A win tonight would go a long way towards silencing critics like Ken Berger of Newsday:
This is who the Celtics are. They don’t have that extra something the great teams need to close out playoff series and win championships.
They don’t have it yet, and I seriously doubt they are going to find it in the NBA Finals against the Lakers or - by some miracle - the Spurs. And that’s if they have enough left in the tank to finish off the Pistons.
What about the facts, though? Is the Celtics’ jaw as vulnerable as it seems? You be the judge, but I say there’s no dispute.
In 19 playoff games this postseason, the Celtics have been outscored 450-403 in the fourth quarter, an average deficit of 2.47 points. In the other three quarters, they’ve outscored their opponents 1,339-1,214, an average of 6.58 points.
Those stats are nice, but all that matters to me is that we are one win away from the Finals.
Gerry Callahan of the Herald offers his take as well:
That aura they earned with their historic regular season? Let’s face it, it’s been ripped away like a layer of scar tissue by the lesser lights of the Eastern Conference over the last month. A loss tonight means the Celtics will be forced to play their third straight seven-game series. Their road record in the postseason will be 1-8. Their journey through the playoffs will be remembered for one thing above all others: No one has ever worked as hard to reach the NBA Finals.
Now the Celtics have one last chance to deliver a devastating knockout punch against an Eastern Conference opponent, and that comes tonight, on the road, in a nasty environment, against the NBA’s version of Kimbo Slice. This is the Celtics’ opportunity to do something extraordinary in this postseason, to kick in the door to the championship round.
I have to agree. This is their opportunity to make a statement. If they win tonight, they will have beaten the next best team in the regular season 4 games to 2. If they lose, they have to keep hearing from critics like Berger (not to mention a possible elimination game).
Once again, you can't technically call this a must-win when we're up a game in the series. But to approach it with anything less than intense focus and borderline desperation is a mistake they cannot make. Close them out. Finish the Pistons and move on one step closer to the goal. Get it done tonight.