For one, the Lakers were playing on their homecourt. Also, they had LeBron James. Much to my own demise, I often give too much credence to the great one. When the Spurs led 3-1 against the Heat in 2014, James stated that he plays best with his “back against the wall.” Of course, the Heat lost game four proving otherwise.
James, the generational talent that he is, tends to view himself as an underdog which, I believe, is what keeps him under Michael Jordan in the argument for GOAT (although I agree with Sledgehammer5050 that the GOAT is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but that is for another day). It is not James’ talent which pales in comparison to MJ, it is presentation of himself.
Obviously, the Lakers were swept, and on their home court to boot.
Boston, on the other hand, came alive in Game 4 and won on the road.
Before Game 4, pundits across the board were observing that the Celtics demeanor said it all. Jayson Tatum’s inability to string together consistent quarters, Jaylen Brown’s shooting slump, Horford’s slump, Marcus Smart...you see where this is going. Overall, they looked gassed and defeated. And what better time to lay down and let inevitability wash over you than when down 3-0, a detriment from which no NBA team has ever returned.
But, once again, Thursday night’s Game 5 saw all pistons moving, the Celtics were locked in and focused on the task at hand — live to fight another day.
And that they have done.
Did Jimmy Butler have a bad game? Or did the Celtics find a way to keep his talent limited for 48 minutes?
Can they repeat a shut down of the Miami Heat tonight when they once again play an elimination game in South Beach?
The Game 5 Celtics is the team that got to the Finals last year. It is the team that has hinted at a title for the last few seasons, building and maintaining a solid roster. The only blemish is losing their head coach at a time when promoting Joe Mazzulla when teams had solidified their coaching staff. Mazzulla has been learning on the job under the brightest of spotlights. At times, it has showed.
For now, he just needs to stay his course and unleash his guys. Trusting the players who got you there for one more road game could be the difference between playing in the NBA Finals and watching them from the comfort of your own home.
A Celtics win tonight completely turns the tide on momentum, tying the series and sending it back to Boston. Playing on their home court will elevate their intensity. And the opportunity of making NBA history as well as a trip to the Finals is on the line.
Then again, we also know that you can never count Jimmy Butler out.
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