Good luck trying to predict this series. Game to game, it's been impossible. Just when you think a team is ready to take control coming off a big win, something bizarre happens. Maybe it's turning the ball over 24 times, other times it's starting a game 0-14 from the floor. The only constant through four games is each team builds a massive 25+ point lead over the other one every other game. None of this ECF makes any goddamn sense and that has me TERRIFIED for tonight's Game 5. We've been here before, you know how important tonight is with a series tied 2-2. The Celtics defied the odds and NBA history in the last round by coming back from down 2-3 and winning Games 6 & 7 against the Bucks, but they also had Game 7 at home. That is no longer the case in this series. But because they screwed around and didn't show up for the start of Game 3, this is the price you pay. They now go from only needing one road win to advance to the Finals to now needing two. Can't advance without that second road win, and obviously, Game 7s are a toss up where historically the home team takes care of business. They historically win those games around 74% of the time. Sorry, didn't mean to trigger any Suns fans that might be reading this blog, but those are the numbers.
There's a reason Jayson Tatum had this to say after the Celts Game 4 win
You know how the Celts have hung their hat on the fact that they basically never lose 2 games in a row? That's all fine and good, but we've also seen them really struggle to win 2 games in a row over these last two series. It wasn't until their playoff lives were on the line that they were able to string 2 consecutive wins together against the Bucks. Their ability to build off success and wins has been an issue, it's OK to acknowledge that. As a fan I don't think any of us worry about how they respond to losses, but for them to regain control of this series they need to find a way to build off wins. We've seen in pretty much every game this series what one bad quarter can do, so to potentially leave that up to a Game 7 is beyond terrifying.
As is often the case, so much of this series comes down to availability. Based on the most recent injury reports from both sides, this is what we're looking at heading into Game 5
I would not exactly call these "questionables" the same. With Smart, the hope is that sitting Game 4 gave him enough time for the swelling to go down with his ankle, but that's still iffy. That shit bent to a 90 degree angle and had all his weight come crashing down on it. With Rob, questionable may as well mean "OUT" until proven otherwise. Each game he's missed, he was listed as "QUESTIONABLE" the day prior. That's a situation where I won't be confident he plays until I see him on the court. It goes without saying how important both are to the success of this team, especially with what Rob does in terms of limiting Bam. All we can do is pray that the update we get later today has everyone active, but I think we've learned to not bank on that.
We've said it time and time again and it remains true. For the Celtics to have success in this series, all they need to do is take care of the basketball
So much of being able to limit their turnovers is simply being focused. Not making lazy passes, not passing the ball to the other team, it's a little insane how many of their mistakes are self inflicted. There are times the Heat play legit defense and force those turnovers like what Oladipo did to Jaylen in Game 3, but so many more as simply terrible and stupid basketball decisions. When they avoid that and stay locked in and focused, their live ball turnovers are down and as a result, so are the Heat's points off turnovers. Just like against the Bucks, you need to make this Heat team prove they can consistently execute in the half court. So far this series, that's been a struggle. It's when you gift them 20+ points off turnovers that things can get out of hand quickly.
One thing I think we can all expect is that the Heat are going to shoot the ball MUCH better. They won't be going 0-14 again. Max Strus won't be held scoreless again.Tyler Herro will be back who despite his struggles still is really their only shot creator outside of Butler. He's someone you have to make sure you stick with because he's shown the ability to get hot and carry the offense for stretches. As favorable a whistle as the Celts got in Games 3 & 4, that's going to flip now that we're back in MIA. No sense in getting worked up about it, that's how the NBA works. The Celts benefitted in Boston, and now it's the Heat's turn. I'm pretty sure Jimmy Butler is not going to take 0 FTA in 27 minutes again. They are going to adjust their approach to be more aggressive in terms of attacking the rim, and it'll be on the Celts to figure out how to not only defend without fouling but also keep their mental composure when they get called for fouls that weren't happening in Games 3 & 4. When we see this team start to let go of the rope, it's because the Heat mentally own them. They force the Celts into worrying about complaining rather than just playing. You cannot do that shit in this all important Game 5.
If you need to see the numbers again, fine I'll say it. Teams that go up 3-2 after a 2-2 series tie are 186-36. Sure the Suns and the Bucks just choked away 3-2 leads this very postseason, but I'd prefer the Celts to stop screwing around and needing to pull off prayers in order to win a series. Just play normal and you'll be fine. This is also a pretty big spot for both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. For them to get over the hump and reach an NBA Finals, taking a game like this tonight would be a massive step in that direction. This team goes as they go, especially Tatum. If we get Game 4 Tatum, things should work out.
I think it goes without saying that this is the biggest game of the Celtics season. That's basically going to be true from here on out for as long as they are fortunate enough to keep playing. Game 4 gave them new life, and Game 5 is now about making up for your disaster of a Game 3. The last time the Celts had a series lead was 4-3 against the Bucks which seems crazy, but it's true. Tonight they have an opportunity to put the Heat on life support, and for a team that has shown it's nearly impossible to beat them two consecutive times, THAT is why tonight is so crucial.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to praying to the Basketball Gods that Rob is going to play. We have a long way to go until tip off so best of luck to everyone as we try and make it through today. It's not going to be easy, but when has life as a Celtics fan ever been easy?