jayson Tayum and Jaylen Brown, which is why the Heat find themselves in a 3-2 hole on this series. Perhaps the best we can take away from this streak right now is that while Miami are a great defensive team and definitely a championship contender, they're still some way from actually winning a title. This character is another elite scoring option alongside Butler, and while Bam Adebayo might be that type of player, he's proven in these playoffs that his offensive performance can be so-so. In the offseason, Adebayo really needs to work on his offensive game and get more aggressive in color, otherwise Miami will have to look elsewhere and on the trade block for another All-Star to pair with Butler in hopes of winning a title. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are top scorers for the Celtics, Al Horford was great for the Cs and Derrick White has really come off the bench in this series. The Celtics' most important player, however, is Robert Williams III, and his tenacity on the defensive end of the field makes Boston a true championship contender. While he sometimes hobbled throughout the series due to knee pain, Williams has consistently shown throughout the course of this series why he is one of the best rim protectors in the league, and he had a massive impact in Game 5 on Wednesday night. With 6 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, and 3 blocks, Robert Williams finished his fourth game of the series with at least 2 blocks. All night Miami tried to attack the color against Boston, but they were either turned down by Williams or sent back the other way due to his ability to deny a shot. He may not be a huge influence on offense, but Robert Williams III is the Celtics' defensive anchor and his ability to take every shot around the edge really changes his opponent's approach on offense. In this series, the Heat has made it difficult to get into the paint, especially in the center of Bam Adebayo and a lot of credit has to be given to Williams. At just 24, Williams has quickly become an influential defensive center in the NBA. * Kyle Lowry's BOLD Post Game 5 Quote: Kyle Lowry met with the media after the Miami Heat lost Game 5 of the Eastern Conference to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are now leading the series 3-2. * Jimmy Butler's brave quote about knee injuries after Game 5: Jimmy Butler met with the media after the Miami Heat lost Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics.

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It should come as no surprise when Derrick White makes it big in a Celtics playoff win

His selfless approach and versatile skills make him a key asset, even on the nights his shot doesn't fall. (Author: Gardener)

Derrick WhiteDerrick White ended the Celtics' win over the Heat in Game 5 with 14 points in 6-of-8 shooting, 5 assists and 2 steals. Submitted as proof that a positive spin can be given to the old Takes One To Know A saying, we present you the ultimate glue guy Al Horford, aiming to take on the up-and-coming glue guy Derrick White after his outstanding early performances in winning the Appreciate Celtics in Game 5 over the Heat. "D-White was incredible for us tonight," Horford said after the Celtics took a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals with a 93-80 win on Wednesday night in Miami. His energy, his activity, [he] is such a smart player. But he was slightly wrong about something - after the last two games, everyone who swears allegiance to the Green-Whites is talking, writing and thinking happily about White's crucial contributions in this series. At this point, you don't need anyone to even know anyone. Celtics fans now know what White's teammates and coaches have practically known since arriving from San Antonio in a February trade: His selfless approach and all-round ability make him a key asset, even on the nights when his shot does not fall. He can help the Celtics assert themselves and even save them from time to time when stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are temporarily disabled and other reliable players are ailing, ineffective or both. White played arguably his best game of the postseason in Game 4 Monday, scoring 13 points — including the game's first 7 — with 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in 41 minutes in the Celtics' 102-82 win. With Marcus Smart out with an ankle injury, White essentially played a Marcus Smart game. White was just as good on Wednesday. White picked up the doldrums again, especially in the first quarter when his floater worked (he scored all 6 of his points in the frame on that shot) and also gave up a couple of assists, including a nice lob to Horford. At halftime, White had a team-high 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting while most of the other Celtics joined the Heat and threw rocks to the backboard, with all but White hitting just 8 of 28 shots. The Celtics' networked defense, which officially plagues the Heat's perimeter players, and White's even, smart play kept them close -- they were 5 down at the break -- until Tatum found his shot and Brown found the basketball- Instinct section of his brain jacked in the second half, allowing the Celtics to take charge. White finished with 14 points (on 6-of-8 shots), 5 assists, 2 steals and plenty of gratitude from teammates like Horford and coach Ime Udoka for his part in the second straight win. "Skilled goalscorer, driver, initiator," said Udoka, assessing what white brings to the team. “One of our best guys when it comes to making quick decisions, going downhill and making plays. “He took advantage of some double teams on Jayson. He's really good at getting the game over with. We trust him to get the ball down the middle whether he's having a floater, doing pull ups or finding guys on the edge. “I think [Game 4] triggered it with the added opportunity of Marcus being out. It's great to have him back in this role, coming off the bench with the same aggression. That aggression is key for White, who still acts like the newbie at times and can become hesitant when he misses his first few shots, to the point where his unselfish play becomes predictable. After Game 4, Robert Williams made a particularly thoughtful comment about White and the challenges that come with trying to find his place on a new team. "[I tried to let him know he was welcome. “It's particularly difficult to join a team in the middle of the season. You see boys laughing, joking, playing; you're the new guy So I'm just trying to let him know that we're grateful to him. When White is at his best he's reminiscent of what James Posey brought to the Celtics in 2007-08, not necessarily aesthetically or playfully, but in his ability to help the cause in all sorts of ways. White certainly didn't play scared on Monday, and he was fierce when some teammates temporarily faltered again on Wednesday. He's one reason the Celtics have gone from a 2-1 deficit in this series to a win since their first NBA Finals appearance in 2010. Maybe you don't necessarily need to know one, but it's evident that White's teammates recognized him as an indispensable, successful player, even at times when he played like he didn't quite see it in himself. Seems to me this is the kind of welcoming brotherhood that every player wants to be a part of.

