As rare as a bleeding, pink steak. That’s how often playoff road wins used to come for the Boston Celtics. Now, after five road wins in the first three playoff series’, winning on the road no longer seems so tough. (Jimmy Toscano, CelticsBlog)
“We were still young in 08,” said Ray Allen. “We weren’t really great winning on the road … we weren’t comfortable; we were still trying to figure it out. (Rajon) Rondo had never been in the playoffs before, so you know, it was like we were just carrying everybody along with us like, ‘ok this is what’s going to happen this is what’s going to go down’ … I think Rondo has grown tremendously and definitely (Kendrick) Perkins.” [...]
“Rondo, Perk- it’s no big deal to them anymore,” Rivers said.
“We have the focus, we have veterans, and I think when you play on the road that’s what you’ve got to have,” said Pierce. “Most young teams get intimidated by the road and that’s why they can’t win. But you have a team that’s very confident, very poised and has all the characteristics that you need to win on the road. (We’ve) got the toughness. That’s what you’re going to need.”
The Celtics have the mental toughness they need to win on the road. They are now a battle-tested and cohesive unit that can win at any gym on earth, having improved vastly in their green uniforms since ’08. But to win the Finals, they will have to take their road improvement to the ladder’s next rung.
Why will they have to get any better? They’ve been fine on the road, right? Yes, they’ve been fine, but just fine won’t be enough anymore.
Not only are the Celtics playing their best and most experienced opponent of this postseason, but they’ll also inevitably have to close out the series on the road. Why, you ask, do they have to win it on the road? Can’t they win it at home? Well they could, but the foolish 2-3-2 format used in the Finals will make it almost impossible. The C’s only possibilities to end the series on their own court will be Games 4 and 5 — does anyone see a Celtics sweep or 4-1 victory in the cards? Yeah, me neither.
I don’t know why the NBA switches formats for only the final round and I won’t start running my mouth about why it’s such a stupid idea, but I DO know that the 2-3-2 format makes things more difficult for the Celtics. Since the beginning of the Big Three era, the Celtics have only closed out one series at home (Detroit in ’08). Now they’ll be forced to do it in the Finals, against an opponent that’s probably the best team the Celtics have played in the Big Three era. Sick, huh Celtics fans?
Homecourt disadvantage hasn’t amounted to anything in the last couple rounds, but the disadvantage in the Finals becomes a little bigger. Maybe the regular season and that miserable fourth seed actually do mean something, after all?
When it comes to closing out a series, there’s no place like home. If they want to win the franchise’s 18th banner, the Celtics will have to kick off their shoes and make themselves comfortable in the Staples Center. But I must warn you: Closing out teams on the road is tough, but closing out Kobe on the road is a whole other animal.