Celtics hope to close series at home

Celtics hope to close series at home
CLINCHER. Al Horford (left) and the Boston Celtics hope to finish the NBA finals at home with a win in Game 5. / AP

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics’ catastrophic performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals gave them a chance to clinch another championship on Monday night (Tuesday, PH time) under the 17 banners already hanging in the TD Garden rafters.

And, coach Joe Mazzulla reminded them, that they would still have two more chances after that.

“We don’t like to lose,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said before practice on Sunday. “I think we are ready for Game 5. I think that’s the best answer that I’ve got. I think that we’re ready. We’re at home. And we’re looking forward to it.”

The Celtics cruised through the regular season with the best record in the NBA and then did even better in the playoffs, never trailing in a series while winning 15 of their first 17 games. They opened a 3-0 lead on Dallas, but the Mavericks avoided elimination with a 122-84 victory on Friday night — the third-biggest blowout in Finals history.

That sent the series back to Boston, where the Celtics will again try to win their unprecedented 18th NBA title — and their first since 2008. In a city that’s collected 12 championships already this century, that’s what passes for a drought.

“This is what we all work for,” Brown said. “We are at the precipice of completing what we set out to do at the beginning of the season. So I think it’s not difficult to get everybody in that locker room on the same page right now.”

The Game 4 loss snapped Boston’s franchise-record 10-game postseason winning streak (and also ended Kyrie Irving’s personal 13-game losing streak against his former team). Boston had been 3-0 in potential elimination games so far during these playoffs.

But the Celtics know — and Dallas surely does as well — that they still have three more chances to close out the series. All-Star Jayson Tatum said Mazzulla told his team on Sunday not to “surrender to that idea that we have to win tomorrow.”

While it’s unusual for a coach to diverge from the “one game at a time” mentality, the Celtics said the acknowledgement that they have three tries to win one game takes some of the pressure off them — pressure that may have gotten to them in their total dud of a Game 4.

“We would love to win tomorrow — more than anything,” Tatum said. “But if it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. We have more opportunities.”

Irving said that the Mavericks are also trying to “enjoy the moment” and not focus on the fact that no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series. Game 6 would be back in Dallas on Thursday, with the potential deciding Game 7 in Boston on Sunday. / AP


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