Good afternoon, folks. Game 5 was the Enes Kanter Game. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS – MIA leads 3-2
Tyler Herro didn’t score 37 points again nor did Bam Adebayo record a triple-double, but we can’t go a single playoff game now without at least one former Kentucky Wildcat putting on a notable performance. During Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, it was Boston Celtics backup center Enes Kanter who stole the show early in the affair. Trailing the series 3-1 against the Miami Heat, the Celtics took control of the third quarter as they pounced on Miami out of the halftime break to blow the game wide open. Boston trailed by as many as 12 points in the third quarter before running off an impressive 41-25 scoring stretch in the period to take a lead they would never relinquish. The Celtics were able to extend the series to 3-2 with a 121-108 win. Here’s how we got there.
Behind Boston’s two young superstars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics blanketed the Heat on both sides of the floor in the second half of the game. That duo posted a combined 59 points on Friday as Tatum went 12-14 charity stripe and Brown shot over 50 percent from the floor. But it took them a while to get rolling; Boston trailed 26-18 after the first 12 minutes, missing 11 of its first 12 shots attempts, as the offense couldn’t find any momentum. However, foul trouble began to creep up on the Heat, particularly hitting Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler, and eventually Adebayo. Enter Enes Kanter.
In the early stages of the second quarter, with Adebayo on the bench with two fouls, Boston head coach Brad Stevens elected to roll with Kanter as opposed to Robert Williams. Abusing the matchup against Kelly Olynyk or switching onto smaller defenders, Kanter was feasting on the block, making his first four shots from the floor and quickly adding eight points to help trim the Heat lead. Even after Adebayo came back into the game, Kanter was hitting the glass and finding favorable matchups through switches. He was in for a roughly 9-minute stretch during the second, dishing out two assists and snagging four rebounds, as well, helping aid a Boston rally.
“Just kind of kept us at bay,” Stevens said of what Kanter’s presence in the second quarter. “We were struggling. They hit some really tough shots. (Duncan) Robinson was going nuts. Kanter’s points there in the paint I thought really helped. That kind of helped steady us, give us a chance at halftime, only being down seven.”
But Miami, led by Butler and Duncan Robinson, never let the Celtics get too close. Those two dropped 31 points in the first half as the Heat held a slight 58-51 advantage at the half. After exploding for a career-high 37 points in Game 4, Herro was stumped in the early stages of Game 5, recording just two points on three shot attempts through the first two quarters. Adebayo was limited in the first half, playing only 14 minutes due to foul trouble.
Heading into the second half with a fresh slate, the Heat never treated it as such. The Celtics immediately jetted out to a 13-0 run which ballooned to a 20-5 charge to open the third quarter and they didn’t look back from there. 13 third-quarter points from Dragic prevented the Heat from being completely blown out, but Tatum’s 17 third-quarter points were far too much to overcome.
Boston would win the final period 29-25 and cruised to a 121-108 win to bring the series to a 3-2 Miami lead. Brown drilled a pair of clutch triples in the middle of the quarter that all but put the Heat away for good. The Celtics turned the ball over just 11 times in Game 5 compared to 19 in Game 4, while also holding the Heat to a pitiful shooting clip of 19.4 percent from beyond the arc for the night (7-36).
Adebayo finished his evening with 13 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, but despite his tidy stat line, took the majority of the blame for Miami’s loss.
“I played like s—t. Bottom line,” Adebayo said after the game, according to Malika Andrews. “I put that game on me. Not my teammates’ fault. Not my coaches’ fault. Me.”
The former Wildcat took just 11 shot attempts, making five of them, but early foul trouble hurt his rhythm. Herro came alive in the second half, adding another 12 points to finish with 14 for the game, but his efforts came too late. Through 14 playoff outings, Herro has managed to hit double-figures in scoring during all of them.
After not making an appearance in Games 1 or 4 and playing just 16 total minutes during Games 2 and 3, Kanter’s 10-minute run during Game 5 was his most impressive of the postseason yet. While he didn’t play longer than 60 seconds during the second half, his impact during his first stint was heavily felt by the Celtics and provided a major boost while his team battled with establishing its offense.
Game 6 is set for Sunday night.
Other notes across the NBA
- READ: Los Angeles Lakers guard and a native of Louisville, KY, Rajon Rondo, opened up to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears to talk about the Breonna Taylor situation and how it has affected him and his 13-year old daughter. It’s definitely worth the read.
|Tyler Herro (MIA)||108-121 L @ BOS||14||6-12 (2-5)||3||1||0||0||2||-10||29|
|Bam Adebayo (MIA)||108-121 L @ BOS||13||5-11 (0-0)||8||8||1||1||2||-15||38|
|Enes Kanter (BOS)||121-108 W vs. MIA||8||4-7 (0-0)||4||2||0||0||0||+3||10|
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS – LAL leads 3-1
9:00 (TNT):  Nuggets (Murray) @  Lakers (Davis, Rondo)
For the third consecutive series, the Denver Nuggets will have to overcome a 3-1 deficit.
Later on Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers will look to do something that the Nuggets’ two previous opponents couldn’t do: finish off Denver when they had the chance. Thanks to 60 combined points from Anthony Davis and LeBron James in Game 4, the Lakers were able to fend off a Nuggets comeback and are now on the brink of the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance since 2010. Late on Friday evening, Davis’ status for Saturday’s game was updated to “questionable” after he suffered a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 4. While he didn’t check out of the game at the time, he was in serious pain when it occurred and will likely play Game 5 not at 100 percent.
“I’m good enough to play,” Davis said. “I rolled it pretty bad but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”
Jamal Murray, who poured in 32 points and eight assists for Denver in Game 4, will have to repeat his performance again on Saturday, hopefully with some added help from Nikola Jokic this time around. Jokic dealt with foul trouble going up against Dwight Howard in Game 4, culminating in just 16 points. Murray can’t be Denver’s sole source of offense down the stretch.
It should be another exciting game to watch.