BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics have dug themselves into a gigantic hole, one that few teams throughout NBA history have ever been able to get out of.
After another lifeless effort in a 113-101 Game 4 loss to the Bucks in Boston, the Celtics now face a 3-1 series hole. They’ll try to stave off elimination Wednesday night when the series shifts back to Milwaukee.
Only 11 teams in NBA history have erased a 3-1 series deficit in the playoffs. The odds are even worse for teams that have to go on the road for Games 5 and 7, which is the fate the Celtics face if they’re able to keep the series going. Only three teams have ever pulled off that kind of comeback.
The 1968 Celtics were one of those three teams, coming back against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Division finals. Current Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has also been part of a team that mounted that furious (and rare) comeback, lifting the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA title over the Golden State Warriors with his game-winning shot in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
Overall, the Celtics have overcome a 3-1 series deficit twice in franchise history. They also beat the 76ers in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals after trailing the series 3-1, and like they did in 1968, Boston went on to win an NBA championship.
But the Celtics aren’t thinking about a potential Game 6 or 7 against the Bucks right now. After another disappointing effort in Game 4, they’re just worried about Wednesday night.
“It’s win or go home. You do the same thing you’ve been doing all along; you play the next possession to win it and that’s it,” head coach Brad Stevens said Monday. “It takes a lot of mental fortitude, a lot of mental toughness and it reveals a lot.
“We don’t want to be in this position, but we are,” Stevens added. “We have to go to Milwaukee and do everything we can to give ourselves a chance to play here Friday night.”
It would help if Boston played with any kind of heart going forward. With their backs against the wall, they really don’t have any other option at this point.
“The mindset has to be keep fighting, anything can happen. I feel like we’re right there and it could go either way,” forward Marcus Morris said after the loss. “I still think we can beat them. We’re right there. We’re up every game. I don’t know what it is, but we’ve got to keep going.”
The Celtics are 3-1 on the road this postseason, including their Game 1 win in Milwaukee, but were just 21-20 away from TD Garden during the regular season.