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The Celtics have come close before, but this feels different

Leading 3-2 in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics couldn't beat the Cavaliers. They lost the 2020 Conference Finals to Miami in six. (Author: Gardener)

the 2020 Conference FinalsJayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Celtics get to wrap up Heat Friday Night at TD Garden. The Celtics found more than just their ball touch in the NBA playoff version of a mud wrestling match in Miami. They discovered something far more valuable - the basketball killer instinct - and took down a limping Heat team who are basically begging to be put out of their misery. That newfound finishing kick and a 93-80 win in Game 5 Wednesday night has the Celtics on the verge of the franchise's first NBA Finals since 2010. They can wrap up this Eastern Conference Finals and Miami's season Friday at TD Garden. It feels like a humane thing given the Heat's injury woes with Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry. This time the Green dropped the guillotine cleanly with a hell of a 24-2 run that stopped Miami's cold-shooting and took control of that series with a 3-2 lead. The ability to do that in major competitions is the last piece of the tool kit for these Celtics. "I mean, it's really an experience for us," said Al Horford. Even on this series, I feel like we've grown as a group. It's something we're better suited for. In every game we try to learn and get better.” In all honesty, the Celtics have let the Heat hang around for too long. The teams combined to score 31 of 82 goals in the first half of a Conference Finals game since the lowest scoring Game 5 of the 2014 East Finals. The Celtics gave them life in the form of 16 second chance points and 12 fewer turnovers. Stars Jayson Tatum (1 for 9 for 4 points with two turnovers) and Jaylen Brown (2 for 7 for 6 points and four turnovers) literally threw Game 5 away. Boston's stingy defense and lack of healthy players and reliable shotmakers in the Heat kept the Celtics afloat. But they clung to a 1-point lead (59-58) with 2 minutes and 44 seconds in the third quarter. Then the Celtics charged down, baring their catches and tearing the Heat apart with a 24-2 barrage over a 6:20 span, inflicting a mortal wound and an 83-60 advantage. During that period, the adult green hit 9 out of 10 shots. Brown drilled all of his five, including three 3-pointers, and collected 13 of his game-high 25 points. Tatum, who finished one assist less than a triple-double (22 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists), didn't miss either, going 3 for 3 for 7 points. Meanwhile, the Miami masonry crew shot just 1 for 13 during that period. The Celtics simply sent the elevator to a floor the Heat doesn't have keycard access to. "We know what we're capable of," Brown said. “Sometimes it's more mental that we're trying to overcome the odds, or sometimes we think a little too much. "We feel like there aren't many people who can play basketball with both of us. If he starts, if I start, we know we'll put ourselves in a good position to win.” For the Celtics not to go to the finals now, they would have to seriously injure themselves and relapse. Playing again without sixth man of the year Tyler Herro, the crippled Heat still has plenty of fighting and physicality. What they lack is enough firepower to extend that streak unless the Celtics fail and fall back into old habits. But it's not all of the Celtics' stubborn, hard-to-hit D that has the heat feeling as if every basket is an oasis in a desert of misses. A game after shooting 33.3 percent, the Heat shot just 31.9 and hit 7 of 45 threes. They scored 4 to 23 (17.4 percent) overall in the third quarter. The Miami Dolphins have it easier. Jammed between Oladipo's stones was a front rim three from Butler, who shot 4 of 18 for a meager 13 points. Also, Miami's starting backfield of Lowry (hamstring) and Max Strus is a combined 1-of-28 in the last two games. The Celtics were 3-2 ahead in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, failing to beat LeBron James and the Cavaliers. They lost the 2020 Conference Finals to Miami in six. But this time it feels different because the Celtics have one last move. "Obviously, a different team now, I'm a lot better J. We're just older and we've been through these rough times," Tatum said. "We can't believe it's over. We have to go home like we're down 3-2, with a sense of urgency that it's a game to win and not relaxing because we're up...not satisfied and knowing that we still have things to clean up . "We have to play better. But the Heat are prepared to be taken down.

