NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 5: Will Celtics, Heat play a competitive game?

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TV: ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET

BetMGM line: Celtics -3.5

3 Game 5 storylines

Through four games, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have settled nothing, with the Eastern Conference finals headed back to Miami tied up for Game 5. After splitting games on each team's home court, the top-seeded Heat will look to maintain home-court advantage and take a 3-2 series lead back to Boston, while the Celtics face a chance to earn a closeout game at home.

1: Will Celtics, Heat play a competitive game?

As a series, the Eastern Conference finals have been competitive. The games? Not so much. Both teams have looked dominant at different points of what has been a bizarre conference finals.

After trailing by eight at halftime of Game 1, Miami blitzed Boston in the second half to run away with a 118-107 victory. Boston responded with a 127-102 blowout in Game 2.

Miami returned the favor when the series shifted to Boston for Game 3 by opening up a 46-20 first-half lead that triggered boos from the TD Garden crowd. The Celtics rallied after halftime to make it the most competitive game of the series, but the Heat held on for a 109-103 win. There was no Heat rally in Game 4 that saw Boston explode early and cruise to a 102-82 win that wasn't as close at the final score.

Both teams have taken turns looking completely outmatched. The result is a 2-2 series tie, leaving neutral fans hoping for more competitive basketball in what's now a best-of-three series.

Jaylen Brown #7 and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics look on during a game against the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden on January 10, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
When Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum take care of the ball, the Celtics win. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

2: Watch the Celtics' turnover tally

Ball security is a running theme through four games with the Celtics' turnover tally a good indicator of who wins. In their two wins, the Celtics committed nine turnovers in each game. In their two losses, they gave the ball away a whopping 39 times. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown accounted for 13 turnovers of their own in Miami's Game 3 win.

Miami earned the No. 1 seed and got this far thanks in large part to an aggressive defense that rated as the league's fourth-best during the regular season. Look for Miami to keep up the defensive pressure Wednesday night with the series lead at stake. How the Celtics respond could dictate the outcome of the East finals.

3: Are frequent games taking their toll on players' bodies?

The conference finals schedule has seen teams playing every other day with a single day of rest, even after travel. Meanwhile, the Heat and Celtics are both battling injuries to multiple key players.

The Celtics' Marcus Smart (ankle sprain) and Robert Williams (knee soreness) will play Wednesday night. The Heat's Tyler Herro won't as he's out with a groin injury.

On Tuesday, the Heat listed as questionable: Kyle Lowry (hamstring), Max Strus (hamstring), Gabe Vincent (hamstring) and P.J. Tucker (knee). Miami also played the second half of Game 3 without Jimmy Butler, citing knee inflammation.

There's no way to directly correlate the injuries with the grind of a playoff schedule. And some like Smart's sprained ankle are results of on-court accidents. But it's something the NBA will be pressed to consider moving forward. Especially if the mounting injuries end up playing a role in the outcome of a playoff series.

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