The availability of Heat and Celtics point guards remained in question on Friday, on the eve of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Heat listed Gabe Vincent as questionable heading into Game 6 on Saturday in Miami (8:30 p.m., TNT). Vincent hoped to play through a sprained ankle in Game 5 but found the injury too limiting during a Thursday morning workout. TNT reported that it’s “very likely” he will play in Game 6; Miami leads the series 3-2.
Meanwhile, the Celtics listed Malcolm Brogdon - the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year - as questionable with a right forearm strain. Brogdon, who left Game 5 in the second half because of the injury, reportedly has been playing through a partially torn tendon in his right arm.
After averaging 14.9 points per game and shooting 44.4 percent on three-pointers during the regular season, Brogdon is averaging just 6.8 points and shooting 3 for 16 on threes in this series.
Vincent, conversely, has been especially effective in the Eastern finals, averaging 17.5 points per game on 57.9 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from three-point range. He set a new NBA career-high for any game with 29 points in the Heat’s Game 3 win on Sunday.
In Vincent’s absence, Kyle Lowry started for the first time since February and struggled, scoring five points (2 for 5 shooting) with one assist and four turnovers in 30 minutes in Game 5.
“I just wasn’t aggressive enough,” Lowry said. “I think I turned the ball over twice early and I should have shot those shots. But that was an adjustment and I just wasn’t aggressive enough. So I take the route that the start was on me, for sure.”
What have the Celtics done to change the flow the past two games?
“I think they’re just playing with pace, they’re getting a lot of shots up,” Lowry said. “They’re pushing the tempo, off makes and misses and getting after it... and forcing us into turnovers.”
Some thoughts from television analysts in the wake of the Celtics’ Game 5 win:
▪ ESPN’s Tim Legler said two things must change for Miami: “Jimmy Butler’s mentality early has to be aggressive. It settles his team down; it gives the building energy when he gets it going early. Jimmy Butler is key to have a great start offensively in Game 6. Be a little bit more hungry.”
“You are going to have to look at the way they’re defending Jayson Tatum,” Legler said. “I don’t think these Tatum doubles have been super effective. They’re more like soft double teams. It allows him to pick you apart a little bit with his passing. Tatum is a good passer, not an elite level passer that should be able to beat you with his passing. He had 11 assists [Thursday] night.
“When he comes off these ball screens, he’s not feeling a lot of physicality. Try to force Tatum to put this team on his back with great shot making rather than giving him the best of both worlds, which some of these soft traps [have done].”
Legler said, without Vincent, the Heat “went with a slower lineup early in the game with Kevin Love on the floor. There were some mistakes in coverage because of that.”
▪ Bally Sports Sun’s Ron Rothstein: “We scored our first second chance points with five minutes left in the game. That’s ridiculous.”
He also cited video of a defensive sequence (and easy Boston basket) where the Heat had “no communication. That’s unacceptable.”
▪ Bally Sports Sun’s John Crotty, on Bam Adebayo, who had six turnovers in Game 5: “He was not decisive enough. He constantly seemed to be slow with the ball, stagnant, looking over his shoulder, trying to find cutters versus quick cut and go moves…
“You don’t want to be backing down Al Horford. Utilize your quickness and speed.
“He needs to get back to more dribble handoff activity. That will be a more secure initiation of the offense versus trying to pass and hold.”
Rothstein said Adebayo “has to attack quicker” and get the ball “in more isolation situations. If we’re going to just give the ball to Bam and say ‘you be the star,’ that’s not really his strength. That plays into what Boston wants to do.”
▪ ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins, on Adebayo: “What we saw last night was ridiculous. I don’t understand him being inconsistent. I’m not saying go out and get them a 40 piece. But dammit, you shouldn’t leave out of these games without having 15 rebounds. You’re going against Al Horford. He’s 36. You’re more athletic. You should be able to dominate that matchup! No excuse.”
Adebayo had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 6 turnovers in Game 5. Horford had 6 points, 11 rebounds and no turnovers.
Perkins, on Vincent: “I didn’t know until last night, how valuable Gabe Vincent was to this ball club. He opens up everything, especially for Bam, because of his aggressive nature to get downhill and playmaking ability.”
But Perkins said the Celtics have a “zero” percent chance of winning the series because of his faith in Butler.
▪ TNT’s Charles Barkley: “If these two teams play their best, the Celtics are going to win. If they make shots and play good defense, they’re going to win. They might have waited too late.”
▪ ESPN’s Jalen Rose: “Bam has got to keep his turnovers down. They need him to be a force offensively. Jimmy has to be more aggressive. They found something in Haywood Highsmith. Miami is in a good spot and will find a way to close it out.”