It is not uncommon for a seven-game playoff series to have ups and downs, but usually they are somewhat predictable. For the most part, teams win at home and lose on the road, and the first to strike in a visiting arena claims a significant advantage.
But for the Celtics, who have one of the rowdiest home crows in the NBA, location-based results have been an outlier.
Entering Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat at TD Garden Monday night, the Celtics are 4-3 in Boston during these playoffs, and 5-2 everywhere else. The Heat, Warriors, and Mavericks, meanwhile, have a combined record of 20-3 at home and 9-12 on the road.
“I think we are excited to be [at TD Garden],” Celtics forward Al Horford said. “We are excited for our fans to rally behind us, but we need to just be more consistent at home and come out with the right sense of urgency. It’s something that we need to be better starting Monday.”
When the Celtics dropped Game 5 of the Eastern semifinals against the Bucks at TD Garden and went to Milwaukee trailing, 3-2, their season appeared on the brink. Then they stomped to a win.
But when the Celtics demolished the Heat in Game 2 in Miami last Thursday, they were overflowing with confidence as they returned home. Then they fell behind by 26 points in the first half of Game 3 and lost.
The good news for the Celtics is that their current 2-1 deficit should therefore not be a source of great alarm. They’ll just have to win in Miami at least once more to advance to the Finals, and they’ve shown that that should not be a problem.
Their road dominance is not new. During the regular season, the Celtics outscored opponents by 7.6 points per game, the NBA’s largest margin in 10 years. There was a noticeable contingent of Boston fans in Miami, and that will not change. But the home struggles are more perplexing.
“It’s 2-1 right now, and we play in front of our Garden fans and can make it 2-2,” forward Grant Williams said. “It’s one of those things where we still control our destiny. We have to come out there and be a little more physically dominant and be more conscious of what we are trying to accomplish.”