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Backs against the wall, Celtics come alive in 2nd half to cruise past Heat


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Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics clearly are not ready to see the world that exists outside the NBA’s restart bubble.

And a big second half extended their stay at Walt Disney World.

Tatum had 31 points and 10 rebounds, Jaylen Brown added 28 points and the Celtics staved off elimination by topping the Miami Heat 121-108 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night.

The Heat lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 on Sunday.

Daniel Theis had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics, who trailed by 12 early but took control with a big third quarter. Kemba Walker scored 15 points, Marcus Smart added 12 and Gordon Hayward had 10 for the Celtics.

Goran Dragic scored 23 points before fouling out with 4:27 left for Miami, which got 20 from Duncan Robinson. Jimmy Butler scored 17, Tyler Herro and Jae Crowder each had 14 and Bam Adebayo 13 for the Heat — which could get nothing to fall from 3-point range.

WATCH | Tatum leads Celtics past Heat in Game 5:

Jason Tatum scored a game-high 31 points and Jaylen Brown had 28 in a must-win game for the Celtics. 1:08

Miami was 7 for 36 from beyond the arc, now shooting 24.8 per cent on 3’s in its last 13 quarters — after shooting 38.3 per cent in the playoffs before that drought.

Brown made back-to-back 3’s in the fourth quarter to turn an eight-point lead into a 103-89 margin with 8:05 left.

He turned a blew a kiss to the Heat bench after the second one, reminiscent of something Herro did during his 37-point barrage in Game 4.

The opening minutes didn’t go according to plan for Boston, which missed 11 of its first 12 shots, committed four turnovers in that dismal stretch to make matters even worse, and got into a 17-5 hole very early.

But they weathered all that and, even after shooting only 40% in the first half, Boston trailed 58-51 at the break — never leading, but never letting Miami get too far removed from view.

The Heat scored the first basket of the third quarter. The next few minutes were all Celtics.

They went on a 13-0 run over a stretch of only 3:06 to turn a nine-point deficit into a 64-60 lead, and the game changed just that fast. A separate 7-0 burst followed, Walker connected on a 3-pointer with 4:26 left for a 77-67 edge — Boston’s first double-digit cushion of the night — and the Celtics eventually led by 14 before settling for a 92-83 lead going into the fourth.

“In all sincerity, first time I’ve seen Celtics basketball in the last few games,” Stevens told his team during a time-out.

And it was good enough to ensure that Friday wouldn’t be the last time he’d see Celtics basketball this season.

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