SAN FRANCISCO — The Boston Celtics know they once again failed to secure the home berth by losing Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night.
But as the series moves back here to the Chase Center for Game 5 on Monday night and the series now evolves into a best-of-3 NBA title affair, Boston remains confident it can once again secure the away win, the it takes to get the job done.
“There’s always something positive to be drawn from,” said Celtics forward Jaylen Brown. “Obviously I think we could be in a better position than we are, but we’re not. It’s 2-2. Still, nothing to dwell on. There’s still a lot of great basketball ahead of us. We take our mistakes and learn from them and you apply them the best you can I still think we’re in a great place.
“I’m curious to see how we react in the next few days. I mean it’s exciting. It’s the biggest stage in the world. I’m going to put our group, our guys, against everyone. So I’m looking forward to it.”
There are plenty of reasons for Brown to be optimistic about Boston’s chances against the Golden State Warriors. Yes, the Celtics still need to win at least one away game to win the NBA title, but they’ve had more success away – so far in these playoffs – than at TD Garden. As Game 5 begins, the Celtics are 8-3 in road games this postseason – compared to just 6-5 at home.
And on top of that, Boston has won all seven games it has played so far in these playoffs from a loss — going 13-1 in such games since the Celtics began rotating their season in late January.
“Of course we put ourselves in a position to extend our lead and take a 3-1 lead,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “But the bottom line is we’re 2-2 and we deserve that, not 0-2 or 1-2 or whatever. I’m sure they said the same thing about Golden State after we beat them here. We know it’s a long series. Like I said, we were battle tested in two seven-game series in Milwaukee and Miami.”
Those experiences against Milwaukee and Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals and finals, respectively, are also part of Boston’s confidence in the future. The Celtics took to the streets and won eliminators against both teams at their own facility, giving them confidence they can do the same thing this time around.
“(Game 4) was a tough loss and we understand that,” Tatum said. “We have been here before. This is the third time in a row that I feel like I’ve been here. So we know what it takes. We know what we have to do and we pay attention to details and things like that. I’m confident, as I’ve been in all the playoffs, confident in the fact that we’re going to react and play better for most of the game (Monday).”
The other factor Boston is focused on is that there are clear things the Celtics can control that, if they do them, should lead to positive results. If Tatum has at least seven assists in a game this season, Boston will be 18-2 — including a record 15 straight wins. Similarly, the Celtics are 14-2 if Boston commits 15 turnovers or fewer this postseason — including wins in Games 1 and 3.
Conversely, if Boston commits 16 or more turnovers, it’s 0-6 – including its losses in Games 2 and 4.
“I think the narrative shifts to Curry and what he’s doing,” Udoka said. “But they score the same points in our wins and losses. In the fourth quarter, a lot depended on our offense. But even throughout the game we had multiple chances, with five, six, seven, and bad offense or turnovers would let them back in the game. The difference in the game that we increased the lead was that we took those opportunities. We were solid. And against this team, if you run a bad offense, turn the ball over, live ball turnovers, let them out, we know how quickly they can get back in the game.
“It was like that in Game 4 when we had our chances.”
One thing that’s hanging over the Celtics heading into Game 5, as has been the case throughout this series, is the status of starting center Robert Williams, who has been battling persistent pain in his left knee.
Williams was plus-6 in 31 minutes in Game 4 and finished with 7 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and two blocks, but batted from the game with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter after an awkward landing from the game left knee where Williams is struggling with a bruised bone and that he had meniscus surgery two and a half months ago.
However, both he and Udoka said he was feeling better on Sunday and were optimistic he would be back on the court in Game 5.
“I’m feeling good,” Williams said. “A little sore but on the side of better days (that I’ve had).
“I was actually looking for the clip (to see what happened). Can’t tell you exactly if it was the jump or the landing, but typical pain, man. But like I said, I feel okay.”
Udoka went on to say that there was no specific game that triggered Williams’ injury and that while he needs to go through his normal pre-game tests to see if he can walk, Udoka was confident that Williams would be able to .