BOSTON — Home Sweet Home.
The words the Celtics have lived by in this year’s NBA playoffs.
Now Boston has the value of the parquet, the banners and the wild home fans with the Eastern Conference finals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers down to a best-of-three.
The Celtics have gone 9-0 at home in these playoffs and won 10 in a row at home dating back to the regular season. For the year, they are 36-14 at home, a .720 winning percentage.
Just as they had done in the opening series with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics won the first two games at home and then lost two in a row on the road, where they have just one victory in the playoffs. They then won 5 and 7 at home and lost 6 at Milwaukee.
And just like that series, Boston doesn’t have to win a road game to advance.
“I think our focus is just on the next game, on Game 5,” the Celtics’ Al Horford said after Monday’s game. “All season but specifically all playoffs, we’ve been taking it game to game. We can’t look at it that way (of trying to win two of three). Right now, we’re fighting for our playoff lives, and our focus as a group is Wednesday, Game 5 at home.”
LeBron James went off for 44 points in Game 4 and had help from his friends — Tristan Thompson standing out on the inside (and running the floor) and Kyle Korver on the outside, and even blocking three Jaylen Brown shots. George Hill was great.
But, as usual, it all came down to James — and his team’s ability to set him up in mismatches, notably with smaller guard Terry Rozier.
“If you look at the four teams in the postseason now,” said James, averaging 33.7 points per game in this postseason, “Houston is trying to find mismatches, Golden State is trying to find mismatches, Boston, and us as well. We’re all trying to find mismatches for us to try to be successful offensively. It’s not much of a secret.”
The Cavs have a win in four games at TD Garden this year and are 9-5 there over the past four seasons.
“It’s the best two out of three to go to the NBA Finals,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Doesn’t get any better than that.”
The Celtics were hardly thrilled with the officiating in the two games in Cleveland and were outspoken about it.
“I don’t really want to speak on that and get a fine,” said Marcus Morris, one of the guys trying to guard James. “At the end of the day I work hard, work my (butt) off to defend this position. The ticky-tack fouls — it is what it is.
“It’s tough. you’re already playing against the best player in the league, and you can be a little bit physical, it’s tough to guard him. You can’t do anything and it’s fouls, fouls. We almost had to give up baskets.”
Morris leads the NBA with 52 fouls in this postseason.
In off-court news Tuesday, Boston’s Jayson Tatum became the first Celtic to make All-Rookie first team since Paul Pierce in 1998-99. And while Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell were unanimous, Tatum missed by a single vote, prompting Stevens to say, “Somebody made a mistake.”
Both Kevin Love and Jeff Green are playing with minor injuries, while the Celtics, missing Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis for the entire postseason, are also without backup point guard Shane Larkin. Out with a shoulder injury suffered in the second round, Larkin might return in this series, but is not likely to make it back for Game 5.
Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night and the “if necessary” Game 7 would be back in Boston on Sunday night.