FOX Sports NBA Analyst
Turnovers have turned the Eastern Conference Finals around. The triples threaten to make the distance go.
The Boston Celtics reached the NBA Finals last year with stingy, opportunistic defense and a steady cascade of 3-pointers. It looks like they’ve captured that combination once again to keep their hopes of a second appearance alive.
Disorganized and distracted four days ago, the Celtics climbed out of a 3-0 hole with two straight wins over the Miami Heat, forcing a Game 6 in South Florida on Saturday.
Final score: 110-97. The Celtics wasted no time building a double-digit lead. They led by 15 at the end of the first quarter and the margin held at 15 or more in the second half until the closing minutes.
The Celtics made 9 of 20 3-pointers in the second half of Game 4 to avoid a sweep and rally from a six-point halftime deficit. They also feasted on nine Miami turnovers in the second half, committing just two.
Rinse, repeat in Game 5. Starting with Bam Adebayo on the first possession of the game, the Heat turned the ball over five times in the first seven minutes, gifting Boston 10 points. The Celtics, meanwhile, kept up their long-range aim, hitting 8 of their first 13 3-pointers.
It’s the first time the Heat have lost back-to-back games this postseason, and the recipe for their downfall was identical in both losses: copious turnovers and woeful 3-point shooting. Taking care of the ball and punishing the Celtics from deep, by contrast, is what they rode for that best-of-seven 3-0 start to the series.
With Gabe Vincent sidelined after spraining his ankle late in the fourth quarter of Game 4, coach Erik Spoelstra had to start 37-year-old Kyle Lowry, who wore every one of his 37 years. He chipped in with five points, four turnovers and one assist in 30 minutes, a far cry from the 17 1/2 points on 58 percent shooting that Vincent had provided in this series.
Statistics to know: As disappointing as Lowry may have been, the ineffectiveness of the Heat’s two best players, Jimmy Butler and Adebayo, was the real surprise. Butler had an easy 14 points and a plus-minus of minus-24. Adebayo scored 16 points but had six turnovers.
game play: Al Horford recovered the error from a corner 3-pointer from Marcus Smart, recovered the error from his own takeback attempt, and then kicked the ball to the perimeter, where he made the rounds until Jayson Tatum buried a 3-pointer from deep. giving the Celtics an 18-5 lead.
Game quote: “We always have to stay positive knowing that we can and will win this series. We just have to close it out at home” -Jimmy Butler
What’s next for heat: Return to the friendly confines of the Kaseya Center, where they are 6-1 this postseason and will hopefully have Vincent (sprained ankle) available.
What’s next for the Celtics: They handed the Heat their first playoff loss at home four days ago. If they maintain the energy and focus they’ve shown in the last 96 minutes, they could become the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after starting the series 0-3.
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young-onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” . He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @ric bucher.
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