For C's, There’s No Letting Up in Potential Game 6 Close-Out

The Boston Celtics are just one win away from punching their ticket to the NBA Finals for a matchup against the Golden State Warriors. Yet, as they take a 3-2 series lead into Friday's Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, they’re of the mindset that their matchup against the Miami Heat is still far from over.

Although many pundits seem to believe that Boston is a surefire, Finals-bound team after its commanding, 93-80 Game 5 win on the road Wednesday night, the Celtics are not getting ahead of themselves as they get ready for Game 6 back at home Friday night, knowing how unpredictable the series has been to this point.

“You can't look past a team at any stage,” Grant Williams said of the Heat Friday morning after shootaround. “You can't think about the next game before you take care of the one that you're focused on. And for this team especially, this is a team that's going to come out and give you their best shot and their best punch. And you have to be willing to withstand that and also compete through it because this isn't a team that's just gonna lie down. They don't have guys like that on their team. So for us, it's a matter of understanding that today is the most important day for us.”

It's an important day because if they don’t win, the Celtics will not have to go back to Miami for Game 7. Despite winning two out of three at FTX Arena so far this series, that’s the last type of scenario in which they’d want to find themselves for a do-or-die Game 7.

“You want to take care of this on your home court,” said Williams. “You want to make sure that not only you come out with the right intensity, but you come out engaged because you don't want to give any hope or life to a team that may have been dealing with injuries and everything like that, but don't want to give them any chance to kind of have that exuberance, that pep, to come back and hopefully bounce back.”

Not many teams have bounced back from a 3-2 deficit. In NBA history, the leading team in that situation has gone on to win the series 83.8 percent of the time. The Celtics have an even higher success rate or closing out such series at 90.9 percent, having won 40 out of 44 series during which they held a 3-2 advantage.

However, in the past 17 years, the C’s happen to be the only team to cough up a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, which they did both in 2012 against the Heat and in 2018 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. More recently, Boston has also experienced being on the winning side of overcoming a 3-2 deficit after coming back to win Games 6 and 7 during its last round against the Milwaukee Bucks.

“We were in that position last series,” said Williams, “so we understand the intensity and physicality and everything that you kind of have to play with and expect to see.”

The best way for the Celtics to approach this game is to compete like they’re the ones who are playing from behind, fighting for their lives. They have to throw the first punch and maintain their intensity all the way through the final buzzer.

“We don't want to give them life,” said Derrick White. “Close-out games are the toughest games, and we know they're going to come out and up their physicality and do things they need to do to try to take the series. You can't relax and think it's over. They're not gonna give up, so we need to be ready to go.”

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