MIAMI — Home has been everything in these Eastern and Western conference finals. Until it hasn’t.
Through four games on each side, the home teams had won each of the first eight games. But that pattern broke out West Monday when Oklahoma City took Game 5 in San Antonio. The Boston Celtics approached their return to Miami for Tuesday’s game hoping to do the same, against a team every bit as formidable on its home court as the Spurs.
Miami and San Antonio tied for the NBA’s best home record in the regular season, 28-5, and the Heat brought a 6-1 playoff mark into Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena (the Spurs were 6-0 before Monday’s setback). The Celtics haven’t exactly been road warriors: 15-18 this season, 2-6 in the playoffs, compared to the Thunder’s 21-12 and now 4-3 marks.
Want more numbers? Since they came together in the summer of 2007, Boston’s Big Three – Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen – are 8-0 in Game 5 of playoff series that are tied 2-2. From the other side, Miami has a six-game home winning streak in playoff games against Boston. So something is going to give .
Then there is this: In NBA history of best-of-seven playoff series tied at 2-2, the team that takes Game 5 has won the series 83.5 percent (137-27) of the time. That adds a little something extra for the Celtics, who already knew they would have to win one game on Miami’s court, sooner (Tuesday) or later (Game 7 Saturday, if they last that long).
TD Garden is home but Boston’s fate and Finals feasibility will be determined in the big white building on Biscayne Bay.
“We don’t have home court,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said at shootaround Tuesday. “It’s not like the Philly round where we almost played for, ‘Well, we’ve got another game at home.’ That’s how you felt. This is different. We have to win a game here in order to win the series. We know that.
“So our urgency is, this is Game 7 again. Every Game 5 is a Game 7, as far as I’m concerned. That’s how I’ve tried to get our guys through all the Game 5’s we’ve been in – you have to view it as a Game 7.”
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra is trying to keep his team’s urgency needle pointed hard to the right, too. “We enjoy playing in front of our home fans, but you can’t take it for granted,” he said. “And you can’t assume that that will mean anything, particularly in a series like this. They had a great opportunity to win in Game 2. We had a golden opportunity to win in Game 4. I think both teams feel they can win in any building.”