FOX Sports NBA Analyst
Turnovers have changed the Eastern Conference Finals. The triples threaten to make it the distance.
The Boston Celtics found their way to the NBA Finals last year with a spotty, opportunistic defense and a constant cascade of 3-pointers. They seem to have captured this combination once again to keep their hopes of a second appearance alive.
Disorganized and distracted four days ago, the Celtics have 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 remained at 15 or better in the second half until the waning 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 committed nine Miami turnovers in the second half, committing just two.
Rinse, repeat in Game 5. Starting with Bam Adebayo on the game’s first possession, the Heat turned the ball over five times in the first seven minutes, giving Boston 10 points. The Celtics, meanwhile, maintained their sharp long-range shooting, hitting 8 of their first 13 3s.
It’s the first time the Heat have lost two games in a row this postseason, and the recipe for their downfall was identical in both losses: turnovers galore and unfortunate three-pointers. Taking care of the ball and punishing the Celtics from deep, on the other hand, is what they rode to the start of the best-of-seven series 3-0.
With Gabe Vincent unavailable after a sprained ankle late in the fourth quarter of Game 4, coach Erik Spoelstra had to start 37-year-old Kyle Lowry, who looked all of his 37 years. He contributed 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 been providing 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 a quiet 14 points and a plus-minus of minus-24. Adebayo scored 16 points but had six turnovers.
Game Play: Al Horford recovered a missed corner 3-pointer from Marcus Smart, recovered his own missed layup attempt and then drove the ball to the perimeter, where he circled until Jayson Tatum buried a 3-pointer from of depth giving the Celtics an 18-5 lead.
Game Quote: “We always have to be positive knowing that we can, and we will win this series. We just have to close it out at home” -Jimmy Butler
What’s next for the heat: Back to the friendly confines of the Kaseya Center, where they are 6-1 this postseason and hopefully have Vincent (sprained ankle) available.
What’s next for the Celtics: Four days ago they handed the Heat their first loss at home in the playoffs. If they maintain the energy and focus they’ve shown over 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 @Rick Bucher.
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