Celtics come back alive with important Game 6 in Miami on the machine

BOSTON — Before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, Boston Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla was asked about the team’s thoughts heading into the second knockout.

“Just win or die,” he said.

After a dominant performance on Thursday night, the Celtics are still alive.

Boston took control from the start and never looked back, shot more than 50% from the field, forcing the team Heat Miami turn 16 spins to 27 points and have four players finish with at least 20 points in a string match, a 110-99 win over a wild crowd at the sold-out TD Garden.

“Our backs were against the wall,” said Brown Jaylen, who finished with 21 points. “Obviously, we didn’t imagine ourselves in this position, being 3-0 down, but when adversity hits you see how the team is really made.

“It couldn’t be worse than being 3-0 down, but we weren’t looking around, we weren’t going in separate directions. We were together.”

The Celtics have come one step closer to becoming the first team in NBA history to erase a 3-0 loss and win a best-of-seven series. In fact, over the course of 151 times a 3-0 streak, the Celtics are only the 22nd team to go 3-0 down with a higher regular-season win percentage than their opponents. The previous two games have done so: Washington Capitols vs Chicago Stags in 1947, and Orlando magic match against the Celtics in 2010.

Now, the Celtics will try to do what those teams can’t: win Miami on Saturday night and bring the series back here in Game 7 on Memorial Day.

“For some strange reason, even last year, we always seemed to make it a little harder for ourselves,” he said. Jayson Tatum, who had 21 points and made double-digit assists (11) for the first time this season. “But what I do know is that you can see the true character of a person, of a group, when things don’t go well and our ability to come together and figure things out when it’s not necessary. That’s unlike any other team I’ve been on this year and last year, only a core group of people who can respond.

“I think it’s just a testament to our bond, it’s obvious how much we want that, and we have a room full of determined, tough people pushing and shoving, you. look to your left and right, trust that the guy next to you will do whatever it takes and fight if it doesn’t work out.”

In games 4 and 5, Boston looked like a team that played really well over the first seven months of the season.

After scoring 29% from 3-pointers in games 1-3, the Celtics have hit at least 40% in the last two games, including a 16 to 39 (41%) ratio on Thursday night. Boston is currently 38-2 this season on at least 40% of 3-pointers; it’s 29-31 when it’s not.

Revenue is also key again. The Celtics were forced to make 16 Heat spins in Game 4, making them 27 points. In game 5, they were forced to have… 16 Heat redirects to 27 points.

And their scores were even. For the first time in an entire season (either regular season or knockout), the Celtics have four players finishing with at least 20 points — White Derrick (24), Smart Marcus (23), Tatum and Brown.

“I think we’ve always had good looks today,” White said. “[We were] can get out and run, do that extra pass, and when you look like that with the marksmen we have, we’ll hit them more than miss.

“Just keep doing it one more time and find the right person.”

Boston has been on an emotional roller coaster for several weeks; it has won or lost in a row in the last 11 games, since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia 76ers on May 3.

The Celtics also continue on a potentially history-making path. Only three teams were forced to play Game 7 after being 3-0 down: New York Knicks against the Rochester Royals in 1991, Denver nuggets against Utah Jazz 1994 and Portland Trail Blazers against Dallas Mavericks in 2003.

Boston is now just 48 minutes away from becoming the fourth team.

And while the Celtics have struggled a lot at the Garden over the past two years in the knockout stages (11-11), they are a completely different team away from home. Including their Game 4 win, the Celtics are leading 13-7 since the start of the 2022 knockout round and have won four straight knockouts.

They will look to top that year’s record with a win in Miami on Saturday.

“It’s going to take everything,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a dogfight. I imagine those guys are going to play better than they did tonight and they’re going to be aggressive.

“We have to be ready to take their punch at home. We have to be ready to be resilient and go out and do what we have to.”


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