Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

May 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) controls the ball against the Miami Heat in the first quarter during game five of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

In Game 5 on Thursday night, the Celtics put together one of their most complete offensive performances of the season. With their season on the line, they shot 50.6 percent from the floor, 41 percent from three, and had four separate scorers reach the 20-point mark in the same game for the first time all season. With the win, the Celtics held off elimination once again and now trail 3-2 as the series shifts back to Miami.

While many will point to the Celtics’ offensive turnaround as the reason they’ve been able to climb back into this series, the team was instead talking about the defense after Game 5.

  • “Having that defensive mindset,” Derrick White said after the game, when asked what the team’s focus was coming in. “We were able to get stops, which allowed us to get out and run and get good looks. So we got to have that mindset for the rest of the series.”

    “I think we played 48 minutes. We played with great intensity on defense and I think we just set the tone from the jump and we got to be able to do that and carry that over into the next game,” Jaylen Brown said, when asked what made Thursday night’s performance such a success.

    What’s interesting is head coach Joe Mazzulla somewhat foreshadowed this idea after the Celtics’ Game 1 loss. When asked what went wrong defensively for the team to allow 46 points in the third quarter of that game, Mazzulla cited a lack of consistent shot-making that allowed the Heat to run in transition and get repeated easy looks.

  • Four games later, the Celtics have flipped that script on the Heat. In Game 5, they outscored the Heat 27-19 in points off turnovers.

    White and Brown are two of the players flipping the switch the most on offense. White scored 24 points in Game 5 after averaging 11.8 through the first four games of the series. Meanwhile, Brown put up 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting, including a 3-of-5 mark from three, after shooting 39 percent from the floor and just 12 percent from three over the first four games, when he averaged 16.8 points per game.

    As both White and Brown mentioned, the Celtics will need to keep that intensity up if they want to complete this comeback. It will be particularly interesting to see how things change if and when the Heat get back starting point guard Gabe Vincent, who missed Game 5 with an ankle injury. Miami visibly missed Vincent controlling the offense at times in this game.

    That next game – Game 6 – will take place Saturday night in Miami. Coverage can be heard beginning at 8 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub and the Sports Hub BetMGM Celtics Radio Network.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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