The Miami Heat's resolve is under scrutiny after losing Game 5 to the Boston Celtics. Though just one win short of a finals spot, it appears that the morale of the Heat has taken a blow, according to the Inside The NBA team comprising Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O'Neal.
The Celtics secured a commanding 110-97 victory on home turf, reducing the Heat's lead in the Eastern Conference Finals to a single game. The victory sparked a lively discussion among the Sports Emmy Award-winning panel.
"They're not shaken, but stirred," Smith said, illustrating the Heat's current state. He noted the Celtics, the no. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, are expected to win games, but the consecutive losses the Heat has suffered are causing self-doubt and a reevaluation of their strategy.
After stunning comeback victories in the first two games of the series and a decisive 26-point triumph in Game 3, the Heat seemed destined for the NBA Finals. However, the Celtics returned stronger in Game 4, trouncing the Heat by 17 points and pushing the series to a fifth game.
In Game 5, the Heat could not counter the Celtics' potent offense, which began with a 35-point opening quarter. Barkley argued, "Miami can't beat the Celtics if the Celtics play well... If they play like they did in Games 4 and 5, Miami can't beat them. They're not good enough."
Heat's star player, Jimmy Butler, had a challenging night, scoring a series-low of 14 points. His teammate, Bam Adebayo, also had a tough game, producing 16 points, eight rebounds, and a team-high six turnovers. Duncan Robinson emerged as the best player for the Heat in this crucial match, scoring a team-high 18 points.
Meanwhile, Boston's players showcased an evenly distributed scoring effort. Forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 42 points, while the backcourt duo of Derrick White and Marcus Smart contributed 24 and 23 points, respectively.
Boston's head coach, Joe Mazzulla, praised his guards in the post-game press conference, recognizing White for his defensive prowess and Smart as the emotional anchor of the team.
With the balance shifting in favor of the Celtics, the focus is now on the Heat, facing a decisive Game 6. O'Neal, a four-time NBA champion, offered his perspective, "This now forces them to focus... [Game 6] is going to be a great game. I cannot wait 'til Saturday."
Game 6 is scheduled at Miami's Kaseya Center on Saturday, May 27 at 8:30 PM ET, and will be broadcast on TNT.