BOSTON -- The Celtics have won with their backs against the wall this postseason. They've actually played some of their best basketball in that situation, fighting off elimination three times thus far in the playoffs.
They're going to have to do it two more times if they want to win a championship. But first, the Celtics need to win Game 6 at TD Garden on Thursday night.
The Celtics find themselves in this precarious position once again after dropping Game 5 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. After blowing Game 4 last week in Boston, the Celtics came out flat to start Game 5 in San Francisco. The usual suspects came back to bite them throughout their Game 5 loss, with 18 Celtics turnovers leading to 22 points for the Warriors. Boston also missed 10 free throws, and you just can't leave points on the floor against a team like the Warriors.
Now the Celtics are down 3-2 in the series, and they'll have to fight off elimination Thursday night to earn the right to play in a Game 7 at Chase Center on Sunday.
"We've been here before," Ime Udoka said after Monday night's 104-94 loss. "Let's bring it back out to The Bay."
The series is not over, but the Celtics know they have a tall task ahead of them. History is not on Boston's side, either. In the NBA Finals, the winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 series has gone on to win it all 73-3 percent of the time (22-8).
But these Celtics have battled back from such adversity before. After falling behind the Milwaukee Bucks 3-2 in the East semis, the Celtics won a must-win Game 6 in Milwaukee. They then blew out the Bucks in Game 7 in Boston.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics gutted out a Game 7 win in Miami to get reach the Finals for the first time since 2010. Now, they're facing at least one more must-win contest this postseason.
The message remains simple for the Celtics. If they play their game and cut out the mistakes, they'll have a great opportunity to bounce back. If they don't ... well they won't have any more chances to get things right.
"The message to the guys is to be confident going home, get your rest, and then get ready to bring it back here," said Udoka.
"Our backs are against the wall and this is when we look each other in the eyes and figure it out," said veteran Al Horford. "We have an opportunity now and we have to figure it out, or there is no tomorrow for us."
When they're not beating themselves, the Celtics are a pretty darn good basketball team. But they've committed far too many turnovers all series, and they went cold at the worst possible times in each of their last two losses -- their first back-to-back defeats of the postseason.
They know what needs to be fixed, and they know how they need to play to keep their season alive. And despite the disappointing outcome on Monday, the Celtics remain confident that they can win Thursday to force a Game 7.
"Your faith has to be at an all-time high," Jaylen Brown said after Monday's loss. "All season long it's been us versus everybody; I look at this as no different. My faith is higher than it has ever been before. Looking forward to Game 6."
Why such a high level of confidence?
"I don't have no choice. We don't have a choice; it's win or go home," said Brown. "We worked incredibly hard to put ourselves in this position and we have a lot more better basketball to play, which we haven't played in the last two games. I hope these next two game we play Celtics basketball and put the best foot forward."
"You better be confident," added Jayson Tatum. "We ain't gotta win two in one day, we just have to win one game on Thursday. We've been in this situation before. It's not over; we just have to win on Thursday and that's all we have to worry about right now."
The Celtics have responded whenever their backs have been against the wall this postseason. Now they'll have to do so on the biggest stage with the brightest lights shining down on them.
The Warriors will have a chance to win a Larry O'Brien trophy in Boston on Thursday night. The Celtics are going to do everything they can to make sure that doesn't happen.
for more features.