NBA East Finals series is now a best of 3 and a Game 5 win will put Celts in the driver’s seat
Game 5, series tied.
The 2007-2008 Boston Celtics have been there, done that.
Not once, but twice, as a matter of fact.
“Game 5s,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said following Tuesday afternoon’s team practice at HealthPoint, “are big swing games.”
To this point in time, the Celtics have been able to swing the playoff momentum back in their favor at home following Game 4 losses on the road, defeating the Atlanta Hawks, 110-85, and Cleveland Cavaliers, 96-89, en route to reaching this Eastern Conference finals with Detroit.
“They have been able to have a single-minded focus in big games,” Rivers said in speaking of his team on the eve of tonight’s fifth game with the Pistons at the TD Banknorth Garden. “They’ve proven that. They’ve won two Game 5s and two Game 7s already, and I think that’s important going into (tonight).
“But then again, you just can’t rely on that. You’ve got home court back and that’s what you wanted. Now, you have to take advantage of it.”
According to the captain, that is a must.
“It’s definitely a must-win,” Paul Pierce said of tonight’s game. “Right now, Detroit has the momentum. The team that gets the win is the team that gets the momentum. We’ve got to find some way, somehow to get a win and bring that momentum back to Detroit. Definitely, our backs are against the wall and we’ve got to get this win.”
Silenced in Game 4, the Celtics now aim to take the fifth.
Sparked by Antonio McDyess, the Pistons shot out to a 10-0 lead and never trailed in tying the series at two games apiece with a 94-75 win at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Monday night.
The Celtics will be looking to reverse that development, for starters.
“It seems like getting off to a good start’s been the key to the series,” Pierce said. “The team that’s gotten off first has been the team that’s kept the lead and been able to maintain it. It’s important for us at home to get off to a better start than we have so we don’t find ourselves digging out of a hole the whole game.”
“I thought they attacked us all game,” Rivers said, reflecting on Monday night’s game. “They were more physical. They pushed us around. They fouled us hard. They bumped us off the spot.
“We’ve been the team, in the games we won, we pressured them. They were the team that pressured us (on Monday night).”
That would be the operative word if the Celtics were to drop tonight’s game and be faced with the prospects of lugging a 3-2 deficit on their return trip to Auburn Hills for Game 6 at the Palace on Friday night.
“(It’s a) three-game series (now),” said Pierce, who, along with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, struggled mightily on Monday night, as the ‘Big Three’ misfired on 27 of the 38 shots they took. “We’ve got the first game at home, but we’ve got to take advantage of it. We can’t assume that it’s an automatic win because we’re at home because Detroit has beaten us on our home court.”
That occurred last Thursday night when Richard Hamilton led six Pistons in double figures by pouring in 25 points in a 103-97 Detroit win that handed the Celtics their first postseason loss at home this spring.
Still, there is no place the Celtics would rather be than on the parquet where, far more often than not, they’ve had their way.
“Anytime we get to play at home,” said Kendrick Perkins, “especially in front of our fans, man, it’s like night and day (from) playing in Detroit.”
Shooting out to an 18-point halftime lead, the Celtics managed to right last Thursday night’s wrong at the Garden with a 94-80 romp at the Palace on Saturday night that represented their first postseason win on the road this spring.
On Monday night, though, the Celtics traveled down what has become an all-too-familiar road this spring, slipping to 1-7 away from home, forging yet another 2-2 series tie through four games.
“I didn’t think we had the same energy level, the same focus that we did in Game 3,” said Perkins, “but we did what we had to do. We split. We got home-court advantage (back). We’ve just got to take care of (tonight).”
The Patriot Ledger