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BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics have a chance to close out their series with the 76ers Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
For their sake, and that of their playoff run, they better take care of business.
But close-out games have been a bit of a problem for the Celtics in recent years. And with rest for an aging group on the line, closing out the 76ers will be a priority if the C’s hope to extend this current run into another Championship appearance of banner year.
In the last five years the Celtics are just 10-12 in close-out games. In 2009, they lost to the Orlando Magic in the second round after going up 3-2. It happened again the following year, although the losses were much more difficult to swallow as they dropped two chances to clinch the 18th Championship in franchise history over the Lakers and in the 2010 NBA Finals. That playoff run, it did not help that the C’s played three extra games in earlier rounds; unable to sweep the Heat in the first round and then needing three games to dispatch the Magic after jumping up 3-0 in the series.
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With each of those three, unnecessary games the Celtics put extra wear and tear on their veteran squad. Three years later, it would be nice if they avoided the unnecessary mileage, after already dropping one close-out game against the Hawks in the first round.
However, they know it’s not going to be easy in Philadelphia.
“We can’t look at this game as a close out game, we have to look at it as us going to do our jobs,” said guard Ray Allen. “Everyone needs to focus on the small details; we know how to play this team, who their personnel (is), and how to play them.”
“We know how tough the playoffs are. There is nothing easy about the playoffs,” captain Paul Pierce said Monday night. “It’s a long journey to get to where we want to go. We understand nothing is easy. We have a very resilient Philadelphia group that just won’t go away. They have great coaching, the players are mentally tough. They’re not going to go away. We’re going to have our hard hats on for Game 6 to try to put them away.”
“They’re a good team, an athletic team,” head coach Doc Rivers said of Philadelphia. “Every minute you think ‘we’re leaking oil, physically.’ We have a quick turnaround here and we’ll have to be ready. I just want us to play the right way, ever minute. If we do that, I don’t know if we’ll win or not but we’ll be good.”
The Celtics are yet to put together a full 48-minute performance against Philadelphia. Even in their convincing 107-91 Game 3 win in Philadelphia, the 76ers scored 33 points in the game’s first frame. Although the trend of the series has been the team that gets up early ends up losing, the Celtics would like to avoid another early game hole to climb out of.
“We have to go out there ready from the jump,” said Pierce, who has averaged 17 points per game against Philadelphia. “We have to try to take the crowd out of the game; they’re going to be fired up. Sometimes when a team’s back is against the wall, it brings the best out of them. We want to take that away early.”
“When you give a team life, you give a team confidence,” Pierce said. “Anything can happen in a Game 7.”
The last thing the Celtics need is another Game 7 for anything to happen, and another unnecessary game. Take care of business Wednesday night in Philly, and it could be the difference between a trip to the Finals, or an early summer.