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A key difference between the Celtics and Heat is the East Finals decider

In five games of the Eastern Conference rollercoaster finals, one team has demonstrated its ability to withstand injury and setbacks. (Author: Gardener)

the Celtics and HeatThe Celtics break up the game in the second half resulting in a double-digit win and a 3-2 lead over the Heat. The Celtics break up the game in the second half resulting in a double-digit win and a 3-2 lead over the Heat. MIAMI — In late January, the San Antonio Spurs traded substitute Bryn Forbes for the Denver Nuggets. It was the opening of an opportunity for the Boston Celtics that was fully realized as they sidelined the Miami Heat after a 93-80 win in Game 5 on Wednesday and a 3-2 lead. It had been eight years since the Spurs were ready to make a mid-season trade and the Celtics played a minor role, functioning as the deal's third team. More importantly, it was the expected signal that the Spurs were open to trades - and the Celtics wanted to be in on it. A few weeks, a couple of phone calls and lots of negotiations later, the Celtics pulled the sword out of the stone and landed guard Derrick White. That's not to say that white is one of the main reasons the Celtics took a win away from their first NBA Finals in 12 years. But having White, a starting-level warden who is a luxurious replacement for a title contender, is a cornerstone of why Boston is in this position. Four teams with 50 wins were separated by two games in the standings. A team with 44 wins (the Cleveland Cavaliers) did not make the playoffs; There have been several years in the last decade where that got you the 5 seed in the East. But injuries have tarnished what promised to be a potentially great East playoff bracket of all time. Khris Middleton's knee injury may very well have been the deciding factor in the Milwaukee Bucks' seven-game series loss to Boston in the second round. And now the Heat has been reduced to a partial accomplishment on their 53-win tally, with three of their best offensive players affected by injuries. Kyle Lowry, who has played the last three games but as a shell of himself, went into Game 5 with 0 of 6 and in the series he is 5 of 23. Jimmy Butler plays on one leg, a sore knee halting his ability to make a jump shot or get past defenders. After going to the foul line 26 times in Games 1 and 2, Butler has been there six times in the last three competitions. In Game 5, the Celtics essentially stopped guarding Butler. They backed off from Butler, treating him as an unskilled screensetter, not the team's most dominant offensive player. "Butler didn't want to score," said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. "We wanted to keep an eye on him, play him like a big one." In the last two games and while playing through a knee infection, Butler shot 7 of 32, marking the worst two-game shooting streak of his career (with at least 25 attempts), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Tyler Herro has missed the last two games with a groin injury. Even with those postseason appearances, the Heat wouldn't consider pushing Herro to play. Herro has been averaging nearly 21 points per game this season and that performance has proved irreplaceable as Miami as a team has averaged 81 points after losing games 4 and 5. Going white has proved an important addition as Marcus Smart has missed three games this postseason with quadriceps, foot and ankle injuries. The Celtics are 3-0 in these contests. And on Wednesday, when Smart was limited and shooting 1-of-5, White had 14 points, five assists and two steals. White shot 5 of 6 and scored 11 of the Celtics' 37 points in the first half of Game 5, almost single-handedly keeping the team afloat. That was after his 13 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals instead of Smart in Game 4. “Derrick, the last two games, he's been fantastic. His contributions to our team have been great," said Jaylen Brown, who took the lead in Wednesday's second half. The Celtics are broken themselves: Smart's right leg is a medical case study; Jayson Tatum has been struggling with a right shoulder condition that has prompted him to fire some uncharacteristically heinous shots; Robert Williams III, returning from season-ending surgery, struggles daily with a fractured bone in his left knee; and Brown is coming off a hamstring injury. But in Game 5, the Celtics had their full roster available for only the fourth time this postseason and the first time in the series. Brown, who had 25 points, and Tatum, who had a bad shooting night at 22, were the leaders as always. But the reason the Celtics won was because they just had more healthy players at the right time. A big reason the Celtics have persevered is the way the roster was built for this glove. White's insertion and his ability to deliver within his role is perhaps the best example. Boston's recent playoff opponents -- defending champion Bucks and now top seed Heat -- weren't as well equipped or quite as healthy. Some like to point out that in certain years the title winner should have an asterisk because injury or other circumstances played a role in their victories. This is nonsense; The act of surviving the NBA postseason marathon and its opponents is the definition of what makes a champion. The injuries have robbed the fans of the better quality in this series so far. But the Celtics deserved the lead. "The mental stress and strain that we put on some teams with our defense worked and got us through the playoffs at times," said Udoka.

