We had a pivotal Game 5 take place in South Beach on Wednesday night as the Celtics and Heat battled for the upper hand in what has been a wild series in the Eastern Conference Finals. Both teams have been marred by injuries to key players, and this was the story again in this one as Miami was without Tyler Herro (left groin strain) for the second-straight game. He was listed as questionable leading up to tip-off and there was hope that he could be ready to play, but unfortunately for Miami that was not the case. Groin strains usually take two to four weeks to heal, but the Heat clearly don’t have that much time to spare on their season, so they will get Herro as much treatment as they can over the next 36 hours in hopes that he can give it a go in Game 6 in Boston on Friday.
On the Boston side, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams were both able to give it a go on Wednesday after they were listed as questionable heading into the evening. Smart is dealing with a right ankle injury as well as a quad injury, but he was determined to give it a go for Boston. Williams is dealing with a left knee injury after he underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus at the end of the regular season. Celtics coach Ime Udoka said early on Wednesday that The Timelord will be day-to-day for the remainder of the postseason, so expect to continue to see him on the injury report as long as Boston is still playing. But that’s enough build-up, let’s dive into what actually happened on the hardwood in Game 5.
After four consecutive lopsided results, this one was surely the most competitive game of the series. Miami got off to a strong start and led by as much as seven, including taking a five-point lead into halftime. Boston ten used a huge third quarter to take an eleven-point lead into the fourth quarter. Boston outscored Miami 32-16 in the third period and would go on to win 93-80, marking their third-straight series with at least two road wins. They will now head back to Boston just one win away from punching a ticket back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting (5-of-9 3-pointers) to go with four rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block with four turnovers. Jayson Tatum flirted with a triple-double putting up 22 points to go with 12 rebounds, nine assists, two triples, and five turnovers in 44 minutes on Wednesday. He didn’t have the most pretty shooting night, going 7-of-20 from the floor and 2-of-8 from three, and 6-of-8 from the foul line. Al Horford and Derrick White were also productive in this one as both were relied on a bit more with Smart and Williams, not at 100 percent. Horford scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting (1-of-3 3-pointers) to go with seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks, one steal, and one turnover in 39 minutes. White was huge off the bench, adding 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting (2-of-3 free throws) with five assists one rebound, two steals, and one block in 29 minutes. Boston was outstanding on the defensive end in this one, holding Miami to 31.9% shooting from the floor and 15.6% from three for the game. They will attempt to duplicate this performance on Friday night at TD Garden in Boston in Game 6.
For Miami, they will have to figure some things out, and sooner rather than later. The hope is that Herro will be able to go in Game 6, but if he can't they will need a lot more from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend their season. On Wednesday Butler scored just 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting (1-of-5 3-pointers) to go with six rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block in 40 minutes. He is dealing with some inflammation in his right knee, and he hasn’t looked the same since he was injured in the first half of Miami’s Game 3 win over Boston. After averaging 35.0 points per game with 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 2.5 steals per game over the first two games of the series, those numbers have plummeted to 9.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game. He simply has not looked like himself, and if that doesn’t change on Friday night, Miami could be in some trouble in Boston. Bam Adebayo had a good game, scoring 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting (2-of-2 free throws) to go with 10 rebounds, one assist, one block, and one turnover in 38 minutes. Gabe Vincent added 15 points off the bench to go with two rebounds, two assists, and one block while Duncan Robinson added 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting (3-of-10 3-pointers) to go with four rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 28 minutes. Miami simply could not throw a rock in the ocean on Wednesday night, and the absence of Herro, and the fact that Butler isn't 100% was just too much to overcome. They now face a win-or-go-home scenario on Friday in Boston, and if they win, another one on Sunday in South Beach. To put it plainly, it will be an uphill battle for the Heat to make their second NBA Finals in the last three seasons.
An Update from Brooklyn
One of the most important stories of the off-season will be what the Nets choose to do with Kyrie Irving and the impending domino effect of that decision. On Wednesday, we got a report that did not seem very promising for Brooklyn Faithful. Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News reported that the Nets are currently “outright unwilling” to offer Kyrie Irving a long-term contract extension this summer. He also reported that Kevin Durant has not spoken to Nets management since the end of the season. In a worst-case scenario outcome, the report outlines a scenario where the Nets let Irving walk, and Durant subsequently would want out of Brooklyn because of the failure to put a championship level roster around him. There are certainly a lot of things that would have to happen between where we are now, and this scenario, but it is certainly something that does not seem out of the realm of possibility at the current time. We will continue to monitor the situation, and we will have updates as they come in throughout the off-season.