The Boston Celtics have made nothing easy on themselves this postseason, but they’ve also displayed impressive resiliency. After going down 3-0 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics rattled off two straight double-digit victories in must-win games.
The C’s will now have another do-or-die showdown on Saturday night, as they’ll need to take Game 6 in Miami to even up the series. It won’t be easy, yet the Celtics have shown more fight in the last two games than they have all playoffs.
So, here are three reasons why the Celtics can beat the Miami Heat and become the first team in NBA history to win a series after facing a 3-0 deficit.
3. Boston’s newfound defensive intensity
Boston’s defense has varied all season. One night the C’s are locking up a top-seed and the next they’re giving up more than 120 points to a lottery team. In the postseason, the story has been somewhat similar.
The Celtics were torched by the Atlanta Hawks on more than one occasion, they allowed the Philadelphia Sixers to beat them without Joel Embiid, and they couldn’t hold the Heat under 120 points in Games 1 and 3. Yet, when their backs were against the wall, the Celtics shifted into another gear. They held the Sixers to just 88 points in Game 7 and didn’t let the Heat surpass 100 points in Games 4 and 5.
Most notably, the Celtics brought out their most harassing defense all season in Game 5 versus the Heat. They tallied an insane 13 steals and caused a generally careful Miami squad to turn the ball over 16 times.
The Celtics are LOCKED in.
8 steals in the 1st half.
Halftime on TNT 🍿
MIA: 44 pic.twitter.com/dagyncr9WI
— NBA (@NBA) May 26, 2023
It’s frustrating that this defensive intensity wasn’t present for most of the Conference Finals, however, it’s saved Boston’s season in the last two contests. If the Celtics want to keep their comeback dreams alive, they’ll need to bring the pressure once again in Game 6.
Plus, solid defense seems to unlock the Green Team’s offense, so doing what they did in Games 4 and 5 will give them a fair chance at tying the series up.
The Celtics’ starters become the first team in NBA playoff history with 12+ steals and 12+ made 3s in a playoff game 🤯 pic.twitter.com/ofYvKy4vh6
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 26, 2023
2. The Celtics’ creation of second-chance points
When the Celtics got into a 3-0 hole, there weren’t many things they were doing right. But in Boston’s three losses, they nabbed 39 offensive rebounds while Miami got just 15.
Although those rebounds didn’t lead to wins, they did establish Boston’s presence on the offensive glass. Additionally, they created some good habits in which the Celtics weren’t relying on every deep shot to connect, but rather crashing the boards consistently in case of a miss.
For their efforts, the Celtics have created more second-chance points than Miami in three out of five games this series. In Game 5 in particular, those second-chance buckets became extremely significant.
There were multiple times when the Heat thought they had finally gotten a stop and the C’s grabbed an offensive rebound to keep the play alive and eventually find the open man. This crazy possession featuring two missed shots and two offensive boards from center Al Horford is a perfect example of how rebounds can generate offensive opportunities:
Chaos. The Celtics way pic.twitter.com/PCaj4pCPYW
— ☘︎ (@CelticsRepublic) May 26, 2023
The Celtics ended up with 17 second-chance points to the Heat’s seven, and that 10-point differential made a substantial impact in the 110-97 Boston win. Ruling the glass like this again could be key to their success in Game 6.
1. Boston is in a familiar spot down 3-2
Just last series, the Celtics were on the brink of elimination versus the Sixers. Down 3-2, the C’s had to travel to Philly for a tough Game 6 with the odds stacked against them. Yet, Boston responded under pressure and pulled out a gritty 95-86 win on the road. It then proceeded to demolish the Sixers in Beantown during a Game 7 beatdown to secure their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now in the East Finals, the Green Team is in a very similar situation. They’re down 3-2 with a must-win Game 6 ahead of them in their opponent’s arena. This is far from the ideal setting, but the Celtics have shown that they’re able to overcome a two-game deficit before.
Of course, the Heat aren’t the Sixers. Miami is still here for a reason, as it conquered hardships of its own by beating the one-seed Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in only five games. Led by a talented coach in Erik Spoelstra, the Heat have a lot of playoff experience and aren’t afraid of the moment.
For now, the Celtics have to lock in on Game 6 and avoid looking too far ahead. There’s a lot of work to be done, yet the C’s still have a shot at living to see another day.