With the opportunity to grab a commanding 3-2 lead in their best-of-7 series, the Boston Celtics know how important Game 5 can be and how slim the margin of error is entering such a pivotal game.
At the same time, their momentum hangs in the balance. The Celtics have been here before.
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They led the Milwaukee Bucks by nine points at the end of the third quarter in Game 5 of the conference semifinals best-of-7 before the Bucks outscored the Celtics 33-21 in the final frame. Milwaukee went on to win the game 110-107.
Celtics’ Payton Pritchard: ‘We Know What We Have to Do’
Boston, facing a 3-2 deficit, fought back in the series, tying it 3-3 after beating the Bucks 108-95 in Game 6 before clinching the series in Game 7 — 109-81. Celtics guard Payton Pritchard, who addressed the media ahead of Wednesday’s matchup, says a lesson he and the Celtics learned in their series against the Bucks lingers as they prepare for yet another critical matchup.
“I think we’re confident,” Pritchard said after Wednesday’s Celtics morning shootaround. “We know what we have to do; take care of the ball, set the tone defensively. But we’ve been in this situation in the last series. So, I think we’re prepared.”
Teams that win Game 5 of a series that’s tied 2-2 tend to win the best-of-7 series. In fact, according to Sportingnews.com‘s Kyle Irving, there’s an 82% chance the winner between Boston and Miami’s Wednesday night matchup will advance to the 2022 NBA Finals.
“It starts from the jump,” Pritchard said. “It starts with our intensity. Every time we come off a loss, we play like our backs are against the wall. So, we got to take that mentality into every game. And then, obviously, just taking care of the ball. At the end of losses, we had 39 turnovers; in games, we win, we had 18 turnovers. So, that’s a big difference.”
Why are there been such vast differences between the games won and games lost?
“Both teams are really talented, have good players,” Prichard replied. “Things happen. It’s the playoffs, you know? I think both teams are going to come out and have a lot of fight tonight, knowing that this is a big one. So, we’re just looking forward to it.”
“It is a grind; you’re playing every other day now. We’re in the third round,” Prichard added. “Everybody’s nicked up, bruised, hurt a little bit. Obviously, if you can play, you got to fight through it a little bit, find ways to plot wins.”
Pritchard Addresses the Miami Heat’s Injuries
With starting point guard Marcus Smart’s status in the air, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka will most likely turn to Pritchard for another 25+ minute performance, as was the case in Game 1, and 4; both of which were without Smart.
Pritchard scored a playoff-high 18 points in the series-opener. Now, he and the Celtics are hopeful they can push the Heat to the brink of elimination.
“We’re just focused on ourselves,” Pritchard said. “We’re not worried about who on the Heat are hurt, what they’re going through. We’re just focused on ourselves and what we can control.”
Game 5 tips off on Wednesday night at the FTX Arena at 8:40 EST.