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The Celtics have come close before, but this feels different

Leading 3-2 in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics couldn't beat the Cavaliers. They lost the 2020 Conference Finals to Miami in six. (Author: Gardener)

the 2020 Conference FinalsYou can wrap up this Eastern Conference Finals and Miami's season at TD Garden on Friday. You can wrap up this Eastern Conference Finals and Miami's season at TD Garden on Friday. It feels like a humane thing given the Heat's injury woes with Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry. It feels like a humane thing given the Heat's injury woes with Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry. That newfound finishing kick and a 93-80 win in Wednesday night's Game 5 have the Celtics on the verge of the franchise's first NBA Finals since 2010. This newfound finishing kick and a 93-80 win in Wednesday night's Game 5 have the Celtics under control just before the franchise's first NBA Finals since 2010. The Celtics found more than just their ball touch in the NBA playoff version of a mud wrestling match in Miami. The Celtics found more than just their ball touch in the NBA playoff version of a mud wrestling match in Miami. They discovered something far more valuable - the basketball killer instinct - and took down a limping Heat team who are basically begging to be put out of their misery. They discovered something far more valuable - the basketball killer instinct - and took down a limping Heat team who are basically begging to be put out of their misery. This time the Green dropped the guillotine cleanly with a hell of a 24-2 run that stopped Miami's cold-shooting and took control of that series with a 3-2 lead. The ability to do that in major competitions is the last piece of the tool kit for these Celtics. "I mean, it's really an experience for us," said Al Horford. Even on this series, I feel like we've grown as a group. It's something we're better suited for. In every game we try to learn and get better.” In all honesty, the Celtics have let the Heat hang around for too long. The teams combined to score 31 of 82 goals in the first half of a Conference Finals game since the lowest scoring Game 5 of the 2014 East Finals. The Celtics gave them life in the form of 16 second chance points and 12 fewer turnovers. Stars Jayson Tatum (1 for 9 for 4 points with two turnovers) and Jaylen Brown (2 for 7 for 6 points and four turnovers) literally threw Game 5 away. Boston's stingy defense and lack of healthy players and reliable shotmakers in the Heat kept the Celtics afloat. But they clung to a 1-point lead (59-58) with 2 minutes and 44 seconds in the third quarter. Then the Celtics charged down, baring their catches and tearing the Heat apart with a 24-2 barrage over a 6:20 span, inflicting a mortal wound and an 83-60 advantage. During that period, the adult green hit 9 out of 10 shots. Brown drilled all of his five, including three 3-pointers, and collected 13 of his game-high 25 points. Tatum, who finished one assist less than a triple-double (22 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists), didn't miss either, going 3 for 3 for 7 points. Meanwhile, the Miami masonry crew shot just 1 for 13 during that period. The Celtics simply sent the elevator to a floor the Heat doesn't have keycard access to. "We know what we're capable of," Brown said. “Sometimes it's more mental that we're trying to overcome the odds, or sometimes we think a little too much. "We feel like there aren't many people who can play basketball with both of us. If he starts, if I start, we know we'll put ourselves in a good position to win.” For the Celtics not to go to the finals now, they would have to seriously injure themselves and relapse. Playing again without sixth man of the year Tyler Herro, the crippled Heat still has plenty of fighting and physicality. What they lack is enough firepower to extend that streak unless the Celtics fail and fall back into old habits. But it's not all of the Celtics' stubborn, hard-to-hit D that has the heat feeling as if every basket is an oasis in a desert of misses. A game after shooting 33.3 percent, the Heat shot just 31.9 and hit 7 of 45 threes. They scored 4 to 23 (17.4 percent) overall in the third quarter. The Miami Dolphins have it easier. Jammed between Oladipo's stones was a front rim three from Butler, who shot 4 of 18 for a meager 13 points. Also, Miami's starting backfield of Lowry (hamstring) and Max Strus is a combined 1-of-28 in the last two games. The Celtics were 3-2 ahead in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, failing to beat LeBron James and the Cavaliers. They lost the 2020 Conference Finals to Miami in six. But this time it feels different because the Celtics have one last move. "Obviously, a different team now, I'm a lot better J. We're just older and we've been through these rough times," Tatum said. "We can't believe it's over. We have to go home like we're down 3-2, with a sense of urgency that it's a game to win and not relaxing because we're up...not satisfied and knowing that we still have things to clean up . "We have to play better. But the Heat are prepared to be taken down. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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6 takeaways as Jaylen Brown turned Game 5 and Celtics led over Heat

