A lot of sports fandom and analysis is about feel vs. facts, which can go pretty haywire at times. It definitely “feels” like these NBA playoffs have been uniquely blowout-heavy, but it kind of turns out they haven’t been. There just hasn’t been any game-turning shots in the last minute or buzzer-beaters that we remember.
That doesn’t mean that the Celtics-Heat series hasn’t been weird in that every game up until Game 5 had essentially been a boat race. Until Game 5, a 93-80 win by the Celtics, there had been four lead changes total in the whole goddamn series. A team jumped out to the lead in the 1st quarter, and that was it.
Well, for three quarters on Wednesday, fans got a close game, except…
Miami and Boston were close through 36 minutes, but only because they were so terrible that they couldn’t possibly string together nearly enough buckets to open up a lead of any significance. When you’re both stuck in the mud, there isn’t going to be open lengths between you and you’re both going to look like shit when it’s over.
Both teams are in pieces. Jayson Tatum has a shoulder that sounds like popcorn every time he moves his arm. Jimmy Butler’s knee is barking, perhaps as loud as everyone he feeds news to to make sure they bark about how bad his knee is to excuse his complete no-show (we’ll circle back to this). Tyler Herro didn’t play, and both Marcus Smart and Robert Williiams III have already missed games and are hobbled. The Celtics are clearly reeling from having to get through the Bucks over seven games, and the Heat are exhausted from…say, what the fuck are the Heat so exhausted from?
Because they got to play an under .500 Hawks team in the first round, which allowed Butler & Co. to strut and pose all they wanted while beating a team that in a normal system wouldn’t have even been in the playoffs. Then they got a second-round date with a completely crocked Joel Embiid, when he was even healthy enough to play, and a bloated James Harden and the residue of of a Sixers team that’s trying to figure out just what it’s supposed to do. What’s got the Heat so haggard? They even got Kyle Lowry back now.
Anyway, on the floor the Celtics have decided to make the Heat beat them from 3, which they can’t, as their 7-for-45 performance from deep in Game 5 proves. The C’s have dropped off every screen in the past two games and dared the Heat to shoot over it, which they haven’t done. Whatever the tactics though, whatever the system, it made for a hard watch. Everyone almost seemed too exhausted to drive to the rim, and even when they did they were definitely too tired to finish. Enough shots clanked off the front of the rim to make you wonder if they hadn’t set them up wrong.
This has to be the result of the crammed schedule thanks to COVID. Watching Game 5 was akin to watching a bunch of rhinos in the sun at the zoo, a lot of lying around with the occasional tussle out of memory, play-acting at what it should be like in the wild but not having near the oomph to really put their back into it.
But as awful as the first three quarters were, the C’s woke up enough at the end of the 3rd and through the middle of the 4th to put this one on ice. It was capped off by this violence from Jaylen Brown that caused the Boston bench to get the vapors:
At the risk of putting the Fels Motherfuck onto this series, this seems a perfect night for Butler, and will only add to the lore he’s been selling to anyone willing to listen. He’s got an out, as he’s got knee inflammation. So he’ll get the kudos for being out there at all, even though there are several Celtics out there just as banged up and not going 4-for-18. If the Heat had pulled it out, Butler would have been front and center to show how his teammates had “risen” to “his level.” Seeing as how they got turned inside out in the second half, he can blame his injury, and also bitch about lack of support, like Tatum has. Should Friday night not go Miami’s way, you can be sure every national NBA writer will be getting a text three minutes after the final horn alerting them to Butler’s arrival at the Heat practice facility at 3:30 a.m. the next morning to get ready for next season. It’s never his fault, y’see.
Also, a word on Tyler Herro:
I’m down with the NBA coming off their everyone-must-be-in-suits high horse from years ago, and letting players do what they do. But sunglasses indoors should be ruled out. Anyone who has worn sunglasses indoors without an eye ailment has never been less than “raging” or “uncontrollable” on the Dickhead Meter. Also, given that this was Miami, Herro’s clothes looked like they were made from cocaine. They very well may have been.
Clearly, we’ll all be better off when the Heat can go work on their culture in the privacy of their own homes.
In the NHL, the Avalanche wasted this goal from Nathan MacKinnon because they insist on playing Darcy Kuemper in net with a straight face:
St. Louis D-man Nick Leddy is dead now. There shouldn’t be any coming back from that. But the Blues as a team did, thanks to a goal in the last minute and a pretty weak OT winner from Tyler Bozak. Much like Mike Smith’s boner last night, the NHL seems just as intent as the NBA on not giving us signature moments this spring.