BOSTON -- The Celtics bounced back from a tough playoff loss once again Monday night, bringing their record to a perfect 5-0 following a defeat this postseason. It's admirable, but it'd be nice if it didn't take a misfire to wake up the team.
With the Eastern Conference Finals knotted up at two games apiece, the Celtics would like to never be in bounce-back mode again against the Miami Heat. They picked themselves up after an embarrassing Game 3 defeat to run away with Game 4 early on Monday night, but that just makes their struggles from Saturday night all the more frustrating.
If the Celtics had done anything early in Game 3 -- or in the third quarter of Game 1 -- this series could look very different. Boston could have had a chance to clinch a trip to the Finals with a little more push and gusto in either of those losses.
Alas, it's now a best-of-three series. The Celtics know they need to have the same sense of urgency that they displayed to start Game 4 when they take the floor in Miami on Wednesday night.
"We came out with the right mindset, but we have to duplicate that in Game 5 coming off a win as opposed to only when we lose it," said head coach Ime Udoka.
That was something that Udoka mentioned three times during his postgame press conference, and his players feel the same way.
"We shouldn't have to get punched in the mouth to respond," Robert Williams said after scoring 12 points and pulling down nine rebounds in Game 4.
The Celtics have played their best basketball with their backs against the wall this postseason. Again, it's an admirable trait, but it's probably not sustainable, or the best route to winning a title. The Celtics know this, and will be approaching Wednesday night's Game 5 as a game they cannot afford to lose.
"When we lose a game, we feel the next one is do or die. We have to have that mindset going into Game 5," said Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 32.6 points per game following a loss this postseason. "It's a must-win game.
"[Game 4] was essentially like that," added Tatum, who scored 31 in Monday night's win. "We all knew it and it showed with the way that we came out."
The Celtics suffocated the Heat to start Game 4, forcing Miami to miss its first 14 shots. Boston raced out to a 21-4 advantage and led the game from start to finish, much like Miami did to them in Game 3.
It's just been that kind of series. There has been a 20-point lead in all four games, which really haven't been all that entertaining from a closeness standpoint. The Celtics blew out the Heat on their home floor in Game 2, only to be embarrassed when the series shifted to Boston in Game 3. It's been a roller coaster.
"It's an inconsistent series from both teams at times, and it's an odd one, honestly," said Udoka. "When you look at some of the numbers tonight, the way we didn't shoot or play offense that great but still having a 30-point lead.
"We did what we did defensively, and now have to do it again," he added. "It's been a back-and-forth series even in the same game at times -- the 39-18 quarter, 39-14 quarter when they really hurt us. So we want to be more consistent overall, move the ball and understand how they're guarding us but maintain our defensive identity that we had all year."
While the Celtics have been the kings of avoiding back-to-back losses this postseason, it would do them a whole lot of good to go out and pick up a second straight win on Wednesday night.
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