Sense of urgency felt before taking the court
ORLANDO, Fla. — All indications were they were not in serious trouble, Monday night’s 96-92 overtime loss notwithstanding. Holding a 3-1 advantage over the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals should have given the Celtics a reasonable comfort zone. Throw in the fact that they already won two playoff games at Amway Arena going into last night’s Game 5 and that should have increased that feeling of security.
But at yesterday morning’s shootaround, the Celtics had a sense of confidence tinged with caution as they looked to close out the series and avoid a Game 6 at TD Garden tomorrow night, or even worse the possibility of making another trip back here for Game 7 on Sunday.
“It’s the Eastern Conference finals,’’ said captain Paul Pierce. “You can’t expect it to be easy. You know we are going to get the other team’s best shot.’’
With that in mind, the Celtics’ mind-set was different than a team with a solid advantage in the series. “We’ve just got to go out and play,’’ said coach Doc Rivers. “You have to focus. You have to go out and do your job. If you lose and you do your job, you can live with it. [On Monday] we didn’t do our job.’’
All of which created a sense of urgency with the Celtics. “We approach the game like it’s do or die,’’ said Pierce, who scored a team-high 32 points Monday night. “It’s do or die because that means we advance. We don’t want to give them any sense of confidence. You let a team hang around and win a game and their confidence continues to grow. The way I look at it is this is our Game 7.’’
Pierce said the Celtics wouldn’t be affected by playing on the road. “It doesn’t matter,’’ he said. “We don’t care where we play. We have to play the same type of basketball. We cannot let the crowd affect us. We’re a confident team on the road.’’
Rivers said last night’s start would be almost as important as the finish. “We have to come out real focused, just get off to a good start,’’ he said. He watched the Celtics do that in the first three games of the series, which they won.
What happened Monday night was different. It was the Magic who were playing with a sense of urgency, who were more aggressive, made more shots, grabbed more rebounds, and held the lead for the majority of the game in regulation, and finally in the five-minute overtime.
The Celtics are back on an every-other-day schedule after having three days off between Games 2 and 3. Rivers said he had heard a lot about the “old Celtics’’ in the last 24 hours.
“There’s four tired teams right now. There are 26 rested ones,’’ he said. “I’d rather be one of the four tired teams.’’
Whether the Celtics were tired was not the issue last night. What they weren’t was anything close to overconfident.
They knew that a loss would increase the Magic’s determination and add to the angst of Celtic fans who would then be reminded of all the bad things that happened to the Bruins after they built a 3-0 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Do or die,’’ said Pierce. “Our seventh game, because it means we advance.’’
Mark Blaudschun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.