BOSTON – Countless times over the course of this postseason, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has preached the philosophy that, “Each game is its own entity.”
In other words, he wants his players to live in the moment while not getting caught up in the previous night’s game or any situation that may lie beyond their current task at hand.
Having that collective mindset is important for the Celtics, especially right now, as they transition from their 96-83 Game 5 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers to Game 6 of the Eastern Finals.
The C’s now have a 3-2s series lead – placing them just one win shy of a trip to the NBA Finals – but Stevens wants his players to once again play like its 0-0.
The coach doesn’t want them getting caught up in their success from Game 5, and he certainly does not want them looking too far into the future. The only thing that matters at this moment in time is preparing for Game 6 Friday night in Cleveland. And the key to Boston’s success in that game will be coming out clear-minded and ready to play, while not dwelling on anything outside of the moment it’s in.
“The deal is you can’t ride the emotional roller coaster,” Stevens said Thursday afternoon during a conference call with the media in regard to the up-and-down, back-and-forth nature of the postseason. “You can’t live or die with every loss or win. You just move on, you get ready for the next one and you play it as well as you can. I think one of the strengths of this team has been moving on. We’re going to have to move on from last night’s win, play better than we have to have a chance to win Game 6.”
One reason why the C’s can’t get hung up on Wednesday’s Game 5 win at TD Garden is that they’ve been a completely different team on the road as opposed to at home.
Boston has compiled a 10-0 record inside their home arena this postseason, including three double-digit wins over the Cavs.
On the road, however, they’ve gone just 1-6, including a pair of losses in Cleveland, where the Cavs have clearly been a more confident team.
“I think going back home, we have a comfort level,” LeBron James said following Game 5. “A lot of our guys have a comfort level of being back home, playing off the fans and playing off our crowd, playing off that court, being more comfortable being back home for Game 6.”
The Celtics, on the other hand, have not looked comfortable at all during two postseason games at Quicken Loans Arena. They fell victim to massive first-quarter deficits during both Games 3 and 4, causing them to play rushed on the offensive end for the remainder of each contest.
Stevens isn’t concerned so much about Cleveland’s runs as he is about his team’s ability to stay calm during rough patches. Rather than hang their heads or try to force things on the offensive end during such situations, the C’s just need to remain poised and play out each possession.
“There’s going to be moments that don’t go our way,” Stevens admitted. “But the minute you hang your head, or the minute you lose your poise and try to hit home runs, that’s when it backfires on you.”
Just like Stevens believes every game is its own entity, he also looks at every possession and every moment of the game as its own entity, as well.
“You just have to play the next possession the right way and do that as much as you
can for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “It’s easier said than done. To do what we want to do, we still have to beat this team one more time. It’s hard to win a game in the NBA. It takes a ton of preparation, takes a ton of focus, takes a ton of effort.”
However, if the Celtics remain in the moment at all times and play with the poise that they have displayed all season long, then they should be able to get the job done.