Celtics one win from NBA finals after beating ice-cold Heat

Source: Associated Press

Jaylen Brown scored 25 points, Jayson Tatum added 22 and the Boston Celtics moved to the brink of a berth in the NBA Finals, running away after halftime to beat the Miami Heat 93-80 on Thursday and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference title series.

Al Horford had 16 points and Derrick White added 14 for the Celtics. Tatum finished with 12 rebounds and nine assists.

Bam Adebayo scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Heat, who shot 32% in the game — after shooting 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.

Game 6 is in Boston on Saturday, where a pair of newly named trophies bearing the names of Celtics legends will be waiting. The Bob Cousy trophy goes to the East champs, the Larry Bird trophy to the East finals MVP, and the Celtics are one win away from being the first team to hoist them.

This series has seen massive momentum swings — a 44-14 Miami run in Game 1, a 60-21 Boston run in Game 2, a 46-20 Miami run to open Game 3 followed by a 57-33 Boston run in the same game, and a 26-4 spurt by the Celtics to open Game 4.

The Game 5 run was just as one-sided.

The score over a 6 1/2-minute stretch of the second half: Celtics 24, Heat 2. The turnaround was 59-58 Boston to 83-60 Boston, and that was that.

Boston outscored Miami 32-16 in the third quarter, holding the Heat to 17% shooting in that period. The margin was only 11 at that point — but soon, the game was in zero doubt. A 14-2 run was how Boston opened the fourth quarter, Brown capping the flurry by making three 3-pointers in a span of 2 1/2 minutes, and the lead was out to 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.

The Celtics haven't 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 — Game 6 in 2012 against the Heat and Game 7 in 2018 against the Cavaliers — when the Celtics had a chance to claim the conference title simply by winning a game on their home floor.

They lost both, LeBron James serving as the official thwarter both times, with 45 points to save Miami in the 2012 game and 35 to lift Cleveland in the 2018 clincher.

He won’t be in the Celtics’ way Friday night.

Miami will need somebody to provide some semblance of an impersonation.

Offense was in short supply in the first half, but Miami's defense appeared to be giving the Heat hope. Miami led 19-17 after one and 42-37 at the break. Tatum was 1 for 9 at intermission, Butler 2 for 8, and the teams combined to shoot 37.8% from the field and 21.6% from 3-point range.

It was the lowest-scoring first half of a conference finals game since May 28, 2014, when the Heat and Indiana combined for 75 points at the break in what eventually became a 93-90 Pacers win.

And Miami, somehow, got colder to start the second half. The Celtics did not.

The Heat missed their first nine shots from the field after the break, not getting anything to fall until Butler fended off contact and scored on a drive that got Miami within 49-48 with 6:53 left in the third.

But soon, the Celtics had control of the game.

And the series.