June 9, 2023 12:30 am

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Sensible is tough to miss. His jump shot can be an amusement-park ride. He will attempt the occasional alley-oop pass from midcourt. He spoke earlier this month about the apparent brutality of a playoff game as a “true dogfight — scratching and clawing, biting, blood, every thing.” He dyes his hair green.

It is all element of the colorful package, and, on Thursday evening, Sensible showcased his function as a defense-minded agent of chaos on the opening possession of Game five of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.

Sensible was defending Jimmy Butler away from the ball, close to the prime of the perimeter, when Bam Adebayo of the Heat drove to the basket. Sensible reached at the ball, stripped it free of charge and dove to gather it close to the foul line just before shoveling it ahead to Jayson Tatum for a quickly-break layup and the game’s initially points.

One particular play does not define something, of course, particularly in a postseason series. But that play — a clean steal just before the Heat could even take a shot — seemed to hint at every thing that was to come in the course of the Celtics’ 110-97 victory, which extended their season. The Heat lead the series, three-two. Game six is Saturday in Miami.

The Celtics, the No. two seed in the East, forced 16 turnovers in Game five. They threw a complete-court press at the Heat coming out of timeouts. They led by as several as 24 points. By the fourth quarter, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra was pacing in front of the going to bench with his hands on his hips, and Butler, who completed with just 14 points against a host of defenders, looked weary.

“I wanted to get us going,” stated Sensible, who checked out of the game to an ovation soon after scoring 23 points. “I wanted to come in and give my group some power, particularly going against a group like Miami.”

He added: “We did the knocking about tonight.”

The stress is squarely on the Heat just before Game six. They would absolutely welcome the return of Gabe Vincent, their beginning point guard, who missed Game five with a sprained ankle. But in case any person thinks they are reeling, Butler provided a Namath-esque assure at his postgame news conference.

“We can and we will win this series,” he stated. “We’ll just have to close it out at house.”

Not so lengthy ago, the Heat had all the momentum. In truth, early in the third quarter of Game four on Tuesday, they seemed to be closing in on a 4-game series sweep. There was 1 possession in that game when 3 offensive rebounds led to a three-pointer by Max Strus, pushing Miami’s lead to 9 points in front of a house crowd that was primed to celebrate a trip to the N.B.A. finals.

The Celtics could have crumbled like a sand castle into Biscayne Bay. But a funny point occurred: They promptly went on an 18- run. No longer was the Heat’s zone defense such a riddle. No longer had been the Celtics’ three-point shots rimming in and out. And no longer did the outcome of the series seem to be a foregone conclusion soon after the Celtics’ 116-99 victory, which sent it back to Boston.

Numerous Celtics talked about the significance of a group meeting amongst Games three and four, which occurred at a time when almost absolutely everyone outdoors their locker area figured their season was toast. Coach Joe Mazzulla was fielding inquiries about irrespective of whether he had lost his group. Tatum and Jaylen Brown had been getting scrutinized for their inconsistent play. Broadcasters had been cracking jokes about imminent trips to Cancun.

“I imply, Game three, that was as low as you can be,” Tatum stated. “The excellent element about getting that low is that you only can play improved. It is only up from there.”

Soon after Thursday’s win, Mazzulla stated 1 of his assistants had supplied precious viewpoint.

“The seasons are, like, nine months lengthy, and we just had a terrible week,” Mazzulla stated. “Sometimes you have a terrible week at function. We of course didn’t choose the finest time to have a terrible week, but we did, and we’re sticking collectively and fighting like hell to hold it alive, and the guys are actually coming collectively.”

The Celtics are generating a habit of digging holes — they trailed the Philadelphia 76ers, 3 games to two, in their conference semifinal series — just before MacGyvering their way out. Sensible acknowledged that the Celtics might have been as well lax in how they had approached their series with the eighth-seeded Heat.

“They snuck up on us and got us,” stated Sensible, who was asked to elaborate. “That’s the point about sneaking up on somebody: They’re not supposed to know you are coming. So that is what occurred. We didn’t know. We didn’t see it, and they got us. It wasn’t like we had been attempting to have that thoughts-set. It is element of the game. It is element of life. It is element of the roller coaster of playing in the N.B.A.”

Now, the Celtics are halfway toward snapping 1 of specialist sports’ most curious and seemingly shatterproof streaks. No N.B.A. group has ever come back from a three- series deficit. Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Lakers became the 150th group to have attempted (briefly) and failed (miserably) when the Denver Nuggets swept them in the Western Conference finals.

As for the Celtics, Sensible pumped the brakes on searching beyond Game six.

“First of all, we have to be concerned about 1 — the subsequent game, not two games,” he stated.

On Thursday, Sensible was a kinetic force. He connected on back-to-back three-pointers for an early ten-point lead. He began the initially half with a steal and punctuated it with 1, as well, poking the ball away from the Heat’s Caleb Martin. He defended and scored, grimaced and scowled, finishing with 5 steals whilst shooting 7 of 12 from the field and four of six from three-point variety.

“He’s just an emotional essential for us,” Mazzulla stated. “When he’s locked in and playing each sides of the ball at a unique pace, it type of provides us our identity and our life.”

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