Irving delivers late to help Celtics hold off Heat, 96-90

Irving delivers late to help Celtics hold off Heat, 96-90

Game is on the line, the Boston Celtics are reeling, in desperate need of someone, anyone to step up and make big baskets.

These are the moments that Kyrie Irving lives for, and for good reason. 

More often than not, he steps up to save the day. 

And on Saturday night, he once again delivered when it mattered most as the Celtics held off a late Miami rally to escape with a 96-90 win.

Irving finished with 24 points which included him scoring nine of the Celtics' last ten. The victory extends their winning streak to four straight.

"End of the game, it's winning time." Irving told NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin following the win. "

Boston seemed to have control of the game even before Irving’s late-game scoring spurt, but a technical foul call against Jaylen Brown changed the game’s momentum in the fourth quarter.

Miami made the technical free throw with 4:03 to play and then scored the next six to make it a one-possession game, 86-84.

Following a Boston timeout with 2:16 to play, it was clear what the plan was going forward: let Irving take over.

And that he did, scoring nine straight in an assortment of ways such as driving lay-ups, a 3-pointer and from the free throw line.

Al Horford, who had a near double-double of 12 points and nine rebounds, made the second of two free throws with 10.9 seconds to play for Boston’s last point of the night.

The first half was relatively close, but Boston pulled ahead by as many as nine points (43-34) in the second quarter, only for the Heat to come back with a 13-4 to tie the game at 47.

That appeared to be how the half would end, but a full-court pass took advantage of a sleeping Heat defense and allowed Irving to score the go-ahead basket to give Boston a 49-47 lead at the half.

Boston continued its solid play in the third quarter, in large part to what was shaping up to be a solid game for Jayson Tatum who scored nine of his 20 points in the third quarter which ended with Boston on top, 74-65.

Miami opened the fourth with a 10-4 spurt that was fueled in large part by a familiar face for the Celtics – Kelly Olynyk.

Olynyk, who spent his first four seasons with the Celtics, signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Heat this summer.

And it was money well spent considering the impact Olynyk had while coming off Miami’s bench. He was particularly effective in the fourth quarter, scoring six points during Miami’s 10-4 spurt to start the fourth which included him scoring on a lay-up to cut Boston’s lead to 78-75 with 7:49 to play. He would finish with a near double-double of 14 points and nine rebounds.


Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

MILWAUKEE -- The NBA’s two-minute report from Boston’s 92-87 Game 5 win on Tuesday confirmed what many thought at the time: A 3-point heave by Al Horford with 1:18 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Celtics leading 84-79 was not released prior to the 24-second shot clock expiring, and the Bucks should have been awarded the ball.
Following the game, Milwaukee interim head coach Joe Prunty was vocal in his belief that the officials made a mistake in not calling a 24-second violation. The lead official, Ken Mauer, told a pool reporter that the play was not reviewable because Horford missed the shot. Had he made it, the referees could have reviewed it.
“The rule states that under two minutes we are not allowed to review a potential 24-second violation unless the ball goes into the basket,” Mauer said.
Prunty understood the reason for the refusal to review the play, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with. 
The Bucks were focused on getting the ball back and, trailing 84-79, would have had a chance to make it a one-possession game with about a minute to play. The call didn't cost Milwaukee any points, even though the Celtics successfully rebounded Horford's miss and retained possession; Marcus Morris subsequently missed a shot. Still, Boston was able to take about 20 seconds off the clock.

“That was a huge stop to get in Game 5 of a playoff series where both teams are putting everything on the line,” Prunty said after practice on Wednesday. “That’s a tough time to have a missed call. I know for me, I had a great view of it. So what I thought was a shot-clock violation was not called.”

In Sunday's Game 4, the NBA said Milwaukee's Khris Middleton should have been called for fouling Jaylen Brown with less than a minute to play as Brown drove to the basket attempting to extend Boston's 100-99 lead. Instead Brown lost the ball and the Bucks eventuallly pulled out a 104-102 victory.
That specific call was one of 15 made by the officials in the final two minutes of play. Of the calls made, the other 14 were correct calls or correct non-calls upon review.

Celtics defense reemerges in Game 5

Celtics defense reemerges in Game 5

BOSTON – It was bound to happen sooner or later.

The Celtics’ defense has been too good this season to continue to get broken down one game after another by Milwaukee.

And the 92-87 Game 5 win Tuesday night was the breakthrough performance they had been longing for after four straight sub-par performances defensively.

The Celtics held the Bucks to several playoff lows on Tuesday, such as scoring (87 points), field-goal percentage (.348) and three-point shooting percentage (.273).

The return of Marcus Smart certainly bolstered Boston's defense. But more than anything, the Celtics played on a defensive string most of the night which was evident in Boston having a team defensive rating of 87.2 for Game 5 - their best defensive rating in the postseason.

Here are five other takeaways from the victory that gave the Celtics a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 Thursday night in Milwaukee:

50-50 BALLS

One of the domino effects of having Marcus Smart back in the lineup in Game 5, was his impact on getting loose balls. According to NBA.com/stats, Smart had two loose balls recovered which was part of Boston corralling 14 loose balls in Game 5 which was a series-high for the Celtics and loose balls recovered.


Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all; at least that’s what seems to work for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens in his dealings with Al Horford who made a major impact on Game 5 in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. He had a double-double of 22 points and 14 rebounds, but he also led the team in critical, below-the-radar categories such as contested shots (15) and box outs (12).


A last-minute insertion into the starting lineup, Semi Ojeleye’s presence was felt. His defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo was important for Boston, obviously. But he also contributed in other categories, finishing second on the team in contested shots (10) and box-outs (8), the latter being critical to Boston’s continued dominance of the Bucks on the boards.


Boston got great mileage out of working in the post, but probably could have gone there more frequently. While the praise of Brad Stevens’ team continued to flow in, Stevens recognized his team has to do a better job at getting action in the post for Game 6. “We’ve got to be better at getting there, to the rim, and making decisions there,” Stevens said. “And I thought we did a good job at times, but we’ve just got to be a lot more consistent at it. Because they’re coming, they’ve got great length, they’re hard to score on. You know, we only threw it in there, I think, a couple times in the fourth quarter, to the post, and we probably need to be better at action and spacing around it.”


There are few in the NBA who can strike fear in a defense the way Giannis Antetokounmpo can when he’s out in transition. Not only did Boston limit him to 10 shots taken, but of his 16 points, only two were of the fast-break variety according to NBA.com/stats. “It was our fifth time playing them,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Giannis, we wanted to limit in transition. And I think we did a pretty good job with that.”