C's Concentrating on the Here and Now, Not the Enormity of Game 5
MILWAUKEE – The Boston Celtics understand that they have their backs against the wall. Their task during tonight’s Game 5 in Milwaukee is to prevent that circumstance from intruding their minds and their play.
To the C’s, this do-or-die game is all about staying in the moment, rather than consciously thinking about the enormity of each possession.
“I don’t even think you think about it that,” Stevens said of the potential of the season coming to an end with a defeat. “You just play the next play the way it’s supposed to be played.”
As Stevens was first to admit, Boston hasn’t exactly been elite in maintaining its focus while facing challenges this season.
“That’s been our biggest challenge for a lot of the year,” said Stevens, “but it’s certainly been the biggest challenge in this series.”
That comment is an allusion to the fact that the C’s have folded in the face of adversity during the last three games, all of which turned into losses. Boston and Milwaukee were neck-and-neck during the third quarter of all three of those games before the Bucks went on game-changing runs. Stevens said his team simply did not respond to those runs, and that trend needs to change tonight by concentrating on the next possession.
“We’ve just got to be able to move on to what’s next, play better, and not play what I would say to be somewhat haphazard,” the coach said. “I think that ultimately we just have to stay the course to what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The good news for Boston is that its players appear to be on the same page as their coach. Some of them echoed Stevens’ sentiments Wednesday morning before their coach even shared his.
One of those players was Gordon Hayward, who has been under as much scrutiny as any member of the Celtics during this series. Hayward, who is averaging only 7.5 points per game through the first four contests, commented on what will be on his mind while he’s on the court.
“For me personally, I’m just out there playing, so I’m not thinking about anything other than what’s my job on this possession,” he said. “If it’s on defense, where am I supposed to be at? What are we doing matchup-wise? Where’s my rotation? On offense, spacing, trying to read what they’re trying to do. So just staying in the moment.”
There is an important omission from Hayward’s list, and that is the fact that Boston’s season is on the line tonight in Milwaukee. That won’t be on his mind once the opening tip is tossed.
That doesn’t mean that the Celtics don’t understand the enormity of this game. They do. They just believe that it’s in their best interests to keep those thoughts out of their minds while they are between the lines.
Instead, the Celtics want to concentrate on what has been at the forefront of their minds during every other game this season: playing for one another, moving the ball, and playing strong team defense.
Boston believes that those thoughts – not the ones that revolve around its season being on the line – are the ones that will help it to live another day.