MIAMI — In three of the first four games in the Eastern Conference Finals, the team leading at the end of the first quarter has come out on top each time.
So as the Boston Celtics prepare to take on the Miami Heat in Game 5 at the FTX Arena on Wednesday night, with the series tied at two games apiece, they know they need to focus on getting off to a strong start to walk away with a desperately needed road win.
“Whatever happened in the last game, it’s the last game, whether we win by 25 or 2,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said after Boston’s shootout Wednesday morning. “They all count as one [win]. So we shouldn’t feel better about ourselves because we blew them [in Game 4].
“And I think we shouldn’t relax. We should sort of look at it as a new series, and tonight is a game to be won. And I think when you approach something as a must and you have more sense of urgency, especially to start, I think that’s how we should approach tonight, and that comes in the first five or six minutes of the game.”
In the last two rounds, dating back to the start of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics are now on an immaculate 5-0 when they lost the previous game. But after the wins, Boston is a dismal 1-4, with its only home win coming in Game 7 against Milwaukee.
If Boston is to get out of this series and reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, that record needs to change – and the Celtics will need to win another game in Miami after winning Game 2 here last week.
Besides starting the game well, the other obvious difference in every game is Boston’s ability — or lack thereof — to take care of the ball. In the Celtics’ two wins, they committed only a handful of turnovers. In their two losses, they threw the ball all over the gym, allowing the Heat to get one easy transition basket after another.
“I think we’re confident,” guard Payton Pritchard said. “We know what we have to do, take care of the ball, set the tone defensively, but we’ve been in this situation for the last series.”
“It just starts from the jump…it starts with our intensity. Every time we suffer a defeat, we play as if our backs are against the wall. We have to adopt that mentality in every game, and obviously take care of the ball “The games we lost, we had 39 turnovers. The games we won, we had 18 turnovers, so that’s a big difference.
Boston is also waiting to see if guard Marcus Smart and center Robert Williams III can play, as both are listed as questionable for a second straight game. Smart is struggling with the sprained right ankle that kept him out of Game 4, and Celtics coach Ime Udoka said he was still in “pain, swelling and soreness” before the game. match 5. Smart will again receive treatment throughout the day before the whistleblower. a decision is made on his status, Udoka said.
Williams, meanwhile, is also struggling with persistent pain, and his left knee origin has caused him various problems over the past two months. Williams underwent meniscus surgery late in the regular season, which saw him miss most of Boston’s first-round series against Brooklyn, then missed three games in the Milwaukee series due to pain from a bone bruise.
He also missed Boston’s loss in Game 3 of this series with knee pain, then returned in Game 4 — and he seemed to limp at times in the third quarter.
As with Smart, Udoka said Williams will receive treatment throughout the day before his status is determined.