Celtics beat Heat in Eastern Conference Finals Game 5, 121-108

Miami Herald: “The Heat led the Boston Celtics by 12 points in the second quarter and never trailed in the first half of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. Miami, just one win away from the 2020 NBA Finals, was just two quarters away from completing its stunning run to the NBA’s championship series. In the third quarter, it all unraveled. A seven-point halftime lead swung into a 14-point deficit for the Heat and the Celtics, who blew double-digit leads in the first two games of the NBA Conference Finals, rallied to stave off elimination with a 121-108 win in Lake Buena Vista. Miami, which still leads the series 3-2, will have to wait until at least Sunday at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to clinch a spot its first NBA Finals since 2014.”

Boston.com: “Boston opened the game 1-for-12 from the floor, with eight of those attempts coming from deep. That five-plus-minute span also included three turnovers to highlight their discombobulated opening stint. No rhythm and a lack of effort rose to the surface, just as it had in their previous three losses. The Celtics’ struggle to win the battle in the paint stuck out in the first quarter as well, getting outscored 12-2 in that category over the game’s first 12 minutes. With the season on the line, Boston shot 25 percent in the first quarter. They were lucky to be down just seven at the half, but the Celtics didn’t give in and quickly turned things around after the break.”

LA Times: “We’re prideful. We want to do well. … Our deal was to come out and play, come out and compete and give it our best shot, and I thought we played pretty well in the second half, but we’re going to have do it again and again because of the position we’re in,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “…We’re trying to be our best. We care about competing. We care about representing our team and our organization well, and we care about each other. It’s why you compete.”

South Florida Sun Sentinel: “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?”

South Florida Sun Sentinel: “The Heat got 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from Butler, 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from Bam Adebayo, as well as 23 points from Goran Dragic and 20 from Robinson. “We’ll be ready to go on Sunday,” Butler said. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 31 points, supported by 28 from Brown… The Heat closed 7 of 36 on 3-pointers, the 19.4 percentage the Heat’s lowest of the postseason. But it also came after shooting 12 of 44 on threes in Game 3 and 10 of 37 from beyond the arc in Game 4. “Regardless of whether it’s going in or not,” Spoelstra said, “that can’t affect your commitment on the other side of the floor, and it felt like it did.” Robinson closed 3 of 11 on 3-pointers, the rest of his teammates 4 of 25.”

Dwight Howard plays well as Lakers starting center in Game 4 vs. Nuggets

Dwight Howard did big things as the Lakers’ starting center yesterday. The OC Register:

After Game 1, Dwight Howard joked (probably) that he was so committed to keeping Nikola Jokic in his sights this Western Conference Finals series that he was considering meeting the Serbian 7-footer right outside his room in the hotel that both teams are staying.

Now, after Thursday’s start, Howard might invade the Nuggets’ slumber, too.

In his first start these playoffs (and just his third this season), Howard to help set the tone as the Lakers rebounded in a big way from a poor performance on the boards in their Game 3 defeat Tuesday, when they were also lost the battle on the glass, 44-25.

“We knew what he could do in this matchup,” said Lakers Coach Frank Vogel of Howard, who is plus-30 in the 66 minutes he’s played through four games this series, which the Lakers lead 3-1 – but which is otherwise tied, scoring-wise, 439-439.

“We like to try to start the series with the lineups that we play throughout the season, and then you feel out the series,” Vogel added via Zoom video conference.

Jayson Tatum, Brad Stevens discuss Game 4 Celtics first half struggles vs. Heat

The Celtics dropped Game 4 to the Heat last night, and now trail 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Here’s Boston.com with quotes on head coach Brad Stevens and star forward Jayson Tatum:

The Celtics, who outscored the Heat by double digits in the first halves of Games 2 and 3, were sloppy from the get-go. Boston committed 11 turnovers in the opening 24 minutes, causing them to have their lowest first-half point total of the playoffs, and trailed the Heat 50-44 at halftime.

“I thought our first half we looked, for whatever reason, we didn’t look crisp,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the game. “And obviously that showed itself in our shooting numbers. I thought we were lucky to be at 50-44 at halftime, to be candid.

“For whatever reason, our first half wasn’t as good as it’s been.”

