The Celtics are once again up 3-2 in a playoff series. In the first series, the Celtics were expected to sweep the lowly Hawks and they appeared to be doing just that as they won the first two games at home by an average of 21 points. Then, they went on the road and inexplicably the Celtics went flat, allowing the Hawks to gain confidence and tie the game at 2 apiece. In Game 5, the Celtics once again were dominant and we all thought they had turned the corner and would go back to Atlanta and close out the series but again, the Celtics couldn't win on the road. It took a 7th game at home where they blew out the Hawks by over 30 points to get tot he second round.
Bring on the Cavs. Once again in the second round, the Celtics won the first two games at home. The first game was way too close for Celtics' fans liking, but the second game they went back to being dominant. Then came the road and again, in game 3, the Celtics were blown out. In game 4, the Celtics had a chance to win, but seemed to stop playing in the 4th quarter, allowing the Cavs to bring the series back to Boston tied 2-2. Once again, the home court allowed the Celtics to win big in game 5 with impressive defense.
We have been here before. We are going into game 6 with the Celtics up 3-2 and a chance to close out the series. We all expected them to break out of their road slump in their game 6 against the Hawks but it didn't happen. There are a lot of people now doubting this team. Great teams win on the road. The Pistons did it in this round and are just sitting around and getting rested before the start of the EC finals. Can the Celtics break out and finally win on the road and close this series out now? I think they can and will.
The Celtics certainly know how to win on the road. They won big playoff like games on the road in the regular season. They won a big game in Detroit giving them the season series against the Pistons. They won the 3 big games on the road in Texas. The Rockets game was especially a tough one to win and the home team was on a 22 game win streak and the Celtics were playing the 4th game of a 5 game road trip. The were one of only 4 teams to beat the Jazz on their home court all season. They won on the Lakers' home court. And they won all those games with their stifling defense and effective ball movement, the same defense and ball movement we have seen them play at home in the playoffs. Yet, so far in the playoffs, that defense and ball movement has not been seen on the road.
The bottom line is that it comes down to focus and mental toughness. They know what to do and are fully capable of doing it. They have been questioned as a team and although the 4 teams in the second round are a combined 20-1 on the road, it is the Celtics that have faced the most criticism because they are the only team that failed to win on the road in the first round. The fact is that the Celtics don't have to win on the road. They can win a championship without ever winning a road game, thanks to the fact that they played every game in the regular season like it was the playoffs.
Even though they could win the championship without a road win, they need to win one on the road simply to put the questions about their heart and toughness to rest. If they don't win a road game, there will always be an asterisk on this team because of it. Hopefully, the Celtics will forget that they don't need to win on the road and come out and play tonight like it is game 7 and finally put to rest all the questions. I do know one thing, if the Celtics play their game with the tough defense they have played all season and the ball movement that makes them so hard to defend against, they will get a win tonight. The ball is in their court, so to speak.