NBA on ABC: Pivotal Game 5 between Miami and Boston could make or break Celtics title aspirations
BOSTON, Mass. — Coming up on KAPP-KVEW (ABC) at 5:30 p.m., the Miami Heat visit the Boston Celtics for Game Five of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. Each with a grueling path through the playoffs—riddled with injuries and star matchups—will grasp for a victory in a match that could very well decide who’s heading to the NBA Finals.
Headlined by 6-foot-8 All-Star Jayson Tatum, the Boston Celtics had one of the most awe-inspiring turnarounds of any team in the last decade of basketball. The season began with turmoil as they fall into the bottom half of the playoff picture following the promotion of head coach Brad Stevens and the hiring of his successor, Ime Udoka.
However, the second half of the season saw Boston flourish with a league-best 31-10 record with no back-to-back losses leading into the playoffs. Boasting a dominant defense and team-oriented scoring style, the Celtics have been one of the league’s most exciting stories since January.
And yet here they stand as underdogs against Miami, one of the quietest No. 1 seeds in recent memory. Though soon-to-be five-time All-NBA wing Jimmy Butler is their clear leader, the Heat dominate without putting too much onus on any one player.
At times, the offense funnels through Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro, a fearless shot creator with an undeniable jump shot and the swagger to match.
On other nights like in Game Three, the game runs through Bam Adebayo—a Defensive Player of the Year candidate whose versatility translates to either side of the floor. Along with a cast of spark plugs in which anyone can heat up on a given night, Miami has a serious shot at its second Finals appearance in three seasons.
However, both sides will be without crucial players in Game Four. Herro is sitting for Miami. For Boston, Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart—the first guard to win the award since Seattle SuperSonics legend Gary Payton in 1996—is out to nurse a sprained ankle.
And just like that, eyes fall back onto the stars: Butler and Tatum. Through three games, no Heat player is within 10 points per game of Butler’s 26 PPG average in this series. He’s a daring and physical player who gets to the free-throw line through sheer conviction while maneuvering through the mid-range for jumpers and floaters.
Tatum, on the other hand, is struggling in the series. His 22 points per game are nearly five points per game lower than his regular-season average. Boston needs more from him to break through to compete for the franchise’s record-breaking 18th NBA title.
Still, Tatum’s running mate Jaylen Brown—an All-Star in his own right–is keeping the ship afloat with a series-leading 29.3 points per game levied by extraordinary 3-point shooting at 45.8% on eight deep shots per game.
Of all the X-Factors to ponder in Game Four, there’s one that stands out above all else: Guard/Wing Victor Oladipo of the Miami Heat. A skilled athlete and stifling defender, Oladipo once reached All-Star heights as the top player on his own playoff team. Unfortunately, an array of injuries kept him from returning to that peak, leaving him a role player coming off the bench for Miami midway through the season following his rehabilitation.
If Oladipo can fill in for Herro by giving the Heat that scoring punch they need off the bench, Miami has a great chance at pushing the series to a 3-1 lead. He’s got the talent and his body is back to playing shape, so if he can lock in mentally and be the player he was drafted second overall to become, Oladipo will be on track for his first shot at an NBA title.
Tune into KAPP-KVEW (ABC) starting at 5:30 p.m. PST to see the action unfold.
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