Boston is green again: the Celtics relied on a fiery first quarter and in-form starters to win at home against the Heat (110-97) and come back to 3-2 in their Eastern Conference final on Thursday in NBA playoffs.
They’ve come halfway. Starting at 3-0, a deficit never climbed in the history of the NBA on a series in seven games, despite 150 opportunities, the C’s confirmed their renewed form in a TD Garden inflated to block.
But if the dream of a miracle begins to take shape, the continuation of the confrontation, Saturday in Miami, will send them again into hostile territory, under the threat, again, of an elimination in the form of disillusion.
“The only thing that can stop us is ourselves,” however, warned Boston winger Jaylen Brown, with newfound efficiency, with 21 points (9/18 in shooting).
Like him, three other Celtics starters have stacked more than 20 units: Franchise offensive leader Jayson Tatum also contributed 21 (11 assists, 8 rebounds), Marcus Smart signed 23 and Derrick White, the most prolific, 24.
The grand finalist of last season thus seems to have regained the collective momentum that sometimes makes him irresistible, even if such mastery has only been intermittent in recent months.
Still, the green machine did not jam this time. After breaking away in the third quarter in the previous game, Boston built its success of the day on the foundations of the first twelve minutes guns, won hands down (35-20) with great shots of award-winning shots.
Faced with a Heat not up to the challenge, the Celtics only relaxed as the term approached, giving up a few lengths ahead.
“Tonight we were the toughest team,” Brown said. “We set the tone from start to finish.”
In fact, Miami suffered, like its master to play Jimmy Butler, author of its worst offensive performance of these play-offs with only 14 points (5 rebounds, 5 assists). He also remained on the bench for the majority of the last recovery.
In this match where Gabe Vincent, absent due to a sprained right ankle, missed a lot, it was Duncan Robinson (18 points at 7/10) who led the Heat attack, interior Bam Adebayo adding 16 units (8 rbds).
“We’ll just have to play harder from the in-between,” Butler summed up, pointing out that his team’s lack of success had taken a toll on their will to defend.
Despite this second defeat in a row, Miami remains in favorable tie to try to play a seventh grand final against Denver, with a fourth championship in sight (after 2006, 2012 and 2013).
Match N.6 on Saturday, which will give the Floridians the possibility of concluding in front of their public, will be all the more critical since it is difficult to see how these cheered up Celtics could miss the mark in their cauldron in the event of a final shock, of course. highly unlikely given the story, but not impossible.
Because Boston, which co-holds with the Lakers the record for the number of NBA titles (17), would then offer itself a chance to overtake the eternal rival, 15 years after his last coronation.
“The public will respond. It will not be easy,” predicted the leader of the Massachusetts franchise Derrick White, glimpsing in Miami “48 minutes of battle, with the claws”.