The Celtics now lead 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals after Jaylen Brown helped turn Game 5 and pull off an impressive win. (Author: Gardener)

Jaylen BrownHere are the takeaways as Jaylen Brown and the Celtics outlasted the 93-80 heat in a Game 5 rockfight to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. 1. After Game 5, Ime Udoka was asked what was the biggest difference between Jaylen Brown in the first half and Jaylen Brown in the second half. "He didn't turn it around," Udoka said curtly, then paused to wait for the next question. In a series characterized by its simplicity, Brown's Game 5 was a microcosm. He kept driving into a crowd in the first half and was stripped every time. Time and time again, he made the one mistake that doomed the Celtics in Games 1 and 3: You just can't afford to turn it over against the Heat, and Brown kept turning it over. In the third quarter, he drove the length of the floor and scored from a foul in transition. After three missed shots in a row, he finished the quarter with a baseline drive assist for Grant Williams, a beautiful step back jumper and a turnaround jumper that put him to six points in that period. He didn't turn the ball over. In the fourth, he rattled in a spot-up 3-pointer. Then he rattled in another. He then blasted a 30-foot throw when Jayson Tatum held out his hands in celebration, taking the lead to 23. Once again he didn't turn her around. "I just had to adjust, stay aggressive and stop flipping the ball," Brown said. Sometimes this game is insanely simple. "Any time Jaylen is on the second side, he's lethal — whether it's a catch-and-shoot or a pull-up," Udoka said when the dumped formerly reporter rightly begged him to expand. “We found he was coming out of the timeouts for some fast rides that got him going. "It doesn't matter if he's doing a hard pull-up, some guys are tough hitters, and he's one of them. We'd rather let him do that 100 percent than turn the ball over. We just told him to take shots, see the crowd, get off the ball but be aggressive when we needed it and he did. Brown had some ugly moments in these playoffs — including some in Game 5 — but when the Celtics needed him to get them one step closer to the Finals, he delivered. 2. Jayson Tatum spent much of the game grabbing his right shoulder after this game with Kyle Lowry. Udoka told ESPN after the first quarter that he suffered another stinger, but something clearly seemed to be going on. In the first quarter after his injury he missed all five missed shots - including two layups. I have Nick [Sang], my coach, he takes care of me," Tatum said after the game. 3. Without Derrick White in the first half, the Celtics would have fallen more than five behind. He drove pick-and-rolls with Tatum as the rollman, and when the Heat jumped out to prevent a switch, he got swimmers in the paint. He made all the right decisions as a passer – an extra pass to Brown for a 3-pointer, a lob to Horford in transition, a well-timed pass to Tatum in transition. "D-White was incredible for us tonight," said Al Horford. People probably won't talk about it enough, but for me it was huge.” White finished with 14 points in 6-for-8 shooting and five assists. 4. You won't find defense much more dominant than this. The Heat have a lot to figure out offensively before Friday. 5. Robert Williams didn't come out of the dressing room immediately after half-time - a worrying development for the Celtics as he struggled with knee pain. "I just got an extra stretch at halftime," said Udoka. When he wanted to come out, he just wanted to stretch extra. Give him some more time. To hear Grant Williams tell it? "He was in the bathroom I think," Williams chuckled to NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin. "He knows how to play through with an injury," said Udoka. 6. The Celtics have been here before, of course - just a game away from the Finals with two chances to get there. They were two games away in 2020. In 2012, the previous iteration of the Celtics had two chances against a Heat team featuring LeBron James. Still, Tatum admitted this year feels a little different. "My rookie year, 3-2 up, you know, obviously a different team now," he said. And we've been through those hard times. “But the mindset and the conversation we had after the game was last time we were down 3-2, we had to get on the road and win a Game 6 and we did that. We can't believe it's over. We have to go home like we're down 3-2 with a sense of urgency that it's a game that must be won and not relax because we're up. Brown has been in the conference finals four times in his career. "This is a great opportunity," he said. We had the opportunity to do something special with this group, so we don't take that for granted. "At the same time, you know, just breathe, relax. We know how important these moments are. But just come out and play our game and we'll be fine. The Celtics will make their first jump in a trip to the Finals in Game 6 at TD Garden on Friday.

