BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have faced head-to-head elimination four times this postseason and haven’t blinked yet.
Derrick White scored 24 points, including six 3-pointers, and the Celtics dominated the Miami Heat 110-97 on Thursday night in Game 5 to extend the Eastern Conference finals.
Marcus Smart had 23 points and five steals. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each finished with 21 points as the Celtics won their second straight game and cut Miami’s series lead to 3-2. The Celtics are halfway to becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
“We have to do whatever it takes to get a win,” White said.
Boston also survived two elimination games in the second round against the 76ers. Teams that trailed 3-0 are 0-150 all-time in the series.
“It just says we have our backs against the wall and we stick together and we’re competing at a high level to give ourselves a chance,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said.
Game 6 is Saturday in Miami, where the Heat will try again to become the second No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals in the current format, dating back to 1984.
“We will always stay positive, knowing that we can and will win the series,” said the Heat’s Jimmy Butler. “We just have to shut it down at home.”
One day after the Florida Panthers earned the franchise’s first berth to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1996, for the second straight game the Heat were denied a berth in the NBA Finals.
“One game doesn’t lead to the next game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It just doesn’t matter. It’s about collectively preparing and putting together a great game. We will play much better on Saturday. That’s all we have to focus on right now.”
Duncan Robinson led the Heat with 18 points. Bam Adebayo added 16 points and eight rebounds. Butler had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists, but did not play the final 9:47 of the game. Caleb Martin finished with 14 points.
It was Butler’s lowest scoring game of the playoffs. He scored 16 points in Game 3, a blowout victory for Miami.
Miami never led and had 16 turnovers.
“I don’t want to say we’re surprised, but they raised their bar,” Robinson said. “We have to raise ours now too.”
Boston started the day just 4-5 at TD Garden this postseason. But with a rowdy home crowd behind them, the Celtics thrived on their energy.
They dove for fumbles, outrebounded Miami and came together for layups and dunks in transition while building a first-half lead of as many as 20 points.
The Heat stepped in, but Boston kept hitting 3-pointers and increased their lead to 96-72 in the fourth quarter.
Boston fans reignited a “Beat the Heat!” chant that hadn’t been frequent since Game 1.
The Heat started Kyle Lowry at point guard after Gabe Vincent was ruled out with a sprained left ankle earlier that day. It was Lowry’s first start since February 2.
Vincent, the Heat’s third leading scorer this postseason, was injured late in Miami’s Game 4 loss when he landed awkwardly while trying to save a fumble near the Heat’s bench.
His presence was lost when Miami struggled early on the offensive end, surrounded by a Celtics defense that forced the Heat into 10 first-half turnovers that led to 17 Boston points. Lowry played 31 minutes, scored five points and finished with four turnovers.
“I think it’s a series now,” Brown said.
Heat: They were outscored 13-0 on second-half points in the first 24 minutes.
Celtics: It was the first time this season that Boston had four 20-point scorers. … Al Horford had six points and 11 rebounds. … The Celtics took a 61-44 halftime lead. … Boston’s first turnover of the game didn’t come until 8:16 of the second quarter.
The Celtics got off to the fast start they had hoped for in front of their home crowd.