All that stands between the Boston Celtics and a return to the NBA Finals is one more win over the Miami Heat.
Should the Celtics be able to finish off the top seed in the Eastern Conference, defensive performances like the one they had in Game 5 on Wednesday on South Beach will one of the main reasons why.
Boston's smothering presence on the defensive side of the floor has been the story in each of its last two wins over the Heat, as Miami's two worst shooting performances of the season have come in Games 4 and 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
By holding the Heat to under 35 percent from the floor in consecutive games, the Celtics accomplished something no Boston team had in the postseason since 2008 -- the last time the C's won it all, of course.
Through 82 regular season games and now 16 postseason games, Miami has failed to top 90 points only five times in 2021-22. Three of those instances have been against the Celtics: once in the regular season, and each of the last two games of the East finals.
The Heat were culpable themselves with a few ill-advised shots from 3-point range, connecting on an abysmal 7 of 45 attempts -- the second-lowest percentage in postseason history by a team with at least 40 attempts from deep.
One of the biggest factors for the Celtics, especially over the last two games, has been the return of Robert Williams III following an absence in Game 3. As Kendrick Perkins explained prior to Game 5 on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, Time Lord plays an integral role in slowing Miami center Bam Adebayo. While Adebayo's totals were certainly better tonight -- 18 points on 8 of 15 shooting -- he was also a game-worst minus-23.
"Rob is obviously a very big part of what we do," Al Horford said following the game. "Him being able to go out there and be put in different positions, he's great defensively. We're very grateful he's able to play and he's given us some minutes that have been huge for us."
Williams had three blocks for the Celtics, including one on backup point guard Gabe Vincent on a corner 3 which seemed to defy the laws of physics:
The Heat missed all 10 shots from the field with Time Lord in coverage through the first three quarters.
Miami may not have been trotting out a starting backcourt like the one Boston potentially could see in the Finals (Steph Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors) but it still caused Kyle Lowry and Max Strus to go 0-fer from the field -- an NBA record since starters were first tracked in 1970-71.
Should the Celtics be able to keep up something even close to resembling this defensive performance in Game 6 back at TD Garden on Friday, they have a good shot at closing this series out on their home floor.