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Celtic's mix of depth and veteran makes them special as they are one win away from the NBA Finals

It was Derrick White and Al Horford's turn to appear for the Celtics in their Game 5 win over the Heat. (Author: Gardener)

CelticMIAMI — For all the otherworldly talent of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, they'll be posting games they struggle immensely in. Basketball isn't an easy game — especially in the postseason. There the Celtics found themselves beating the Heat in Game 5 as they languished in the first half where hitting was a premium and turnovers were plentiful. But the Celtics continue to find contributors from a strong, playoff-savvy roster that keeps finding ways to win. It was Al Horford and Derrick White's joint round in Wednesday's 93-80 Game 5 win over the Heat. They improved a lot in the first half for the Celtics as White seemed to be the only player who had some offensive flow early on. So, yes, Tatum and Brown teamed in the second half to almost beat the Heat. But the Celtics were just five points behind at halftime due to contributions from their veterans. That's what makes this Boston team so special: The Celtics are deep, talented, and they get performance from seemingly every one of their rotation players. Now they're just one win away from the NBA Finals as the C's took a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over the Heat. "D-White was incredible for us tonight," Horford said. It's going to take different types to be able to level up and do things like that. White, in particular, has been tremendous in the last two games for the Celtics. He scored the first seven points in Game 4 and set the early tone for a blowout C win. While White was substituted on in Game 5 because Marcus Smart was back after spraining his ankle, White still made the most of his 29 minutes. White finished the game with 14 points and five assists at 6-8 from the field as his shot finally lands with some regularity. If the Celtics make it to the NBA Finals, he'll celebrate his 36th birthday on June 3 while the season is still underway. Horford was everywhere on Wednesday, amassing 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 5-for-8 shooting, along with his continued excellent defense. “Al is doing what he's done his whole career, putting in big moments, making timely shots, rebounding, being a defensive stopper for us and also being that relief valve. (White and Horford) were definitely the story of the game tonight. On Wednesday, White and Horford happened to have their turn to come up with numbers — it's been that way all postseason. Grant Williams burst onto the national scene when he shot the Celtics to victory in Game 7 against the Bucks. Even a guy like Payton Pritchard stood up when Smart or White missed games. The Celtics hit at Brown and Tatum's whistle, which is why they pulled away in the second half on Wednesday. While the Heat accumulated just 38 points in the final two quarters, Brown and Tatum combined for 37 points to match nearly all of Miami's second-half performance. Then there's the experience for the Celtics, who boast playoff acumen to know what they're talking about. The C's aren't necessarily the oldest team -- they just have so many guys who are battle-hardened in the postseason. That's a huge luxury for Boston's first-year coach Ime Udoka, who has spent years in the league as a player and coach. "We had to come out with the right mentality after a win and we did that," said Udoka. For our guys it's just another step to keep working on it. Despite all that experience and post-season success, the current iteration of the C's doesn't have much knowledge about playing in the NBA Finals. Tatum, Brown and others know what it's like to be in the conference finals; The C's have made it to this stage in four of the last six seasons. For that reason, the Celtics aren't looking past the Heat for Game 6, which is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Friday at TD Garden. Tatum said they need to come into the showdown with a must-win mindset as the Cs were right and wrong in a comeback from a 2-3 deficit. Just a few weeks ago, the Celtics had to beat the Bucks in Games 6 and 7 to extend their season - the same situation the Heat are in. The Celtics will celebrate their Game 5 win. "It's the playoffs," Brown said. "If you want to do something special, then that's what it takes: win on the street, win when you're not hitting shots, win when things don't go your way. There will always be ups and downs. Finding different ways to win is a sign of a good team.”

