BOSTON (CBS) – The Celtics need to win three straight against the Miami Heat if they want a shot at another championship.
But Wednesday night, the focus will only be on Game 5.
“We know we have to take it one game at a time, that’s it,” Captain Paul Pierce said. “We know we need to get one win right now, and that’s the focus.”
“I think our mindset now is, like always, take it one game at a time,” said forward Kevin Garnett. “See if we can get this one down in Miami.”
It is now win or go home for the aging Celtics. They dropped both games in Miami to start the series and could not pull out a Game 4 overtime win in Boston. They have been unable to contain Lebron James or Dwyane Wade, who are averaging 26.8 and 29.3 points per game, respectively. The Celtics have also let the Miami supporting cast beat them, without getting any bench production of their own.
It seems no matter what the Celtics try to do, there is no answer for the Heat.
“The frustration is there,” said Pierce. “But this team has a lot of poise and a lot of fight them and I expect us to bounce back in the next game.”
One key for the Celtics demise in Game 4 was execution, or lack there of. Boston had a chance to win it with the final shot in regulation, but the play designed for Pierce collapsed. Ray Allen and Garnett were never able to set screens for Pierce, and he ended up taking a fade-away to the left, rather than his right.
Garnett will play a big role in whether the Celtics bring the series back to Boston or head home for the offseason. He scored 28 points to go with 18 rebounds in Boston’s 97-81 Game 3 victory, but has just 31 points and 24 in the other three games combined. The Celtics will need another “Big Ticket” performance from Garnett if they want to extend the series.
The Celtics are also playing with a banged-up Rajon Rondo, who dislocated his left elbow in the third quarter of Game 3. Rondo returned after the injury and also played 38 minutes in Game 4, but could not use his left arm for more than just a defensive swat and occasional dribble.
While Rondo will play in Game 5, Shaquille O’Neal is doubtful after aggravating his Achilles in Game 4. This leaves the Boston bench even slimmer, without a true big man to impede a driving James or Wade from the lane. Not that Shaq was really doing that anyways.
Although it is not looking good for the Celtics, they are never ones to quit on a series.
“We never lack confidence,” Garnett said. “When our back is against the wall is when we show great resilience. We’ll see what we’re made of.”
“Character is not an issue,” KG added. “(It’s) heart and going out and competing, seeing if we can get this one in Miami.”
For the Heat, sending Boston home would be something special. The Celtics have ended Lebron James’ postseason twice in the last three seasons, prompting him to leave Cleveland and form a Big Three of his own in Miami with Wade and Chris Bosh.
“It means everything,” James said on the prospect of beating the Celtics in the playoffs. “That’s what we came together for. They set the blueprint and they went out there and did it. They won the championship. They competed every year, they competed in multiple championships. They set the blueprint for us and it would mean a lot.”