It’s hard to miss Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart. His jump shot rivals that of an amusement park ride. He will occasionally attempt an alley-oop pass from midcourt. Earlier this month, he said of the apparent brutality of playoff games, “There’s scratches, scratches, bites, blood and everything else, it’s a real dogfight.” He dyes his hair green.
It’s all part of a colorful package, and on Thursday night, Smart showed off his role as a defensively minded Chaos agent on the first possession of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
Smart was defending Jimmy Butler off the ball near the top of the perimeter when Heat’s Bam Adebayo drove toward the basket. Smart reached for the ball, dived free, collected it near the foul line, then shoved it in front of Jayson Tatum for a fastbreak layup and scored the first point of the game.
Of course, one play doesn’t decide anything, especially in a postseason series. But the play—making a clean steal before the Heat could shoot—seemed to hint at everything that could happen while the Celtics extended the season with a 110-97 victory. . The Heat led the series with a 3-2 record. Game 6 will be played in Miami on Saturday.
The Celtics, the No. 2 seed in the East, were forced to make 16 turnovers in Game 5. A full court press was set against the heat after the timeout. A maximum of 24 points was added. By the fourth quarter, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was pacing in front of the visiting bench with his hands on his hips, but Butler looked exhausted after scoring just 14 points against a crowd of defenders. .
“I wanted to give the team a boost,” said Smart, who finished the game to applause after scoring 23 goals. “I wanted to come in and give the team some energy, especially when you play against a team like Miami.”
He added, “We did a thorough investigation tonight.”
Head-on pressure is on the Heat ahead of Game 6. They will no doubt welcome the return of starting point guard Gabe Vincent, who missed Game 5 with a sprained ankle. But in case anyone seemed upset, Butler offered a Namas-like assurance at the post-fight press conference.
“We can and will win this series,” he said. “I have to close it at home.”
Not so long ago, the heat was going strong. In fact, they looked close to a four-game sweep early in the third quarter of Game 4 on Tuesday. On one possession in the game, three offensive rebounds led to Max Storath’s 3-pointer, extending Miami’s lead to nine in front of a packed home crowd celebrating their move to the NBA Finals. .
The Celtics may have collapsed into Biscayne Bay like a sandcastle. But something interesting happened. They quickly went on to see him go 18-0. The Heat’s zone defense was no longer such a mystery. No more Celtics 3-pointers came and went. And after the Celtics were pulled back to Boston with a 116-99 victory, the outcome of the series now looked to be a dead end.
Several Celtics mentioned the importance of team meetings between Games 3 and 4, which happened at a time when nearly everyone outside the locker room thought their season was over. rice field. Manager Joe Mazura responded to a question about whether he lost his team. Tatum and Jaylen Brown were under scrutiny for inconsistent play. The station was joking about an impending trip to Cancun.
“So Game 3 was the lowest level,” Tatum said. “The only good thing about being that low is that you can play better. You can only go up from there.”
After Thursday’s win, Mazzura said one of his assistants provided a valuable perspective.
“The season is like nine months and I just had a bad week,” Mazura said. “Sometimes you have a bad week at work. Obviously we didn’t pick the best time to have a bad week, but we did and we keep this going.” We are united and fighting desperately to do so, and the members are truly united.”
The Celtics have a habit of digging holes, having previously fallen 3-2 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the conference semifinals series. macgyver ring their exit. Smart conceded that the Celtics may have been too lenient in their approach to the series against the No. 8-seeded Heat.
“They snuck up on us and got them,” Smart said when asked for details. “That’s what it means to sneak up on someone. They shouldn’t know you’re coming. It happened. We didn’t know. We weren’t trying to think like that.It’s part of the game.It’s part of life.It’s part of the rollercoaster of playing in the NBA.”
Now the Celtics are halfway towards snapping one of the most curious and seemingly disastrous records in professional sports. No NBA team has ever reversed a series from 3-0. Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Lakers swept the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, becoming the 150th team to (albeit briefly) try and (miserably) fail.
As for the Celtics, Smart looked beyond Game 6 and hit the brakes.
“First of all, we have to worry about one game, the next one, not two,” he said.
On Thursday, Smart put in an energetic performance. He made back-to-back 3-point shots to build an early 10-point lead. He started the first half with a steal, stole the ball from Heat’s Caleb Martin, and interrupted the first half with a steal. He defended and scored, grimacing and grimacing, finishing with 5 steals while making 7-of-12 field goals and 4-of-6 3-pointers.
“He’s just a mental key for us,” Mazura said. “It kind of gives us an identity and a life when he’s anchored and playing at different paces on both sides of the ball.”