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Celtics advancing toward NBA Finals as hobbled Heat desperately try to keep up

Jaylen Brown’s first step left an ailing Jimmy Butler, one of the NBA’s top defenders when healthy, in the dust on the perimeter. A desperate ploy in the lineup as a shooting specialist, Duncan Robinson was hapless in his attempt to contain Brown. As Brown thundered toward the basket, Bam Adebayo – whose awe-inspiring above-the-rim block of Jayson Tatum in the 2020 Eastern conference finals still resonates in this Celtics-Heat matchup – briefly got between Brown and the hoop… then stepped aside, ceding a dunk.

Boston is charging toward its first NBA Finals in 12 years.

Miami’s ability and will to stem the Celtics’ onslaught is waning.

Brown scored 17 of his 25 points in the final 14 minutes as Boston broke open an ugly Game 5 late, winning 93-80 Wednesday to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Teams without homecourt advantage leading a best-of-seven series 3-2 entering a home Game 6 – as the Celtics will host Friday – have won the series 75% of the time, 63% of the time in six games.

Boston’s odds seem even higher.

Unlike most teams without homecourt advantage, the Celtics were favored entering the series. They’ve been the better team for months. Boston’s health issues also seem less severe than Miami’s.

Butler (13 points on 4-of-18 shooting) looked hobbled by a knee injury. Recently returned from a hamstring injury, Kyle Lowry (zero points on 0-for-6 shooting with three turnovers) struggled. Tyler Herro missed the game entirely with a groin strain.

Even while playing with a hurt shoulder, Jayson Tatum (22 points on 7-of-20 shooting, 12 rebounds and nine assists) contributed so much more, especially scoring 18 points in the second half. Back from a sprained ankle, Marcus Smart (five points on 1-of-5 shooting) was limited, but the Celtics were the far deeper team tonight.

Al Horford (16 points on 5-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal) was Boston’s steadiest contributor. Derrick White (14 points on 6-of-8 shooting with five assists and two steals) provided a spark off the bench. Robert Williams (three blocks and a steal) made a big defensive impact in 27 minutes.

Though the Celtics’ defense deserves credit, Miami’s offense was that bad.

The Heat’s offense was relentlessly ridiculed for Game 4. They scored fewer points tonight.

Miami shot just 47% on 2-pointers and 16% on 3-pointers (16%). Guards Lowry (0-for-6), Max Strus (0-for-9) and Victor Oladipo (1-for-7) were particularly dreadful.

The Heat game-planned for all those misses and hit the offensive glass hard. However, in the process, Miami ceded transition opportunities the other way.

It’s not that the Heat can’t win.

But they’re facing so many no-win propositions.

Including squeezing as much as possible from an aging, fatigued and hurting roster tonight, coming up short and needing to turn around and do it again in two days.