Heading into a win-or-go-home scenario on Friday, May 13, the Boston Celtics will be facing the unenviable task of defeating the Milwaukee Bucks on their home court.
On May 11, the Celtics imploded, allowing the Bucks to snatch a victory and take command of their second-round playoff series, forcing the Celtics into a position where they need to win two straight games – something neither team has done all series.
However, ESPN analyst Stephen A Smith, who recently predicted the Celtics to win this series in seven games, is keeping the faith and expects Boston to handle their business in front of a hostile Milwaukee crowd.
“I said it earlier; I think the Celtics are going to win game six and force a game seven. I think they’re winning tomorrow night in Milwaukee; despite the hostile environment they’re walking into, they’ll find a way,” Smith said in a recent episode of ESPN’s First Take.
Judging by how this series has flip-flopped thus far, logic dictates that Boston will find a way to succeed in game six and force a ‘winner takes all’ contest back at the TD Garden, but there’s no telling which way the chips will land should that scenario occur.
Jay Williams Defends Marcus Smart
Nobody is catching more heat on social media than Marcus Smart of all the Celtics players who participated in game five. Celtics fans are out in their droves, sharing their disappointment at the team’s lack of decision-making and leadership down the stretch, with many holding the team’s veteran guard accountable.
Of course, Smart was at the forefront of each costly Celtics mistake, but that doesn’t mean he was responsible for how those plays turned out. Unfortunately, when you make so many rapid-fire errors, you’re going to come in for some criticism, especially when those mistakes put your team on the brink of playoff elimination.
“Marcus Smart and all these errors, was he playing against himself last night? Did the wind make him turn the ball over? Did the wind make him get his shot blocked by Jrue Holiday? Jayson Tatum, you’ve got to go get the ball, was he not being denied? Did you not see Giannis on the ball, who’s a seven-footer with a seven-foot-four wing span denying the pass to get to Jayson Tatum in the first place,” Jay Williams said on a recent episode of First Take, “Give this man some credit for putting his hand in the cookie jar and grabbing a cookie.”
Boston Still Has a Chance
It’s easy to forget how easily the Celtics dispatched Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, and it’s also easy to casually disregard what type of impact Robert Williams’ absence had on proceedings during the game five.
Heading into game six, Boston should have their key rim protector back, along with a motivated Tatum, Brown, Smart, and Horford – that alone should be enough to give the Celtics a chance at evening up their series, especially considering Boston has hindered their own chances of success in two of their three losses.
Of course, the odds are stacked against Ime Udoka’s men, as one more loss will abruptly end their season, but as Tatum told the media following their most recent game, they’ve just got to focus on one step at a time.
“You know, it’s 3-2, and it’s the first to four. There’s no sense in being sad or putting your head down. Because that’s not going to do anything for the next game. Always be optimistic and believe in yourself; belief in the group that we can win the game on Friday,” Tatum told reporters.
Hopefully, the team can rally behind Tatum and Udoka in their next game and fight to keep their season alive, otherwise, the Celtics might want to get a head start on their free-agent strategy and planning for next season.