Celtics know importance of Game 5 vs. Sixers

763430.jpg

Celtics know importance of Game 5 vs. Sixers

WALTHAM At this point, there's no point in reminding the Boston Celtics that Game 5 is, you know, kind of a big deal in this series.

With the series knotted up at 2-2, Game 5's winner will be in great position to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals where a sure-to-be-bludgeoned Miami-Indiana series winner will be.

But if you expect Celtics coach Doc Rivers to deliver a Knute Rockne-esque speech to his players leading into Monday's Game 5 tilt against the Philadelphia 76ers . . . that's just not going to happen.

"I don't think I have to talk about it a whole bunch," Rivers said. "It's a swing game; but it's a swing game for both teams. Game 5s and Game 7s are pretty much the same."

With the one difference being a Celtics loss in Game 5 means they'd have to win the final two games of the series, the first on the road and another at home.

That would flow well with the team's season-long knack for making most situations tougher than they should be.

But there's no "maybe next game" following a Game 7 loss.

The season is over and you're making plans for offseason beach shores, and for some of the Celtics, offseason surgery.

Boston wants no part of that, which is why Monday night's Game 5 battle should be one of the C's better performances this season.

Having an extra day in between games certainly bodes well for the many Celtic players dealing with an assortment of bumps and bruises.

But that extra time off means one more day to think about the opportunity they let slip away in Game 4.

"If we had played today, it would have been over, gone," Rivers said when asked about whether the team would have trouble moving past the Game 4 loss. "We don't play today, so that may allow it to stick a little longer. But for the most part, you get over it. You have no choice."

Indeed, the Celtics have had their share of tough defeats both in the regular season and in the playoffs.

More often than not, they don't just bounce back with a better performance.

They respond with some of their best individual and collective performances, the kind of track record that leads one to expect a Celtics team in Game 5 to play at an extremely high level.

"A lot of it is mental, preparation, understanding what it takes," said Paul Pierce. "All of those things, a combination of those things, really helps us out being a veteran ball club."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Knicks

WATCH: Celtics vs. Knicks

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Knicks at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since NBA.com/stats began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”