MIAMI – The Miami Heat suffered a crushing 110-97 defeat to the Boston Celtics in Game 5, cutting their series lead in the Eastern Conference finals to 3-2, but center Bam Adebayo insists their confidence hasn’t taken a hit.
Miami had been 3-0 up in the series before two straight losses raised the prospect of an unprecedented comeback for the Celtics.
No team has ever won a best-of-seven playoff series from 3-0 down but the Celtics head to Miami for Saturday’s Game Six with the momentum.
Adebayo, who top scored with 16 points as Miami star man Jimmy Butler was restricted to 14 points, says the Heat haven’t had their belief shaken by back-to-back defeats.
“Why would we lose confidence? When we started this journey, nobody believed in us. Everybody thought we were going to be out in the first round. Everybody thought we were going to be out in the second round. And now we are here one game away. For us, we’ve always had confidence, and that’s not going to go away,” he said.
Miami seemed to be in control when they blew out Boston 128-102 in Game 3, only to lose the next two.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was also dismissive of the impact of apparent change in momentum on his team.
“Who cares about mood? We have a gnarly group. I think so much of that is overrated. It’s a competitive series,” he said.
“You always expect things to be challenging in the Conference Finals. One game doesn’t lead to the next game. Based on all the experience that we’ve had, it doesn’t matter in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if you lose by whatever.
“We beat them by whatever in Game 3. It just doesn’t matter. It’s about collectively preparing and putting together a great game. We’ll play much better on Saturday. That’s all we just have to focus on right now,” he added.
Playing better will certainly require finding more opportunities for Butler against a Boston defense that packed the paint effectively.
“Our offense was disjointed a little bit. We weren’t able to initiate our offense, get the ball where we needed it to go in spots where you could operate. If we can get Jimmy in his comfort zones and strength zones more consistently, he’ll be just fine,” said Spoelstra.
“We’ll work on that…but collectively, we do have to play with more intention and force and poise offensively, which we’re fully capable of doing,” he said.
But the Celtics, having stared elimination in the face twice already, have a new togetherness that is evident on the court.
“Game 3, that was as low as you can be,” said Jayson Tatum, who put up 21 points and had eight rebounds and 11 assists on Thursday.
“The good part about being that low is you only can play better. It’s only up from there.
“Obviously, our defensive intensity, being connected on the defensive end, that showed these last two games, and then offensively I think guys are just relaxed, knowing we have this uphill battle to overcome. But I really feel like guys have just taken a deep breath.
“In that locker room after Game 3 was the lowest you can be, and I think everybody just kind of relaxed, honestly,” he said.
Should the Celtics force a Game 7, that will be held on their home court on Monday.