“It ain’t never been done, and it ain’t done yet,” Charles Barkley captioned this situation perfectly.
But after the Boston Celtics’ impressive 110-97 Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat, eyebrows are raising, wondering if they could do what 150 teams before them couldn’t. After going down 3-0, the Celtics had back-to-back impressive wins to force a Game 6. Game 5 was especially spectacular for the men in green.
When Derrick White hit a buzzer-beating three to close out the first, you knew there was no way this team was losing. The Celtics skipped the jabs and went right into throwing haymakers; Jayson Tatum led the way with 12 early points, White only a point behind him. Boston hit seven threes and forced six turnovers in the first period, suffocating the Heat on both ends.
The overwhelming two-way pressure became a recurring theme throughout the game. Boston led 35-20 after twelve minutes and did not back down since. The lead would swell up to 24 points while their visitors trailed the entire time. Miami turned the ball over 16 times, and Boston made them pay on the other end for their errors.
The night belonged to White, who led the Celtics with 24 points, shooting 6/8 from distance. Marcus Smart had 23 on the board after shooting 4/6 from three.
Tatum had a slow evening for his standards with 21 points, but it was as good a low-scoring performance could get for the Celtics poster boy. Tatum had a great pass-first display with 11 assists, crashed the boards with eight rebounds, and fueled their defense with two steals.
Jaylen Brown tied his accomplice in points. He also shot better from three in Game 5 (3/5) than in the previous five games combined (3/25).
“It started on defense,” Brown said. “We came out and played good basketball tonight.”
“We gotta be consistent. Tonight we were the tougher-playing team. We set this off from start to finish, we got a great team win. They let us get two, don’t let us get another one.”
Despite the dominant performance, the odds are still heavily against the Celtics, who remain a loss away from elimination.
Of the 150 teams that have trailed 3-0 in the NBA, 15 have forced a Game 6, three pushed for a tiebreaker, yet none have successfully completed the comeback. Jimmy Butler and the Heat can not play around in Game 6, but neither can Tatum and his Celtics.
Did Miami burn out after losing their first Play-In game, grinding past the first-seeded Bucks, going down the wire with the Knicks, and sprinting to get the early lead against Boston? Did the Celtics wait too long to play with urgency? Did they send a Hail Marry but had their prayers unheard, or is a miracle waiting to happen at the end of this series?
Either way, a Game 6 for the ages awaits on Saturday night in South Beach.