A slightly better final 24 minutes were all the visiting Boston Celtics were looking for on Wednesday, and when they put it together, they moved one victory away from their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010.
The Celtics’ 93-90 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals was fueled by a 24-2 second-half run and came after Boston endured a lackluster 37-point first half.
The Celtics’ stars finally emerged, as Jaylen Brown scored 25 points and Jayson Tatum added 22 points with 12 rebounds to give Boston a 3-2 lead in the series.
Game 6 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Friday night in Boston.
“To be that close and knowing we didn’t play that well in the first half, we talked about flipping the script and playing a really good second half, a really clean second half,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Obviously (Tatum) and (Brown) got it going. But it was simply taking care of the basketball.”
Al Horford scored 16 points while Derrick White added 14 for the Celtics, who shot 38.2 percent in the first half but ended up at 46.5 percent for the night.
Bam Adebayo produced 18 points and 10 rebounds and Gabe Vincent added 15 points for the Heat, who lost at home for the second time in the series after going 6-0 in Miami during the opening two rounds of the playoffs.
Heat star Jimmy Butler had 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting. The Miami starting backcourt of Max Strus and Kyle Lowry did not make a shot from the field, going a combined 0-for-15. Butler was playing through knee soreness, while Lowry is dealing with hamstring issues.
Heat guard Tyler Herro, the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, did not play for the second consecutive game due to a groin injury.
“Look, we’re not going to make any kind of deflection or make any kind of excuse,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Boston beat us tonight. Let’s be clear about that. There are guys who are far from 100 percent on both sides.”
The Heat were not much better than the Celtics in the opening half, taking a 42-37 lead to the locker room. It was the first time a game in the series was within five points at the break. Four of the series’ five games have ended in double-digit victories.
Boston took charge in the third quarter, outscoring Miami 32-16. The Celtics opened their first double-digit lead on a Brown turnaround jumper with eight seconds remaining in the third for a 69-58 advantage.
Tatum was just 1-for-9 from the field before halftime, making his lone basket with 8:07 remaining in the second quarter. He finished the night 7-for-20.
Brown did his part by hitting consecutive 3-pointers with less than nine minutes remaining in the game for an 83-60 lead that capped the 24-2 run.
“I was the same player, I just had to get settled in (for the second half),” said Brown, who made two field goals and had just six points in the opening half. “As the game wears on, some of that energy, some of that intensity wears off. The game opened up for me in the second half.”
Butler struggled again for the Heat and is now 10-for-40 from the floor over the past three games, but he insisted afterward that the team is far from finished.
“Besides the fact that anything is possible, we just know what we’re capable of,” Butler said. “We know we can play some really good basketball … and it’s going to have to start in this next game up in Boston.”
Robert Williams III contributed six points and 10 rebounds for Boston. Duncan Robinson had 11 points for Miami, and P.J. Tucker added seven points and 11 rebounds.
–Field Level Media