Jayson Tatum failed to score in the first half, missing all six shots he took and failed to make it to the free throw line.

“I wasn’t aggressive enough,” Tatum said of his first half performance. “I didn’t score in the first half, that’s unacceptable. I know I have to play better. That’s what I’ll try to do.”

Turnovers also wrecked the Celtics in Game 4. They had 19, with six coming from Tatum, with four from Marcus Smart and another four from Jaylen Brown. The entire Heat team had just eight.

A positive for the Celtics is, they did step up nicely in the second half. They just need to put it all together for the length of a full game. Which has been tough against a Heat squad that the entire world clearly underestimated.

Bam Adebayo says he knew Tyler Herro could play like this

The Heat have taken a 3-1 Eastern Conference Finals lead on the Celtics, and yesterday’s scoring star for Miami in their Game 4 win was guard Tyler Herro, who came off the bench to score 37 points. Here’s the Sun Sentinel on what a star teammate had to say:

“First of all,” teammate Bam Adebayo said of the precocious 6-foot-5 guard, “I haven’t been surprised because I knew what the kid could do.”

While Adebayo tends to be soft-spoken, a visit to his college campus a few years back had the former Kentucky center struck by the cocksure 18-year-old kid who already had an NBA scoring repertoire.

“I went to Lexington to go see the coaches, just to see what’s up, get some work in,” Adebayo said in the wake of Herro’s Wednesday tour de force. “We were playing pickup and I was just realizing, going against the man, he doesn’t back down from the moment.”

It was a moment Adebayo wasn’t going to allow to go unnoticed, or unreported.

“I was the one who put the bug in Pat [Riley’s] ear to draft the kid. Just saying,” Adebayo said during his media session at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex, where these quarantined NBA playoffs are drawing closer to their championship conclusion. “I’m not shocked by the success that Tyler’s having. He comes in the gym every day, great work ethic, great dude, he doesn’t bother anybody, just works.”

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray putting on impressive basketball show in playoffs

Everyone knew that Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was a good NBA player. But what he’s done in the playoffs has opened a lot of eyes. Here’s the Denver Post (via the OC Register on what he’s been doing:

Maybe you didn’t believe it when Jamal Murray reeled off 142 points across three spellbinding games in the first round playoff series against Utah.

Or perhaps you weren’t swayed by his 40-piece in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round that sealed Denver’s second 3-1 comeback in as many rounds.

But if you somehow still didn’t believe that Murray’s growth was real, that his ascension to stardom hadn’t arrived, let Tuesday night’s Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals sink in. Denver’s emotional heartbeat saved the Nuggets’ season. He wanted to right what he felt was Sunday night’s wrong.

“We feel like we should be up 2-1 right now, to be honest,” said Murray, after dropping 28 points, dishing 12 assists and hauling in eight rebounds in Denver’s 114-106 Game 3 win.

There has been even more pressure on Murray and star center teammate Nikola Jokic in these playoffs due to Will Barton being out with a knee injury. If you were going to name the next best player on the squad after those first two, it’s Barton. The latest is, there’s no timetable on Barton’s return, and therefore there is no reason to think he’ll suddenly be activated in this postseason.

Thankfully for Denver, Murray has done an awesome job at helping make up the difference.

Celtics guard Romeo Langford undergoes wrist surgery

Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford underwent surgery today to fix the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist.

He will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA playoffs.

Langford has played little in these playoffs, and isn’t a part of the team’s core playoff rotation. He has played one minute in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, and a total of seven minutes in the second round against the Toronto Raptors.

The Celtics are currently down 2-1 to the Heat in the series. Game 4 is Wednesday night.

Marcus Smart discusses Celtics locker room yelling, and Game 3 win vs. Heat

After their recent Game 2 Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Heat, loud yelling was heard by reporters stationed outside the Celtics locker room. That’s a perfectly normal thing to happen in sports. The Celtics, who then got Gordon Hayward back in action for Game 3, grabbed a victory. Here’s Boston.com with more on what went down:

Following the Celtics’ loss to the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, arguing was heard coming from Boston’s locker room. After two difficult losses in a row to Miami, the fighting amongst teammates seemed like an inevitable outcome of a team in disarray.

