Celtics Stress Importance Of Underdog Mentality

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Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics gestures during the fourth quarter in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden on May 15, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Boston -- The Boston Celtics stormed back in the second half of Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, but complacency is not in their dictionary at all.

Head coach Ime Udoka preached about the importance of taking things one step at a time during his time in the postgame press conference.

“We had to come out with the right mentality after a win and we did that. We want to do the same and close it out at home. [We] know the urgency of not coming back here and so, for our guys, it’s just one more step and continue to grind it out,” he explained.

The Heat quickly jumped the Celtics to start out Game 5 thanks to their quickness and crisp execution, which allowed them to take a five-point lead going into halftime.

However, a concerted team effort from the Celtics stifled the Heat offense to just 16 points in the third quarter.

Moreover, they exploded for 32 points, plus had seven assists while clamping down the Heat to zero.

Boston’s lead would balloon to 23 points, but Miami was not going to take things lying down and fought hard to cut the lead in the fourth quarter.

The momentum shift was simply too late for a Heat team that was missing the services of Tyler Herro as they dropped Game 5 to the Celtics.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 47 of the Celtics’ 93 points, while the tandem of Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III led the defense to limit the Heat to 80.


Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat during the fourth quarter in Game Five of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 25, 2022 in Miami, Florida.
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Echoing the sentiments of his new head coach, Tatum is fully aware of how important it is for them to have an underdog mentality as he hopes to avoid repeating the same fate they suffered in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.

“We can’t think that it’s over with. We need to go back home like we’re down 3-2 [and play] with that sense of urgency, not relaxing because we’re up. We still need to be better. The job’s just not finished yet,” Tatum said.

Tatum had a great coming out party at the time as he led the Celtics to a 3-2 lead over the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, but "King James" was simply too much for them to overcome as he carried his squad to a Game 7 victory en route to facing the Golden State Warriors.

Despite the Heat likely to have Herro unavailable for Game 6, Jimmy Butler’s ability to explode for 40 points may just catch the Celtics off their guard if they do not play with the urgency preached by Tatum and Udoka.

The Celtics coach is fully aware of the implications of their next meeting with the Heat, and he reassured the media that their focus is solely on Game 6 first.

“We know what we’re all about. For us, I don’t think anybody’s looking at getting to the Finals. We still to know what the deal is and what the task ahead is," Udoka stated.

Game 6 will be played on the Celtics’ home floor of the famed TD Garden on Friday, May 27 with the tip-off slated for 8:30 PM ET.


Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics bench reacts to Jaylen Brown's monstrous dunk against the Miami Heat during the fourth quarter in Game Five of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 25, 2022 in Miami, Florida.
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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