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This was it for the Boston Celtics. No tomorrows, no more do-overs. If they didn’t win on Friday, their season would have come to an end. The end certainly felt closer to becoming reality after Boston found itself trailing by seven points by halftime as a result of a slow start in a must-win Game 5 against the Miami Heat. After gathering themselves in the locker room, which included a pep talk from floor general Kemba Walker, the Celtics turned the game around and saved their season. Boston dominated the second half, led by the tremendous play of their young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Tatum scored 31 points to go along with 10 rebounds and six assists. Brown, meanwhile, added 28 points and eight rebounds and knocked down four 3-pointers. Aside from Tatum and Brown, four other Celtics scored in double figures, with Kemba Walker and Daniel Theis scoring 15 points apiece.
While the Celtics lived to fight another day in impressive fashion, they need to repeat this kind of performance twice if they want to complete a 3-1 comeback. In order to do so, it goes without saying that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will need to play like they did on Friday to book Boston’s ticket to the NBA Finals.
Tatum and Brown were noticeably much more aggressive in Game 5, especially in the second half. They set the tone after the intermission, as Boston outscored Miami in the 41-25 third quarter to turn a seven-point deficit into a nine-point lead heading into the fourth.
Tatum scored 17 of his 31 points in the third quarter, while also making a concerted effort to get to the charity stripe. The former Duke star got to the free-throw line 14 times on Friday, making 12 of them. Meanwhile, Brown dropped 12 of his 28 points in the fourth. This included timely back-to-back triples in the period to stave off a Miami run. The Heat never recovered from that point as they trailed double-digits the rest of the way.
While it certainly helped that Boston drew major contributions from their other players, their fate should fall into the hands of their two no. 3 overall picks. In order for the Celtics to win in this series, Tatum and Brown will need to set the tone for them on the offensive end.
They need to be aggressive from the get-go and make a concerted effort in attacking the basket. Doing so should put constant pressure on the Miami defense and make the Heat scramble on that end of the floor. Likewise, frequent penetration should open up the floor for open shots on the perimeter.
Settling for jumpers, which they have a tendency of falling into, will make it easier for the Heat defense to contain them. Likewise, doing so will not get them to the free-throw line, where Tatum especially had a huge impact in Game 5.
This is obviously easier said than done given Miami’s prowess on that the defensive end. While taking down the Heat for two more games should be a tall task, it wouldn’t be impossible because of Boston’s firepower on offense and their capability to lock down defensively as well. Nonetheless, the Celtics’ chances of completing the 3-1 comeback and making the NBA Finals increase if Tatum and Brown assert themselves early in the remaining games of these East Finals.