Boston defeated Miami 121-108 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, trimming the Heat’s lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
On the other side of the NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers will look to close out the Denver Nuggets Saturday night, when the teams meet in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. The Lakers hold a 3-1 edge.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the NBA:
• Charles Barkley has come under scrutiny for his Breonna Taylor comments, according to CNN:
“Basketball legend and NBA analyst Charles Barkley is taking some heat following his comments on the grand jury’s decision on charges in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.
“’I don’t think this one was like George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery and things like that,’ Barkley stated on Thursday during TNT’s pregame coverage of the Western Conference Finals.”
• What’s real and not in the conference finals? ESPN takes a look:
“Real or Not: The Heat are this season’s team of destiny”
“In a normal world, are the Heat as dominant as they’ve been through most of this postseason? Maybe not. But we aren’t in a normal world — and this particular Heat group is not a normal team. Friday’s result notwithstanding, Miami is still one win from the Finals with three rounds of momentum.”
• ‘Celtics basketball’ reappeared in Game 5 and Brad Stevens’ team made this a series again, according to The Athletic:
“The date was Sept. 26, 2019. Celtics coach Brad Stevens had his almost entirely new roster gathered.
“He was imparting the core values that would compose his roster’s identity: Defensive communication. Closing out with purpose, Attacking early on offense. These were the foundations of the Stevens-era Celtics.
“There’s a reason they have bucked conventional wisdom that defenses can’t affect deep shooting on the aggregate to be a top 3-point defensive team year-in, year-out. But all those virtues have seemed to fly out the window in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, as the Celtics have been fighting to find Celtics basketball. So it was no surprise in Game 5 on Friday to see the second half begin with another clunky Marcus Smart fumbled drive that ended with a contested Jaylen Brown 3 clanking off the rim.”
• Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are basketball’s best buddy comedy, writes The New Yorker:
“Jokić, Murray’s dance partner, plays, and looks, and acts like no one else in the N.B.A. He’s an élite center and point guard, a seven-footer who’s as likely to get a triple-double as he is to dunk the ball, a sharpshooter whose jump shot involves very little jumping. Jokić is from Sombor, Serbia, where he still keeps his horses. (He’s a harness-racing aficionado.) He has a henchman’s face and an elastic smile, and his arms are long for even his frame. He’s one of the N.B.A.’s bigger big men, but he lacks the weight-room armor of Dwight Howard or LeBron James. He has even appeared, at times, a little gelatinous — more giant squid than great white shark.”
• The Nuggets have been in a 3-1 hole before, but coach Michael Malone says the deficit is not what they want, according to ESPN:
“The Nuggets have made history in twice coming back from 3-1 deficits this postseason, but Malone assured everyone that this is not where his team wanted to be again.
“Denver is the first team to win back-to-back NBA playoff series after falling behind 3-1, stunning Utah in the first round and the LA Clippers in the second round. But Malone says the Nuggets don’t feel like they have the Los Angeles Lakers right where they want them in the Western Conference finals.”
• Why are teams combating the NBA’s offensive revolution with zone defense? ESPN explains:
“In the ongoing battle between NBA offenses and defenses, offenses have dominated recently. The past two seasons have produced the most efficient offense on record behind ever-growing numbers of 3-point shots.
“’I think that the offense changed drastically, and the defense stayed pretty much the same for a while,’ Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse said, ‘and now I think the defense is starting to have to adjust to such a different and drastic style of offensive play.’”
“The heavy use of zones has been a key adjustment this postseason. And now the zone defense, once disdained, has the potential to reshape this year’s NBA Finals.”
• The Nuggets need a little killer instinct, according to SI.com:
“Again, Denver deserves all the credit in the world and then some for continuing to climb out of massive holes to win series, particularly when the incentive to return home is greater than ever before. But it’s one thing to win games when you’re the desperate team, simultaneously playing with no pressure because nobody really expects you to win. If the Nuggets want the narrative to be different, if they want to be considered one of the best teams in the league and not a feel-good story, if they want the burden of expectations, then they need the ability to get out in front of teams and stay there.”
• From NBA.com … the Heat’s Bam Adebayo takes blame for Game 5 loss to Celtics:
“Things didn’t go well Friday night. And Adebayo wanted — demanded, really — all the blame.
“His stat line — 13 points, eight rebounds, eight assists on 5-for-11 shooting — certainly didn’t look as abysmal as Adebayo made his effort sound after Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, when Miami fell apart in the third quarter and saw its series lead trimmed to 3-2 after a 121-108 loss to the Boston Celtics. But he didn’t like much of anything about his night and headed back to the hotel following the game vowing that he would find a way to be better in Game 6 on Sunday.
“’I put that game on me,’ Adebayo said. ‘It’s not my teammates’ fault, it’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made. Put that one on me.’”
• For the Celtics’ Brown, basketball is ‘just a glimpse’ of who he is, writes USA Today:
“One of the most thoughtful, influential voices inside the NBA bubble is also one of the youngest and best players, too. Celtics forward Jaylen Brown is a scholar – seeking not only knowledge but answers to social and racial injustices – just as much as he is a basketball player.
“It’s just who I am,’ Brown told USA TODAY Sports. ‘It’s not like something I’ve just started doing now. I’ve advocated and spoken about things I’ve felt strong about since before I was drafted. Responsibility is the right word. But at this point, it’s just who I am.’”
• Klay Thompson returned to practice more than a year after after tearing his ACL, ESPN writes:
“Golden State Warriors swingman Klay Thompson participated Friday in his first full practice since tearing his left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals. It had been 470 days since Thompson’s injury and his return was a welcome sight for coaches and teammates who missed having him around.
“’It was great to have him out on the floor, in the locker room,’ Warriors coach Steve Kerr said during a video call with reporters. ‘Just his presence alone gave us a jolt of energy and excitement. Practice went well. This is the first practice coming off an ACL injury and a year and a half absence so I didn’t expect him to be in top shape, in top form, and he was not, but he moved well and it’s a good first step.’”