BOSTON (AP) — The Miami Heat insist they are as confident as ever, even after missing two chances to knock out the Boston Celtics.
“You’ll get the next one,” Jimmy Butler said.
“It’s going to be a smile,” Butler said after the Celtics won 110-97 on Thursday night, cutting the Heat’s lead in the series to 3-2. “We’re going to be very, very, very consistent and we know we’re going to win the next game.”
The Heat are headed home with two more chances to earn a berth in the NBA Finals. But it would be smart if they made it into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night and avoided a crucial Game 7 in Boston.
The eighth-seeded Heat won their first three games — two of them in Boston — and brought the defending Eastern Conference champions to the brink of elimination. None of the other 150 teams in NBA history that trailed 3-0 have come back and won a best-of-seven playoff series.
But the Celtics won Game 4 in Miami by 17 points and then led by as much as 24 points in a Game 5 win, which was Boston’s first home win over the Heat all season. Center Bam Adebayo, who had 16 points and eight rebounds – but also lost six turnovers – said Miami was still confident of defeating the Celtics.
“Why should we lose confidence?” he said. “When we started this journey, no one believed in us. Everyone thought we would be eliminated in the first round. Everyone thought we would be eliminated in the second round. And now here we are, a game away. We’ve always had confidence and that’s not going to go away.”
Butler, Miami’s emotional leader and star of Games 1 and 2, had just 14 points Thursday night — his lowest total this year’s postseason — and went 1-for-5 in the first quarter when Boston held a 15-point lead. Miami was down by double digits for all of the first five minutes of the game, closing to ten with a minute remaining after a meaningless 9-0 run.
“The last two games are not what we are,” said Butler. “We will always remain positive and know that we can and will win the series. We just have to finish it at home.”
To do that, Miami must respond to a bust — just as Boston did after a Game 3 loss that left players openly questioning rookie coach Joe Mazzulla.
When asked about the mood of his team, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: “Who cares about the mood?”
“We have a difficult group,” he said. “I think a lot of that is overrated. It’s a competitive series. You always assume that it will be a challenge in the conference finals. A game does not lead to the next game. … It doesn’t matter if you lose by whatever. We beat them at all costs in Game 3. It just doesn’t matter.”
With Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo out in all series and Gabe Vincent alongside him Thursday night with a sprained ankle, Miami got contributions from their bench — including 15 points from forward Haywood Highsmith, who hadn’t played significant minutes in the season’s first four games. Duncan Robinson had 18 points and nine assists while Caleb Martin had 14 points, helping the heat-bank to beat Boston’s 53-15.
Spoelstra’s message to the team: “Just to really remember that,” Robinson said. “Shift our focus to Saturday. Let it sting, just do what it takes to stay ahead of the game as we do our best.”
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports