Pressure Appears To Be Weighing Celtics Down

BOSTON – Pressure is weighing the Boston Celtics down.

They entered the postseason as the surprising top seed in the Eastern Conference. Now, after digging themselves into a two-game hole to begin the NBA Playoffs, it appears that their regular-season accomplishments have placed added pressure squarely onto their shoulders.

“I think for whatever reason we were a little anxious at times,” Al Horford admitted after Boston fell to Chicago 111-97 during Tuesday night’s Game 2. “I think that we understood this was an important game for us. As a group, we probably didn’t handle it as good as we could have.”

“Probably” is probably a bit too kind.

Boston fell behind by double-digits early on during Game 2, as Chicago built a 12-point lead during the first quarter. The Celtics would go on to stare down a 19-point deficit during the fourth quarter as Chicago breezed its way to a win.

All the while, the C’s looked like a team that was anxious and saddled with pressure.

Eleven of the team’s 33 3-point attempts were fired up during the final period alone as the Bulls built their commanding lead. Only three of those shots fell through the net, while the eight misfires dealt blow after blow to Boston’s hopes.

Boston would miss, Chicago would score, and then Boston would go right back to the 3-point line in an attempt to quickly negate the previous sequence and build some belief.

The problem was that the sequence appeared to be playing on repeat.

“That’s just not how basketball works,” said Jae Crowder. “At this time of year you just can’t shoot for home run after home run after home run.”

The Celtics swung for the fences, but they struck out every time.

Perhaps many of their swings and misses could be attributed to the tangible ting of angst inside TD Garden.

Every Celtics player, and every Celtics fan, understood the importance of this game. You could feel it. It was real.

That’s pressure – pressure to win – and the pressure has become even more of a burden heading into Game 3.

Horford has already declared Friday night’s matchup in Chicago as a “must-win.” He’s right. If Boston loses, it will be on the brink of being swept out of the first round of the Playoffs as a No. 1 seed.

Now the pressure really is on the Celtics, who have backed themselves into a dark corner.

Will they fold under the pressure and inch closer to the end of a season? Or will they rise to the occasion and unload that pressure by snatching a critical win?

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