Dominant Celtics a win closer to making history

BOSTON — Before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston Celtics Coach Joe Mazzola was asked about his team’s mindset entering a second straight elimination game.

“Just live or die,” he said.

After a dominant performance Thursday night, the Celtics are still alive.

Boston took control from the start and never looked back, shooting over 50 percent from the field. Miami Heat 16 turnovers turned into 27 points and four players finished wire-to-wire with at least 20 points in a 110-99 victory in front of a sold-out TD Garden crowd.

“Our backs are against the wall,” said Jalen Brown, who finished with 21 points. “Obviously, we didn’t imagine being in this position, 3-0 down, but when adversity strikes, you get to see what a team is really made of.

“It couldn’t have been worse than being 3-0 down, but we didn’t look around, we didn’t go in separate directions. We stayed together.”

The Celtics moved one step closer to erasing a 3-0 deficit and becoming the first team in NBA history to win a best-of-seven series. In fact, the 151 times a series has been up 3-0, the Celtics are only the 22nd team to trail 3-0 with a higher regular season winning percentage than their opponent. The first two to do so: the Washington Capitals against the Chicago Stags in 1947, and Orlando Magic Against the Celtics in 2010.

Now, the Celtics will try to do something those teams couldn’t: win in Miami on Saturday night and bring the series back here for Game 7 on Memorial Day.

“For some strange reason, even last year, we always seemed to make it a little bit harder on ourselves,” said. Jason Tatum, who had 21 points and had double-digit assists (11) for the first time this postseason. “But what I do know is that you can see the true character of a person, of a team, when things aren’t going well, and our ability to come together, to figure things out when they don’t necessarily have to. “Looks good for us. Unlike any team I’ve been on this year and last year, just the core group of guys is able to respond.”

“I think it’s just a testament to our unity, obviously how bad we want it, and we have a room full of committed, tough guys who come to push, you’re on your left and right. Let’s see, trust that the guy next to you will do whatever it takes and if it doesn’t work, get into a fight.”

In Games 4 and 5, Boston resembled the team that played so well over the first seven-plus months of the season.

After shooting 29% from 3-point range in Games 1-3, the Celtics have hit at least 40% in the last two, including a 16-for-39 (41%) showing on Thursday night. Boston is now 38-2 on the season when it hits at least 40% of its 3-pointers. It’s 29-31 when it doesn’t.

Turnovers were also important once again. The Celtics forced 16 turnovers in Game 4, turning them into 27 points. In Game 5, they forced … 16 Heat turnovers that turned into 27 points.

And their score was balanced. For the first time all season (regular season or playoffs), the Celtics had four players finish with at least 20 points — Derek White (24) Marcus Smart (23), Tatum and Brown.

“I thought we looked consistently good today,” White said. “[We were] Able to get out and run, make those extra passes, and when you feel like that with the shooters we have, we’re going to miss them more and more.

“Just keep making that extra pass and find the right guy.”

Boston has been on a roller coaster of emotions for weeks. They have either won or lost their last 11 games in a row, dating back to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Philadelphia 76ers On May 3

The Celtics also continued to potentially make history. Only three teams have forced a Game 7 after being down 3-0. New York Knicks In 1991 against the Rochester Royals Denver Nuggets against Utah Jazz In 1994 and Portland Trail Blazers against Dallas Mavericks In 2003

Boston is now 48 minutes away from being fourth.

And while the Celtics have struggled mightily in the playoffs (11-11) the past two years at the Garden, they’ve been a completely different team away from home. Including their Game 4 victory, the Celtics are 13-7 on the road since the start of the 2022 playoffs, and have won four consecutive road elimination games.

They will try to make it five with a win in Miami on Saturday.

“It’s going to take everything,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a dogfight. I imagine those guys will play better than they did tonight, and they’ll come out aggressive.

“We’ve got to be ready to take their punch at home. We’ve got to be ready to be flexible and come out and do what we have to do.”

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