On Tuesday night, the Celtics avoided the sweep and kept their season alive. They earned another game.
Welcome to that game.
Of course, winning Game 4 certainly doesn't mean shit if you turn right around and lose Game 5 on your home floor to end your season, so let's hold off on the comeback or parade stuff just yet. There is a LONG way to go, and tonight is just another step of that process. You can't win 4 without winning 2. I've never been a math guy but even my dumb as rocks brain can figure that out without using The Pythagorean Theorem.
I get it, the Celts have been complete dogshit at home in the playoffs not just this year, but the last few years. Truly one of the more confusing things in recent NBA history. Who can't win playoff games at home? The Boston Celtics clearly, but given that we're all nervous as hell as we wait for tip off, I do think it's important that I remind you of something.
Excluding the Bubble since those were not "home" games at the Garden, at no point in the entire Tatum/Brown era of Celtics basketball have they lost 3 home games in a series. They've lost 2 games a bunch, at this point that's expected, but 3? Nope. In the same way that pairing has never been swept in a playoff series, they've never lost 3 home games in a 7 game series.
Does that help you feel a little better? Probably not, but at this point my brain is looking for any glimpse of positivity that might exist.
That is especially the case after learning what the deal actually is with Malcolm Brogdon
It certainly makes things a little more understandable. It says he got hurt about midway through Game 1. That tracks because look at his game log
19 points on 50/50 splits certainly felt and looked like the Brogdon we were getting all year and the guy who just had a massive series against PHI, so for him to be just 5-20 (1-10) since, something was clearly up. It wasn't so much the missed layups, we got those all year, but the collapse in outside shooting made no sense. Especially when his looks were wide open. You don't go from 44/52% to 35/21% with a team giving you open looks for no reason, and now we know it's a partially torn tendon. Sucks for Brogdon, I give him all the credit for gutting it out, but tonight presents Joe with some interesting decisions to make.
If Brogdon's scoring is cooked, how much can he play the rest of the way?
Maybe you give him the first shift to test it out, and if it's not working you give him the quick hook. To make up for those minutes I feel is pretty obvious, just play more minutes of Grant and Sam Hauser. Hauser has been virtually non existent in this series, but in a matchup where every game so far has basically come down to who can make more of their open 3PA, something tells me this guy
I know there's some concern about Hauser's defense and how he would be hunted, but listen, it wasn't as if Brogdon was playing All NBA caliber defense. You can figure that out. At least he has decent height and actually held his own during the year on that end. How many times did we see Hauser be able to bait an opposing player into poor iso decisions because they thought they could take advantage of his whiteness only for it to not work? That can absolutely happen today.
In terms of a zone buster, I'm pretty sure that is the exact reason Sam Hauser was put on this planet. If the Heat are going to bust out the zone tonight, having that type of shooting on the floor can help you. Not to mention Hauser is sneaky active in terms of crashing the glass off ball, and given the Celts are playing at home and role players tend to play better in their own building, I think Joe has to be willing to rely more on Grant/Hauser than trying to force Malcolm minutes given his injury.
This decision will be just part of the equation though. Said another way, the Celtics season is not going to come down to how many minutes Sam Hauser gets. Let's not get too crazy. The Celtics season staying alive starts and ends with the same thing it always does.
Their two best players.
In Game 4, both stepped up. Tatum with one of his best two way performances in the playoffs, and Jaylen with just enough as a running mate with arguably his best game of the series. When you find yourself in this type of hole, it will always come down to what your franchise players are able to do. If they show up tonight, that will trickle down to the rest of the roster just like it always does.
The formula to beat the Heat will never really change. You have to rebound well. You have to take away Bam in the P&R. You have to play with pace. Most importantly, you have to take care of the basketball. It seems easy, yet here we are. In the one game in this series the Celts finally did all those things, they won rather convincingly. The same must happen tonight.
What the Celts cannot do is come out and assume they'll get a repeat Heat performance of what we saw in Game 4. Maybe their shooting is finally coming back down to earth after multiple games of being 50% or higher from deep, but given their playoff run, I wouldn't bet on it. I would expect MIA to give their best punch of the series to be honest. They know what's at stake, they know what they let slip away in Game 4. Given the fact they've won 3 straight games and 4 out of 5 at the Garden dating back to last year's ECF, I'm pretty sure they're as confident as anyone would possibly be heading into a game like this.
With the additional reality of history being on their side, it's going to require the Celts to be as close to perfect as a basketball team can possibly be, and that means on both ends. No 30 point quarters, no 15+ TO games, no 2nd and 3rd chance opportunities for the Heat. You absolutely cannot screw around when it comes to the margins of tonight's games. When Marc Davis bones you on a call, shut up and get back. The second this team breaks its mental focus, the season is over. Jimmy Butler can smell that shit from a mile away, and he then proceeds to go in for the kill. We've seen it time and time again.
Look, believing in this comeback is based on delusion. That's totally fine in my book. When you're trying to accomplish something that has never been done before in NBA history, you have to be delusional. The thing is, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the Celts look like themselves the rest of the way and win out. Call it a 1% chance, a 0.5% chance, who cares. The fact remains that there is a chance.
But only if they take care of business tonight in their own building. At some point they have to win at the Garden, so why not tonight?