The Celtics are disappointed to be trailing 3-2 in the NBA Finals, but they were able to overcome the same situation in their second-round series with the Bucks, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN. Players faced that deficit with a surprising calmness after letting a 14-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter of a Game 5 loss at home, Lowe states, and they were able to retake control of the series.
“Everyone looked at each other and kind of gave each other a tap on the back and it was over,” Marcus Smart recalls. “Onto the next one. We all knew. Just stay together. Stay together. We had each other’s back. We knew Game 6 for us, there was gonna be hell to pay. And there was.”
Lowe notes the contrast with how the team handled losing early in the season, citing a November incident in which Smart called out Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum for not passing the ball enough. The comments created “real tension” in the locker room, especially between Smart and Brown, according to Lowe. And although the players have worked out their differences, Lowe says the incident affected the atmosphere surrounding the team for the next two months.
There’s more from Boston:
- Brown called this year’s playoff run a “learning experience” that has helped the Celtics become more resilient in tough situations, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Brown believes playing three elimination games already will benefit the team heading into tonight’s Game 6. “We are not scared. We do not fear the Golden State Warriors,” he said. “We want to come out and play the best version of basketball that we can. We know it’s a good team over there. We know they’ve done it before. But we have all the belief in ourselves. We’re going to come out and leave it all out there. That’s the whole intent.”
- The Celtics plan to spend less time tonight focused on the referees, Bontemps adds. Coach Ime Udoka thought his team got too distracted by the officiating in Game 5.
- Robert Williams could potentially swing the series if the Celtics can find a way to get him more involved with the offense, suggests Brian Robb of MassLive. Williams is shooting 88% from the field against the Warriors’ smaller lineups, but he’s put up just 18 shots through five games.