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Celtics run past Heat 93-80, earn an NBA Finals win

Jaylen Brown scored 25 points, Jayson Tatum added 22 and the Celtics are now one win away from the NBA Finals. (Author: Gardener)

NBA FinalsMIAMI (AP) -- The Boston Celtics know the formula. They believe their defense, as has been the case time and time again in these playoffs, will eventually wear teams down. Jaylen Brown scored 25 points, Jayson Tatum added 22 and the Celtics are now one win away from the NBA Finals. They ran away after halftime to beat the Miami Heat 93-80 on Wednesday night and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference title series. "I think the mental stress and strain that we put on some teams with our defense worked and got us through the playoffs at times," said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. Al Horford had 16 points and Derrick White added 14 for the Celtics. Bam Adebayo scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Heat, who scored 32% in the game - after scoring 33% in Boston's 20-point win in Game 4. Gabe Vincent added 15, Jimmy Butler had 13, and Duncan Robinson scored 11 for Miami. The Heat were 7 for 45 from 3 point range. They played without the injured Tyler Herro (groin) and several Miami players were questionable about getting on the day with various complaints. "We're not going to offer any kind of distraction or apology," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Game 6 takes place in Boston on Friday night, where two trophies with the names of Celtics legends will await. The Bob Cousy Trophy goes to the East Champions, the Larry Bird Trophy to the East Finals MVP, and the Celtics are one win away from lifting them. "We have an opportunity to do something special with this group," Brown said. This series has seen massive swings in momentum — a 44-14 run in Miami in Game 1, a 60-21 run in Boston in Game 2, a 46-20 run in Miami to open Game 3, followed by a 57 -33 run in Boston in the same game, and a 26-4 sprint by the Celtics to open Game 4. The score over a 6 1/2 minute stretch of the second half: Celtics 24, heat 2. “It was tough in the first half because we weren't taking shots and turning the ball around,” Horford said. Boston beat Miami 32-16 in the third quarter, keeping the Heat at 17% shooting. The lead at that point was just 11 - but with a 14-2 sprint, Boston opened the fourth quarter, Brown capped the excitement by scoring three 3-pointers in a span of 2 1/2 minutes and the lead was at 23 Brown then sealed matters with a down-the-lane dunk with 5:19 left, the lead was 18 at that point and the countdown was on for Boston. "We're still in line," Adebayo said. “We still have to play these games. The Celtics have not reached the NBA Finals since 2010. There have been four East Finals trips since then, with two losses to Miami and two to Cleveland. There were also two chances like the one expected on Friday - Game 6 in 2012 against the Heat and Game 7 in 2018 against the Cavaliers - as the Celtics had a chance to capture the conference title simply by playing a game up won their home soil. They both lost, with LeBron James acting as the official slayer both times, with 45 points to save Miami in the 2012 game and 35 to lift Cleveland in the 2018 clincher. Offensive was scarce in the first half. Miami led 19-17 after one and 42-37 at the break. Tatum was 1 for 9 at the break, Butler 2 for 8, and the teams combined shot 37.8% from field and 21.6% from 3-point range. Miami kind of got colder to start the second half. The Celtics don't. The Heat missed their first nine shots from the field after the break and got nothing to fall on until Butler blocked contact and scored on a drive that put Miami 6:53 in the third within 49-48. But soon the Celtics were in control. from the game. "If you want to break through and snag a ticket to the finals, you have to do some ridiculously hard stuff," Spoelstra said. Celtics: Boston is now 42-7 this season when it comes to keeping teams to 105 points or fewer. ... Marcus Smart tested his sprained ankle before the game, declared himself ready and had just five points, but the Celtics topped the Heat by 13 points in his nearly 24 minutes. Heat: Max Strus was 0 for 9, Kyle Lowry was 0 for 6 and the Heat starting guards are 1 for 28 combined in their last two games. Wednesday's 0-for-15 was the worst playoff result for a seed since the NBA started tracking starters in 1970. ... It was the third-lowest scoring of the season for the Heat (78 vs. Boston on Nov. 4, 79 vs. Game 6 will be Horford's 140th playoff game. No one has played in more postseason competitions without appearing in the NBA Finals - something he and the Celtics could change with another win over Miami It was the 14th time the last 19 games of this playoff by at least a 10 point margin Get updates on your favorite Boston teams straight from our newsroom to your inbox.

