Dave Hyde: Nothing’s changed in series — but Celtics come alive in Game 5

Tribune Content Agency

Nothing’s lost.

Nothing’s changed.

Nothing’s really threatened by Friday night, not really, not beyond the Miami Heat missing out on their first chance to close out Boston in the Eastern Conference finals and advance to the NBA Finals.

Sometimes the magic is on the other side this deep in a season. That’s all. No one from the Heat wants to frame the problems and occasional ugliness that happened in Boston’s 121-108 win quite that way.

Heat coach Erik Spolestra will talk of defense after surrendering 41 points in the third quarter and of 3-point shooting that fell off the map at 6 for 32 late in the game.

Boston coach Brad Stevens will talk of will and desperation and, as he shouted after one defensive stand on Friday night, “That’s what hard-playing will do for you!”

Sometimes the other side makes its mark. Boston sure did on Friday. These were the Celtics everyone expected more consistently this series. Here was the Jayson Tatum who can pick up a game and spin it on his finger, and the Jaylen Brown who can be a talented sidekick.

Tatum has been all over the place this series. Good. Bad. Dominant. Disappeared. But in that third quarter he scored 17 points and picked up his Celtics as they turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead.

Brown has been more in and out than Tatum. But on Friday night with the Celtics season on the line he did everything necessary in scoring 28 points and making all the plays that mattered.

“They started attacking, we stopped guarding,” Jimmy Butler said. “Never a good thing for us. After that it was all downhill.”

So that was that. The game. The night. The thought the Heat could move as easily into the Finals as they had in dispatching Indiana and Milwaukee earlier in the playoffs. Did anyone really think this series would be like those?

The Heat still lead three games to two in this series. They lost just their third game of these playoffs. They move on to play Game 6 on Sunday.

“Any time anyone’s playing harder than we are, we’re not playing our best basketball,” Butler said. “We didn’t play our best basketball on either end of the floor.”

Boston fell behind early, just as the Heat have so often this series, and then it made a third-quarter run that wasn’t answered, just as the Heat did in earlier games. Duncan Robinson looked to be the night’s answer to Tyler Herro as he had 16 points at halftime.

But Robinson couldn’t be Herro this night. No one could be a hero, either. Butler? He’s the Heat’s fourth-leading scorer these playoffs and had 17 points and eight rebounds.

Herro couldn’t repeat his previous game. No one expected history to repeat itself. Down 105-91, he Herro had a wide-open shot in the corner, the kind that was a lay-up on the way to 37 points in Game 4.

It clanged off the rim. Boston went the other way and scored again. That’s how it went most of the second half for the Heat.

If there is any significant concern for the Heat, it might be Bam Adebayo. He had a wrist injury at the end of Wednesday night’s win. He started and played on Friday. But he didn’t look like his normal, forceful self in the game.

Adebayo’s numbers were pedestrian enough: 13 points and eight rebounds. But his play lacked the impact he usually does. The style he played suggested something was either wrong or just an off night.

“I played terrible,” Adebayo said. “That can’t happen, and I know that. I feel like I let my team down (Friday).”

This was Boston’s night. It pulled to within a Game 6 of becoming a big threat. It will talk of having life now, but the truth is they’ve outplayed the Heat for long stretches in these games only to have an awful stretch that the Heat use to win.

But let’s not overdo this. No one expected the Heat to waltz to the Finals — not many even expected them to advance. The series is one now. Friday night was Boston’s night. Nothing’s changed. Nothing’s lost. But the stakes ratchet up higher Sunday in Game 6.

“We’ll be back,” Butler said.


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