The Boston Celtics don’t need any reminders about what’s at stake in Sunday’s Game 6 matchup.
They lose and their season is over.
But as we saw in their 121-108 Game 5 win over Miami, striking the right tone with their temperament and tact is a lot easier said than done.
There is an undeniable need for the Celtics to play with a heightened sense of urgency.
But too much emphasis on the urgency component leads to what we saw in the first half of Game 5, a Celtics team that played its own brand of hero-ball with bad and decent shots being taken without working towards getting great looks at the basket.
And the result was a 1-for-9 start shooting the ball by Boston, with eight of those shots being three-pointers which set the tone for Miami to lead by as many as 12 points in the first half.
“I thought we were pressing quite a bit in the first half,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
Said Jaylen Brown: “We were playing a little bit fast, a little bit antsy. We were trying to win the game in the first half. We just needed to stay with it, keep making the right play, just settle down a little bit.”
But as we saw in Game 5 for the Celtics, there is a balance to be struck between playing with that sense of urgency while not trying to do too much in the process.
We saw it in the second half which began with a 41-point third-quarter explosion by the Celtics which was Boston’s highest-scoring quarter of the playoffs.
The idea of Boston generating that amount of offense in a quarter isn’t all that surprising when you consider the trigger to that success was their highly regarded defense which limited the Heat to 2-for-10 shooting from 3-point range in the third quarter.
No, the real challenge lies in whether they can do it again.
Boston’s defense has been a strength all season and for the most part in the playoffs. Yet too often they will get away from that approach and try to shoot their way towards success.
It’s rare that playing a shoot-first, defense-optional brand of basketball can win games.
“We got to relax a little bit, take a deep breath,” Jayson Tatum told reporters after the Game 5 win. “We know how important every possession is, but we still just got to relax and play the game.”
And play it with a greater level of consistency if they are to keep this series and their season for that matter, alive.
There’s a lot of fight in our team,” said Jaylen Brown. “We came this far. We sacrificed so much. We've been here for a long time. If anything, if we wanted to go out, we want to go down fighting.”