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Celtics take control of ECF over limping Heat, and Colin Kaepernick gets real shot at NFL return

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum almost alone topped the Heat in the second half (Author: Gardener)

ECFIf you want to see why the Celtics are such a complete team, last night was the perfect encapsulation. Trailing Miami 42-37 after a sluggish first half, Boston unleashed its full fury at both ends in the second half, scoring a 93-80 win to take a 3-2 straight lead. * Jaylen Brown had a team-best 25 points (19 in the second half) and Jayson Tatum added 22 points (18 in the second half), 12 rebounds and nine assists. * Brown and Tatum combined for 37 points in the second half. The Heat as a team had 38. Tatum and Brown are excellent scorers who can create (and make) their own shots, even against Miami's terrific defense. On the other hand, for the second game in a row, it was clear Miami didn't have enough offensively, with Tyler Herro out and Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry not entirely healthy. Combine that with terrible outside shots and Boston's superb defense and you get downright ugly results like last night's. * Miami scored 31.9 percent overall, their worst game since January 20, 2010. That night's starters: Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley, Rafer Alston, Jermaine O'Neal and Quentin Richardson. * Miami shot 7 to 45 (15.6 percent) on 3 points, the second-worst in a playoff game in NBA history (min. teams that win Game 5 of a series 2-2 win the series by 82 percent Given the way the Celtics have dominated the past two games — and the history on their side — they're on track to earn their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010. Technically, Kyrie Irving has a player option this summer The Nets are unwilling to offer Irving a long-term extension, a report says. Irving's COVID-19 vaccination status prevented him from playing home games for much of the campaign. Brooklyn, The pre-season favorite to win the title, reached 7th in the playoffs th place before being swept by the Celtics in the first round.Even so, with Irving, Kevin Durant and a healthy Ben Simmons, the Nets would be among the favorites to win it all next season ... So the Nets' approach comes with many risks, writes NBA writer Jasmyn Wimbish. * Wimbish: "If Irving declines his player option and the Nets come to the table with a new contract he doesn't like, Brooklyn would risk losing it for nothing. That's a significant risk to take, and this could have impacted Durant's desire to stay in Brooklyn if Irving -- one of Durant's reasons for signing there in the first place -- is no longer with the team. Durant hasn't spoken to Nets management since the team was dismissed in the first round became the playoffs... and while that might not be a thing, it could also be a sign of his frustration." This is all a complete 180 from the Nets' stance earlier this season when GM Sean Marks said he was confident Irving would sign an overtime ahead of training camp. On the other hand, Marks also said he was confident James Harden would sign an extension... Colin Kaepernick trained with the Raiders on Wednesday. It was his first visit - let alone training - with a team in over five years. * Kaepernick, 34, has not played in an NFL game since January 1, 2017. * In 2019, Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid settled their collusion case against the NFL for less than $10 million. * Kaepernick went 28-30 as a starter for the 49ers and led them to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. He also led them to an NFC championship appearance in 2013. * In his final season, Kaepernick went 1-10 as a starter despite throwing 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The Raiders don't exactly rely on quarterbacks, with starter Derek Carr just coming off a contract extension and Nick Mullens, Jared Stidham and Chase Garbers being acquired offseason. Still, this is a significant step for Kaepernick's comeback, even if it's not with Las Vegas. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to return to the NFL, and last month he said he was ready to return as a backup. Thousands of FBS players entered the transfer portal this off-season. I would give you an exact number, but it would probably be out of date by the time you finish reading this sentence. Still, the vast majority of key players who have visited the portal - including the top 51 in the 247Sports transfer rankings - have found new homes, and that means it's time to assess which teams are moving through the portal on the have improved most. Our college football pundit Shehan Jeyarajah has his top five, and it's no surprise who comes in first. USC — Quarterback Caleb Williams is making history after following Riley from Oklahoma, but Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison made headlines after joining Trojans last week. The combination immediately rivals C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba among the best QB-WR combos in college football. Also, don't think Riley skimped on defense. Eleven defenders come to Los Angeles through the transfer portal." There are many ways to evaluate an NFL team's schedule. You can do this by the opponent's win percentage, but if you just look at last year you would have thought a Game against the Bengals would be an easy win. You can try to identify key stretches like multiple division games in a row or a stretch with particularly tough/easy opponents. The list is endless. An interesting way is to look at which teams are traveling in least this season and most and that is exactly what our John Breech has done Here are the teams that have racked up the most miles: of course the international games are a big part of it each of the top five teams in terms of miles traveled go crossed the pond this season and here is the end of the list: Here you can see the ranking of all teams.

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