BOSTON – “This Celtics feel like a group that’s tired of pretending to like each other.”
It was dominant story doing a round after Boston Celtics fell Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals to Miami heatlosing 3-0. A team that has struggled with consistency all season has apparently finally found its match.
That was Tuesday, May 23. On Thursday, May 25, the Celtics won Game 5taking the series to 3-2, coming close to NBA history.
“When adversity comes, you can see what a team is really made of,” Brown said after Game Five. “It couldn’t be worse than losing 3-0. But we didn’t look around. We didn’t go in different directions. We stayed together.
The Celtics dominated the Heat in Game 5 with a wire-to-wire victory, with four players – Jayson Tatum, Brown, Derrick White and Marcus Smart – all finishing with over 20 points.
While the Heat shot 51.3% from the field as a team, the Celtics refined Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, stopping the former with only 10 field goals and forcing the latter to six turnovers.
It was a completely cohesive effort by the Celtics who failed to consistently deliver this kind of show. Now more than ever, they rely on their unity.
“One of our assistants put it in great perspective. The season is nine months and we just had a bad week,” said head coach Joe Mazzulla. “Sometimes you have a bad week at work. Of course, we didn’t pick the best time for a bad week, but we did and we stick together and fight like hell to keep him alive. The guys are really getting together.”
Of course, losing 3-0 wasn’t Boston’s goal. Every team that ever plays sports wants to win every game they play. But this is not reality.
The reality is that the Celtics have locked themselves in a corner and to get out of it, they can’t dwell on the past. Their chemistry must propel them forward.
And after losing Game 3, they had no intention of leaving sad.
“Just being together in times of adversity,” Brown said. “Staying on the same page and sticking to it. The key was doubling the things we need to do better (and) being accountable to each other. I think when we were going out together, we all looked each other in the eye and said, “Hey, we don’t go out like that.”
This Boston core has been together for roughly six years since Tatum’s rookie season. Of course, there was a break in the middle when Al Horford left, but Smart, Brown and Tatum were the same.
Master caliber cores have very short windows. LeBron James Heat is only four years old. Led by Kevin Durant Thunder in Oklahoma they only competed seriously for the titles for five. The Golden State soldiers are the anomaly, not the rule.
The Celtics have been to four Eastern Conference Finals in six years and have been a consistent force at the top of the East throughout Tatum’s career. Over the last two seasons, they seemed poised to reach their peak, and Tatum can feel it in the locker room.
So even now, in a historically impossible hole, that’s what they’re counting on.
“You can see the true character of a person, a team, when things aren’t going well,” said Tatum. “And our ability to come together and come up with things when it doesn’t necessarily look good to us is unlike any team I’ve been on this and last year.”
And if the Celtics really “fake like each other”, they should all get Oscars for their lead roles in “post-Game 5 locker rooms Rock-paper-scissors tournament“.
From Brown’s grin, to Horford’s excitement, to White’s cheerful dance, to Smart’s cackling, the Celtics are truly amazing actors when they pretend to like each other…
“I’m off Twitter so I don’t know what they said, what you said,” Tatum said when asked about the media narratives. “So I don’t know how to answer that. I’m just trying to keep a clear mind. Good or bad. I’m just trying to focus on the task. next game. And it’s as simple as that.”
Instead of reading the headlines, the Celtics are focused. They have now won two games in a row and have a crucial Game 6 ahead of them in Miami.
It’s all or nothing. Win or go home. A chance for history.
But no matter how the Celtics end the game, they do it together.
“Back against the wall. We have no choice,” Mazzulla said. “It builds connection and creates opportunities. I’ve said it all year, the guys in this locker room always stick together. When our backs are against the wall, we just have to keep going.