After Wednesday’s Game 5 93-80 win over Miami to give Boston a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, any notion of separating Tatum and Brown can be put to rest. The 1-2 punch combined for 47 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Brown provided the scoring punch with a game-high 25 points on 10-19 shooting from the field, 5-9 from beyond the arc, while Tatum took over playmaking and rebounding duties, making sure to make an impact in other ways since his shot wasn’t falling at its usual clip.
“We just got to come out and play basketball,” Brown told reporters of his partnership with Tatum after Wednesday’s 93-80 victory. “We feel like there’s not a lot of people who can play basketball with us two. When he gets going, when I get going, we know that we’re going to put ourselves in a good spot to win.”
Coming out of a tough first half down 42-37 after turning the ball over 10 times and allowing 16 second-chance points, Boston came out of the break with a different mindset. Led by a tough conversation amongst the Boston core of Tatum, Brown, and Marcus Smart, Boston knew that in order to turn Game 5 around in their favor was winning hustle plays, toughness, and taking care of the ball.
“Basically just talked about how much does it mean to us,” Tatum said about Boston’s ugly first half, per The Athletic. “We know all the plays and things like that, but saw the 50/50 balls and hustle plays and things like that are about toughness and effort. That’s what we talked about, us playing better, taking care of the ball, just competing. Because we know what’s on the line.”
From there, it was a tale of two halves. Boston raced out to an 8-0 lead to grab a lead they wouldn’t surrender, forcing Miami to miss their first nine shots of the second half while holding a nine-point lead heading into the final frame. As for the play of Tatum and Browm, the duo combined to score 15 points on 6-10 shooting, committing just one turnover during the decisive third quarter.
When reporters asked Coach Ime Udoka what changed for Brown after he coughed the ball up four times in the first half, Udoka offered a simple explanation. Brown stopped turning the ball over. Brown ended up scoring 19 points in the second half, throwing down the powerful hammer in the half-court to give Boston a suffocating 18-point cushion.
“This is a great opportunity,” Brown said per NBCSports. “Leave everything on the floor. You don’t want any feelings of regret. We’ve got an opportunity to do something with this group that’s special, so let’s not take that for granted. Let’s come out Friday on our home floor and play the best version of basketball we played all season.
“It’s a big game for us. At the same time, just breathe, relax. Sometimes we can be a little bit too tense because we know how important these moments are. But just come out and play our game, and we’ll be fine.”
The Celtics will look to close the ECF out and punch their ticket to the NBA Finals when the series shifts back to Beantown for Friday’s Game 6 in TD Garden.