WALTHAM, Mass. — A 2-0 series deficit is almost a death blow in the NBA.
Since the league first instituted best-of-seven playoff series, teams that have taken the first two games have gone on to win their series an astonishing 94 percent of the time, per ESPN Stats & Info.
That’s the challenge currently facing the Boston Celtics, who dropped Games 1 and 2 of their first-round series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Neither of those losses were outright blowouts, however, and the Celtics remain confident entering Game 3 back at TD Garden.
“Why wouldn’t I?” forward Jae Crowder said after Wednesday’s practice session. “… I’m always confident in myself and in my teammates — that’s me.
“We’ve got a great chance of winning Game 3. We’ve been in the game. I think we’re due for a win now, especially in front of the home crowd that’s going to give us great energy. We feel good going into it.”
The Cavaliers imposed their will on the Celtics late in each of the first two games, swarming the offensive glass and tormenting the underdog C’s with second-chance points. In Tuesday’s 99-91 win in Game 2, Cleveland blanked Boston 7-0 on second-chance opportunities in the fourth quarter.
“Looking back at it, we were in the game(s),” Crowder said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot both games, so to speak, with turnovers and second-chance points. But if we take that away, I feel like we give ourselves a great opportunity to win the game — point blank. I don’t know what else to say. I’m going to sound repetitive, but that’s what we feel like.”
Is it an intimidation factor, a wariness that comes with playing against the Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, not to mention a paint-protecting force like Timofey Mozgov? Not a chance, Crowder says.
“No,” the rugged forward said. “Nobody on their team is intimidating. We’re all NBA basketball players, we’re not intimidated.”
That quote shouldn’t be viewed as Crowder disrespecting his heavily favored opponents. Just moments earlier, he called guarding James, who went off for 30 points in Game 2, “the greatest challenge that I think I ever took on.”
But regardless of the Cavs’ clear edge in talent, Crowder believes the Celtics still can make this series interesting if they fix the “little things” that doomed them in Cleveland.
“We’re going to get some wins,” Crowder said. “If we put everything together, and we make shots, and we don’t kill ourselves with bad turnovers and (let them) get out in transition and hurt us, we’re going to win. That’s what I feel like. Like I said, we’re due for a game like that, and it couldn’t happen at a better time than Game 3.”
The Celtics clearly have overachieved this season, surging to seventh in the Eastern Conference after being universally pegged as a lottery team. Yet there’s no “happy to be here” sentiment surrounding this team.
“We don’t want to sit back and think, ‘What if?’ when it’s all over,” Crowder said. “We want to take control of the series and try to get the next game. So, that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.”
Game 3 is set for Thursday night.
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images
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