One of the most common expressions in modern sports remains: There is nothing like a Game 7.
Good news Celtics fans: If your teams is to reach the NBA Finals they will have to win three Game 7's beginning with Friday night’s Game 5. That's because following last night’s 112-109 Game 4 loss to Miami, the Celtics suddenly find themselves in a 3-1 series deficit and the very real prospect of leaving the bubble in less than 48 hours.
As has been the case throughout these NBA playoffs this was another excruciatingly close game as the Celtics have now lost Games by one, seven, three, three, five, and three points. With a trip to the Finals at stake, however, there are no moral victories especially when the team trailing the series seemingly has more talent than the team that has them on the brink.
Generally speaking, it’s not easy to lose an NBA game if you outshoot your opponent from two-point range, three-point range and the free throw line. And yet that’s exactly what the Celtics managed to do yet again Wednesday night. Boston’s offense was led by Jayson Tatum’s 28 points (all of which came in the second half).
But the hard truth is that the Heat won this game the same way they have won all of their bubble games: They wanted it more, they executed better (especially late), and they thrived under pressure.
Look no further than the wild discrepancy in turnovers as the Heat turned the Celtics over an inexcusable 19 times leading to 17 Miami points compared to the Heat committing just eight turnovers of their own.
The Celtics inability to execute down the stretch was never more evident than with 8:51 remaining in the game and the Celtics thriving, having just erased a Miami 12-point lead to take an 85-84 lead of their own. The Celtics next four possessions told the story of the game and maybe the story of these playoffs: Theis turnover. Tatum missed three. Smart turnover. And, yup, another Smart turnover. Just two minutes (and multiple turnovers later) after taking their lone fourth quarter lead the Celtics trailed 91-85 and would never tie the game again.
Following the loss there was no locker room drama, no throwing of chairs, no 3 AM peace offerings. No, following this game there was a stoic bunch of Celtics. And while they were saying all the right things one has to wonder if they actually believe what they were saying.
Tatum “We gotta be better. We know what’s at stake, we know what’s on the line, we’ve got to play a complete game. It’s wins or go home.”
Brad Stevens: “(Tyler) Herro’s shot-making (37 points) was the difference in the game, Herro was ridiculously good tonight. The rim must have looked like the ocean.”
Regardless of the “we gotta play better, we gotta play a complete game” hyperbole, and regardless of Miami’s unsung hero’s doing their best Steph Curry impression, the ugly fact remains that suddenly these bubble Celtics find themselves down three games to one and are facing the very real possibility of their season coming to a premature end tomorrow night.
In an NBA season that is nearly one calendar year old and following three-plus months in the Disney bubble we will soon know what motivates these Celtics.
If winning and continuing their season remains their driving force that they will no doubt live to see a Game 6. If, however the tempting thought of home, familiar people, their favorite foods, and the company of their loved ones has begun to creep into their heads then the Celtics season will come to an end Friday night.
While their final game of the season will take place at Disney World, it’s looking more and more likely that it will not end with a Disney parade in their honor. For years NBA pundits have told us that talent is what wins in the NBA. Even trailing 3-1, I still believe the Celtics have more talent than Miami. While it’s only a Game 5, for these Celtics tomorrow night is a Game 7. Let’s hope the players motivation remains winning and for once let’s hope those NBA pundits are correct because if they are than this series is only just getting warmed up.