SAN FRANCISCO — Jayson Tatum supplied a resigned chuckle when he was requested concerning the Boston Celtics’ confidence stage after dropping Recreation 5 of the N.B.A. finals.
If any nihilistic ideas tormented him after a recreation wherein he scored 27 factors and grabbed 10 rebounds in a dropping effort in opposition to Golden State, he suppressed them.
“You higher be assured, proper?” Tatum mentioned. “We ain’t obtained to win two in in the future. We simply obtained to win one recreation on Thursday. We’ve been on this state of affairs earlier than. So it’s not over. Received to win on Thursday.”
The concept that Boston is aware of what to do when cornered in a playoff collection has been repeated by the Celtics many occasions this postseason. They did it once more Monday night time after falling to a 3-2 collection deficit within the N.B.A. finals, and now they face elimination on Thursday in Boston. However the assuredness with which they spoke in earlier collection was lacking.
For a lot of causes, the state of affairs they discover themselves in now could be new territory and has left the Celtics looking for solutions for the best way to get well in time for Recreation 6.
“Our religion obtained to be at an all-time excessive,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown mentioned. “Our religion obtained to proceed to be there. We obtained to play as a group, as a unit. All season lengthy it’s type of been like us versus everyone. I take a look at it as no totally different now.”
Heart Robert Williams mentioned: “We now have to look one another within the eye now. Our backs are up in opposition to the wall.”
What’s acquainted is that the Celtics are in an elimination recreation.
They’ve performed in three throughout this season’s playoffs and superior by successful all of them.
They have been down 3-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks within the Jap Convention semifinals, then received the subsequent two video games to succeed in the convention finals. There, the Miami Warmth compelled a Recreation 7, which Boston received, 100-96.
Typically it appeared the Celtics have been making their very own path more durable than it wanted to be, giving into lulls after they performed in video games that weren’t must-wins. That they had a chance to complete their collection in opposition to the Warmth at residence in six video games however couldn’t. They gave up 47 factors to Miami’s Jimmy Butler that night time. They’ve been blown out by the identical groups they’ve beat convincingly, suggesting a scarcity of focus.
Their disregard has manifested by missteps like careless turnovers — the Celtics have given up 16.8 turnovers per recreation in every of their losses through the playoffs and solely 12.8 in wins this postseason. They gave up 18 turnovers on Monday night time.
Their offense has gone stale at occasions, however their protection has helped save them.
Earlier than Recreation 5, Boston Coach Ime Udoka mentioned the Celtics would have been 3-1 within the collection if their offense had merely performed higher. Then they began Recreation 5 by lacking their first 12 3-pointers.
What’s modified now could be that Golden State appears to have decoded the Celtics. Boston’s physicality not scares them. Shut down Stephen Curry? Golden State nonetheless received.
For a lot of the playoffs, every time Boston misplaced a recreation, it recovered within the subsequent. Recreation 5 was the primary time this postseason that the Celtics had misplaced twice in a row — the results of a disparity in poise and adaptableness, with the younger Boston group on the decrease finish.
Because the collection has progressed, Golden State has appeared increasingly able to pounce on the Celtics’ weaknesses.
Celtics ahead Al Horford mentioned he felt that his group was “nearly taking part in into their fingers, a number of the issues they need us to do, which is taking contested midrange photographs and doubtless play a bit quicker than we wish at occasions. I really feel like that’s a part of the rationale our offense hasn’t been clicking prefer it must be.”
In Recreation 5, the Celtics additionally fell sufferer to their frustrations with the officiating, which compounded their offensive struggles. The group complained and argued for a lot of the night time.
“In all probability one thing we shouldn’t do as a lot, and all of us did an excessive amount of,” Udoka mentioned.
What’s additionally unfamiliar for the Celtics as they face elimination this time is the stress that comes with this stage of the season.
After Boston took a 2-1 lead within the collection, all of the discuss of Golden State’s benefit in championship expertise appeared nonsensical. It appeared, on the time, that the Celtics misplaced that one recreation solely as a result of they misplaced focus, as they often do. It appeared, at the moment, that Boston was too massive, robust, athletic and younger for Golden State’s expertise to make a lot of a distinction.
However now the collection has reached a degree that these Celtics have by no means seen earlier than.
“We perceive what we have to do,” Curry mentioned. “It’s nearly going out and executing, attempting to bottle up your feelings, figuring out how arduous a closeout recreation is.”
As Boston searches for solutions, Golden State smells blood.
Mentioned Klay Thompson: “I’ve by no means been so excited to go to Boston, I’ll let you know that.”