Yet the Celtics flipped the narrative in Game 3, responding with a dominant 117-106 win to cut the Heat’s series lead to 2-1.

Marcus Smart was one of those involved in the locker room argument, but explained on Monday why the team was able to come back stronger afterward.

“Electrifying, what happened in the locker room,” Smart told reporters. “We’re a family, a family fights all the time. I fight with my brothers all the time. But at the end of the day, we can fight with each other and nobody else can. It happens between families, especially a family like ours who has been together so long. It’s going to happen.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who play with their feelings on their sleeves,” Smart continued, “who play with their heart on their sleeves, play with their heart night in and night out, and we weren’t supposed to be happy down 2-0, especially with those two games that we gave us. We’re playing against a great Miami team and we can’t have those lapses like that. Of course emotions are going to fly, but we’re a family and it happens.”

Heat have some adjustments to make for Game 4 vs Celtics

The Heat know what they need to focus on heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 against the Celtics. Here’s the Miami Herald with a look at some issues:

The Celtics made adjustments after dropping the first two games of the East finals, and now it’s the Heat’s turn to adjust to those Boston adjustments that worked Saturday. Miami held a team film session Monday morning, and Crowder said there was more film study on the schedule for Monday night.

One of the big adjustments will simply be to play better defense.

The Heat has allowed 113.3 points per 100 possessions in the East finals. For context, only four NBA teams finished the regular season with a worse defensive rating.

Boston is shooting an efficient 47.3 percent from the field in the East finals, a team shooting percentage that would have ranked fourth best in the regular season…

The Celtics outscored the Heat 60-36 in the paint in Game 3. It’s the most paint points Miami has allowed this postseason and just the fourth time it has allowed 60 or more paint points this entire season.

Getting Gordon Hayward back big for Celtics in playoffs

Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on the Celtics, who got Gordon Hayward back in action Saturday in winning Game 3. The Heat still lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 to be played on Wednesday:

With Gordon Hayward back in the mix, the Celtics are making no pretense about anything other than getting their top five players on the court as much as possible the balance of these Eastern Conference finals as often as feasible.

“Well, the hard part about that is we never had all five or very rarely had all five available during the regular season before the hiatus,” Stevens said of the quintet of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Hayward. “It was only like 12 or 13 games. And then when we got here, Kemba wasn’t practicing for the first few weeks, so we never really got into that stuff much.”

Then came Hayward’s return in Saturday’s Game 3 from a month off due to a severely sprained ankle, with the goal now to tie the series in Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. Game 5 in the best-of-seven series at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.

“The idea was that we have to get those guys on the court as much as possible,” Stevens said of Game 3.

Some Lakers takeaways from Game 2 win vs Nuggets

Yesterday’s Game 2 in the Western Conference Fnals between the Lakers and Nuggets was a thrill-ride. Here’s the LA Times with some takeaways:

The Lakers made the Nuggets pay for their early sloppiness, which helped them cover some of their own mistakes. Both teams committed 14 first-half turnovers. Despite this parity on turnovers, the Lakers had a 10-point lead going into halftime and led by 16 in the first half, perhaps driving home the idea that to beat the Lakers requires mistake-free basketball.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel didn’t feel quite so comfortable for much of the game. “Leads mean nothing against this team,” Vogel said.

Vogel said he would consider starting Dwight Howard in Game 2 but stayed with JaVale McGee at center.

The Nuggets asked a lot of guard Jamal Murray, who played 44 minutes on Sunday night. Murray scored 25 points and had a game-high plus/minus rating of 16.

The Lakers like to play at a fast pace, and the Nuggets made an effort to disrupt that on Sunday. They had some success at times, and it’s something the Lakers want to keep an eye on.

Leading scorers for both teams so far in the 2020 NBA playoffs:

LAKERS:
Anthony Davis 28.7 PPG
LeBron James 25.6
Kyle Kuzma 10.8
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 10.1
Rajon Rondo 9.0

NUGGETS:
Jamal Murray 26.6 PPG
Nikola Jokic 25.4
Michael Porter Jr. 11.5
Jerami Grant 9.9
Monte Morris 8.5