After Jaylen Brown stopped defeating himself at Game 5, the Miami Heat had no chance of doing so.
On consecutive possessions late in the first quarter, Brown was stripped of the ball, first by PJ Tucker and then by Victor Oladipo. Heat turned into easy baskets. Transitions were a big part of the Celtics’ problems with their loss in Game 3 and Brown had seven of them ugly. So when he flipped him a third time in the last minute of the first quarter of Game Five, Boston coach Im Odoka knocked him out and pulled him aside.
“You act like you’re surprised they came back and pricked them. There wasn’t a great deal of live ball spin trying to make a good pass. Be strong with the ball,” said Odoka. Five games now, we have a lot of that kind of swing, and we’re not strong with the ball in the crowd. He understood that. …we knew if we cleaned that up, we’d be in great shape. Clearly he and the rest of the group did a great job.”
Most professional athletes are not as good as they think. Sometimes this extra confidence allows them to reach greater heights than their talents dictate. But sometimes it leads to them making the same mistake over and over again because they think they are better than continuing to fail.
Brown was failing when he drove to the basket. He continued to do so with poor results, playing straight into the hands of the Heat, who were more than happy to keep the game in the mud. Brown thought he was manually checked and that the stewards had not contacted him.
“Hopefully in the next match for some hand validation calls, I’ll get one. But I’ll stay aggressive and keep getting involved in the paint,” he said. “Miami does a good job of slapping, reaching and catching, which makes it hard for you. It’s a bit of both. I have to do a better job, sure, but overall as a team, we have to do a better job as well.”
Brown has an average turnover of 2.18 in wins and 4.4 in losses in the post-season. And whether or not some were the result of gratuitous mistakes, he was smart enough to change his approach on Wednesday.
After a quiet second quarter, Brown began taking and firing quick shots. He scored twice in the Celtics’ 10-0 streak to finish the third quarter, then was the best player on the floor in the fourth quarter, almost single-handedly delivering the knockout punch that moved the Celtics in a game of the NBA Finals.
Brown made three three-pointers in the first 3:39 of the fourth quarter as the Celtics turned a close match into a road. Brown had had 13 out of 25 points in the last quarter and only had one spin after the first quarter.
With 5:18 left, he drove to the basket again, this time through an open driveway. A certain one-handed Dunke put the Celtics ahead 89-71 and sent several Heat fans to the exits.
“The match opened up for me in the second half,” Brown said. “I didn’t want to look past, I think this game is over. I need my team to get out and respond. The first half was (expletive), he threw it away. Come on, play basketball in the second half.”