August 9, 2022

BOSTON — Three times in the NBA playoffs this year, the Boston Celtics found themselves one loss away from heading home this summer. Three times in those playoffs, the Celtics have found ways to extend their season, including two wins on the road.

So as Boston prepares to host the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at TD Garden on Thursday night (9 ET on ABC), when asked why they were confident they could win two more elimination games and win the 2022 NBA championship, the Celtics have a simple answer:

Why not?

“I think about how we react,” Jayson Tatum said when asked what makes his team so resilient in these situations. “It hasn’t been easy. It’s been extremely difficult. We’ve had tough losses. Losing Game 5 to Milwaukee was extremely difficult. Knowing we had to win two, go the road. Losing Game 6 against the Heat was extremely tough.

“In those moments, we just responded. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I just think about our will to want to win, just trying to understand.”

Those losses Tatum referred to — Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks and Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat — both came here in Boston, where the Celtics are just 6-5 in the playoffs.

Still, the Celtics are more than confident they can extend that streak to Game 7 on Sunday – in part because when this team played the way they know they can, they seemed to control the proceedings. .

Even after the many deep playoffs this young core has had this season, with Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart having played together in at least three conference finals. But it was the first season for Coach Ime Udoka and his coaching staff, and Boston had to fight their way through the playoffs, knocking out Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler along the way.

“It’s all been a learning experience,” Brown said. “We wear everything we’ve learned this year like a badge of honor that we sort of wear. We don’t let it hang over our heads. We bounce back. We’ve responded well all year. We We’re looking forward to the challenge. We have to accept it. There’s no other way around it. The last home game to kind of epitomize our entire season. We’re looking to give it our all. We’re looking for We’re not afraid. We’re not afraid of the Golden State Warriors, we want to go out and play the best version of basketball we can.

“We know they’re a good team there. We know they’ve done it before. But we have every confidence in ourselves. We’re going to go out and leave everything there. That’s the intention. same.”

Another intention of the Celtics? To talk less to officials. Boston had many heated conversations with the umpires in Game 5, including Udoka recovering a technical in the first quarter and getting into it with veteran umpire Tony Brothers in the fourth, and Marcus Smart picking up a technical foul in the fourth as well, as Boston blew through its gates and saw a lead late in the third quarter quickly disappear.

Udoka and several players have insisted those moments are behind them, and instead the plan for Game 6 is to put those things aside and focus on the action on the pitch.

“I think in general there are too many conversations sometimes,” Udoka said. “It feels like after foul calls or dead balls, free throws, timeouts, there’s someone talking to a referee. Something we pointed out at the start of the season that we’ve drifted off a bit.

“So something where we have to spend our energy on the game, and everything in between, apart from the referees. An area where we can be better, for sure.”

Speaking of things Boston can be better at, the other issue hanging over this series is Boston’s rotation problem. When the Celtics commit 15 or fewer turnovers in these playoffs, they are 14-2.

But when they commit 16 or more? They are 0-7, including losses in Games 2, 4 and 5 of this series against the Warriors. Tatum has already committed more turnovers than any player in a single playoff in NBA playoff history.

That’s why the Celtics have repeatedly said it’s their offense, not their defense against Stephen Curry, that will determine whether they win an NBA title.

“I mean, you look at the big picture, we’re defending well enough to win,” Udoka said. “It’s really stagnant lulls offensively that really hurt us. We’ll have a quarter or two or three of really good basketball and then that quarter or two that really hurt us. That was the fourth quarter a couple of years ago. matches.

“Even the last game, once we took the lead, which we did well for the first nine, ten minutes of the third quarter, we had a bit of a slippage at the end there that got them allowed to come back in. For us, we want to focus on the attacking side, because I think we kept enough to win Game 4, if we finish the game well, not that five-minute stint, we would be in good shape.

“That’s our optimism.”