Why a perfect start to Game 5 was all Celtics needed


The Heat never led in the Celtics’ 110-97 victory in Game 5, as the Celtics kept their season alive by forcing a Game 6 in Miami on Saturday. It was the first quarter that made all the difference in Game 5, and it all started on the defensive end for Boston, where the tone was set from the start.

On the very first possession of the game, Marcus Smart poked the ball away from Bam Adebayo, sprawled out on the floor to gain possession and flipped it to Jayson Tatum, which led to an easy transition layup.

“That was contagious,” Tatum said on that play postgame.

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Smart’s steal was just one of Boston’s 13 on the night, which is their most in a postseason game since their Game 3 victory over the Nets a season ago. It was Boston’s work on the defensive end, as well as their hustle plays, that made all the difference, especially in the first quarter.

“We played with great intensity on defense and set the tone from the jump,” Jaylen Brown said.

Boston forced six Miami turnovers in the first quarter, which resulted in 10 points. The Celtics’ work on the defensive end also got them running in transition (which is when they play their best), leading to five fastbreak points for Boston in the first.

“We were able to get stops, which allowed us to get out and run and get good looks,” Derrick White said.

It was exactly that which allowed Boston to jump out to a 35-20 lead after the first quarter, which put the Heat in a hole they couldn’t crawl out of. Boston finished the first quarter shooting 13-for-24 (54.2%) from the field and 7 of 12 (58.3%) from deep, while recording an assist on eight of their 13 makes. As White said, the stops on the defensive end allowed Boston to get good looks, as they looked like the team we saw run through opponents in the regular season.

As to be expected, Miami never quit. They kept things close in quarters two through four, narrowly edging Boston 77-75 in the final three quarters, which made Boston’s incredible start all the more meaningful.

Though the Celtics deserve credit for the way they responded to Miami’s runs throughout the game, it was really their hot start that made all the difference. Led by Tatum, who finished with 12 first-quarter points on 5 of 8 (62.5%) shooting, the C’s gave their fans something to get behind early and often in Game 5.

“I’m glad we gave them something to cheer about,” Tatum said. “We have the best fans in the league… Our performance matched the energy they were giving us.”

The TD Garden crowd, led by Celtic legend Paul Pierce, deserve a lot of credit for their energy in Game 5. They provided energy from the start, in what was the best environment at TD Garden this postseason.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports