By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The task at hand for the Boston Celtics is a simple one.
Not simple in the way of going out and doing it, but simple in the way that they really only have one option: Just win.
Thursday night could be the final time we see Brad Stevens draw up one of those magnificent out-of-timeout plays this season. It could be the final time we see Avery Bradley score 15 points in the first quarter, or Al Horford finish with a stuffed stat line. It could be the final time we see Marcus Smart pick someone’s pocket — or make one of those cringe-worthy falls to the floor. It could be the last time we see Kelly Olynyk spend 65 percent of his night on the ground as a member of the Celtics. It could be the last chance we get to see Jaylen Brown take a few more baby steps toward greatness (he’s questionable with a hip injury).
The Celtics have already lived up to their preseason expectations, but they’ll look to keep their season alive with a Game 5 win over the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night, earning the right to play a Game 6 on Saturday night in Cleveland. They’ll have to exorcise their home court demons in order to do so, something that did not go very well when the Cavaliers were in Boston last week.
Home court is supposed to have some importance in the NBA, at least for teams that aren’t the Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors, who win no matter where they play. For a young and mostly unproven club like the Celtics, having the home fans on their side should provide an extra spark, a little added adrenaline. Boston fans are among the best in the NBA and rarely turn on their team, evident from the “Let’s Go Celtics” chants during one of their two blowout losses to the Cavaliers to start the series.
Now it’s time for the Celtics to reward their fans with an all-around effort, something they haven’t done on their home floor very often this postseason (a dramatic Game 7 victory over the Wizards aside). After dropping the first two games of the East Finals in embarrassing fashion to the Cavs, the Celtics are a meager 5-4 at the TD Garden during the playoffs.
“We’re humble enough to know we haven’t played well at home and we want to give our home crowd a better outing than we did the past two games,” Boston forward Jae Crowder said followed Tuesday night’s loss. “We’re right there where we want to be. We’re locked in.”
The C’s will have to be locked in and focused after the Cavaliers put up 117 and 130 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively. In their two games in Boston, Cleveland shot 52 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three-point range. Both games were ugly performances from the home team, and the fans even got restless when the Cavs built a 50-point lead at one point in Game 2.
But none of that really matters when the ball tips on Thursday night. No style points will be rewarded, the Celtics just have to go out and win. Win ugly or win pretty. Stage a dramatic comeback after a slow start or fight off a Cavaliers rush after a hot start. Hit a game-winner at the buzzer that rolls around the rim for 12 seconds or win by 20 points. None of it matters.