BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a spot that not many believed they would be in, but the Boston Celtics are just one win away from the NBA Finals.
They need to get that win Thursday night in Boston. And while it may say Game 6 on the tickets, the Celtics are taking it as a do-or-die Game 7.
“Right now, Game 7 is Thursday for us,” guard Ray Allen said after Boston’s 94-90 win in Miami.
“Listen, we have one home game left,” head coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday afternoon. “And that’s it in this series. We have to understand that, and we have to come with that sense of urgency. I think our guys get that. They know what’s at stake. And so does Miami.”
On Thursday, the Celtics need to exercise their close-out game demons and put the Heat away, saving them a trip back to South Beach for an actual Game 7. Everyone knows what can happen in those…
Since the new Big Three came together, the Celtics are just 11-13 in close-out games. This postseason, Boston is 2-2 in those situations, needing an extra game to close out both the Hawks and 76ers. In the first two rounds, both of the first potential series-enders came on the road. This time, the Celtics need to take full advantage of that “Jungle” atmosphere, where they are 9-2 in close-out games in the last five years.
The Celtics have the Heat on the ropes, doubting themselves once again as they have lost three straight. But the Heat were not out of any of those games, and the Celtics needed to withstand the runs that everyone knows the explosive Miami collection of players can go on.
The savvy veterans did just that with authority in Game 5. When the Heat went on a 9-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter, giving them a 78-72 lead at the time, the C’s responded with a 10-2 run of their own. It started with Mickael Pietrus’ clutch three off a touch-pass from Rajon Rondo, and even when Mario Chalmers hit a three to end the run – and put the Heat up 83-82 – Pietrus responded with another three.
For Boston, the key will be to get out to a good start. Let Kevin Garnett continue to do his thing, and hope those that struggled in Game 5 can put it together. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo all struggled offensively Tuesday night, going 11-for-43 from the field. Getting them going early is a must, and if the Celtics can get Miami in an early hole, they need to keep pushing. Both teams will make their runs; the Celtics will need to respond the way they did Tuesday night.
On defense, stops are key. Keeping the Heat from attacking the basket, and away from the free throw line, is what has Boston one win from the Finals. Even with Chris Bosh back, and likely starting Wednesday night, Rivers said the Celtics won’t be changing much. Because really, they can’t.
“I think it’s just us sticking to our original game plan,” Rivers said Wednesday. “We’ve made some adjustments that have worked, but they’ve made some that have worked as well. So I don’t know if there’s been an edge there or not. I think at the end of the day, we know who we are. We are who we are, and we’re not going to change who we are, because we really can’t. We don’t have enough guys to do it. The only change that I would say that we’ve made in a big way is that we’ve played small more than big. Other than that, we pretty much have stuck to our guns, because I don’t think we have enough to change a whole bunch and our guys understand that.”
The smaller lineup has worked wonders for Boston, especially with Pietrus finding his game — both on offense and defense — as of late.
The Heat will not go away easy. Their reputations, and coach’s job, are on the line in Boston. If the Celtics can use this against LeBron, Wade and co., they’ll be heading to their third NBA Finals in the last five years for a date with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If not it’s back to Miami for one final game Saturday night. And anything can happen in a Game 7.