The Boston Celtics failed to show up in a crucial Game 5 against the Philadelphia 76ers, as they fell 115-103 on Tuesday night. With the series at 3-2 in the Sixers' favor, Boston faces a do-or-die situation in Game 6.
The Thursday night showdown could have huge implications, as who knows how an early playoff exit could impact Boston's future. But instead of focusing on all the pressure on the Celtics, first-year coach Joe Mazzulla wants the C's to play freely. He recently shared with the media what his pregame message to the team will be:
“Play free,” Mazzulla said, per Jay King of The Atheltic. “Play connected. Play physical. And leave it all out there.”
The Celtics were far from connected during Game 5, as they shot below 40 percent from the field, posted a meager 31 percent conversion rate from deep, and missed nine free throws at the line. They were also outrebounded and looked outworked for the majority of the contest.
Last postseason, the C's found themselves in a similar spot. They were down 3-2 against the Milwaukee Bucks and had to win two in a row to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston got it done in Game 6 thanks to a 46-point game from star Jayson Tatum; however, there's no guarantee they will mount a furious comeback this season.
Boston seemed sluggish in Game 5 and outside of Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the rest of the team scored just 43 points. The whole team will need to come out firing on Thursday night if they want to have any chance at extending the series.
Joe Mazzulla: “It’s an opportunity for us to trust each other, stick together and go out there and battle.”
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) May 10, 2023
Frustratingly, Boston is more than capable of playing better. The Green Team smoked Philly in Game 2 and looked comfortable during a double-digit Game 3 win. Those iterations of the Celtics will have to show up for Game 6, or else their 2022-23 season will come to a disappointing close.