Four reasons to be optimistic about Celtics' chances vs. 76ers trailing 3-2

Four reasons to be optimistic about Celtics' chances vs. 76ers trailing 3-2 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

It's admittedly difficult to be positive about the Boston Celtics' current predicament.

They gave one of their worst performances of the season in Tuesday night's Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden. The Sixers jumped out to a lead right off the bat and were in total control basically the entire game. Joel Embiid looked like the NBA MVP with 33 points. Tyrese Maxey stepped up with 30 points (6-for-12 from 3-point range) and James Harden poured in 17 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds.

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The Celtics, meanwhile, struggled mightily on both ends of the court. They were especially ineffective from 3-point land by hitting just 12 of 38 attempts (31.6 percent). Jayson Tatum ended up with 36 points, but he shot 0-for-5 with two points in the first quarter despite playing all 12 minutes. It was the third time in the last four games that Tatum has failed to start strong. Al Horford was held to zero points on 0-for-7 shooting, and Boston's bench didn't provide much, either.

The Celtics now face a 3-2 series deficit and must win the last two games of the series to save their season. The first challenge is Thursday night in Game 6 in Philadelphia.

Even though it's tough for Celtics fans to be optimistic right now, there are several reasons to have some confidence in the situation improving, starting with...

Celtics have overcome several 3-2 deficits

The Celtics have won six best-of-7 playoff series when trailing 3-2, which is the most in league history.

They most recently accomplished that feat in the second round last season. They lost Game 5 to the Milwaukee Bucks at home and then Tatum gave arguably the best performance of his career with 46 points in a Game 6 win on the road. The C's returned home for Game 7 and demolished the Bucks with red-hot 3-point shooting.

Celtics are a good road playoff team

The C's actually play pretty well on the road in the playoffs. They went 8-4 on the road in the 2022 playoffs, including multiple road victories in the first round, second round and conference finals. They are 3-2 on the road in this playoff run, and it easily could be 4-1 because the Celtics absolutely should have won Game 4 in Philly last Sunday.

Here's a list of some notable road playoff wins for the Celtics over the last two years:

  • Game 4 in first round at Brooklyn to complete a sweep

  • Game 4 in second round at Milwaukee to avoid 3-1 series deficit

  • Game 6 in second round at Milwaukee to force Game 7

  • Game 5 in conference finals at Miami to take 3-2 series lead

  • Game 7 in conference finals at Miami to reach NBA Finals

  • Game 6 in first round at Atlanta to clinch the series

Here's where the Celtics rank in a few notable stats among 2023 playoff teams on the road:

  • PPG: 121.1 (1st)

  • FG%: 48.4 (3rd)

  • 3PT%: 40.2 (T-1st)

  • FT%: 83.5 (4th)

  • Blocks/game: 6.8 (T-1st)

The Celtics are 7-9 in their last 16 home playoff games. However, they are 5-2 in their last seven Game 7s at home. If they can win Game 6 and force a Game 7 in Boston on Sunday, the Celtics should be in good shape.

Sixers have lost some important playoff games at home recently

The Sixers were 29-12 at home during the 2022-23 regular season and they are 3-1 at Wells Fargo Center during this playoff run. But they are not immune to poor performances in important games in front of their fans.

Here's a list of notable home losses for the 76ers over their previous two postseason runs:

  • 2021: Lost Game 5 and Game 7 to Hawks in second round

  • 2022: Lost Game 5 by 15 points to Raptors with chance to close out first-round series

  • 2022: Lost Game 6 by nine points to Heat while facing elimination in second round

Doc Rivers-led teams aren't closeout experts


Rivers is a good coach, but for whatever reason, he's been at the helm of some memorable blown leads in playoff series.

His teams have blown three 3-1 leads -- 2003 Orlando Magic in the first round, 2015 Los Angeles Clippers in the second round and 2020 Clippers in the second round. The Celtics won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead in the 2009 second round, 2010 NBA Finals and 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, and they failed to win each series. Rivers was the coach of all three of those teams.

Rivers' last nine playoff runs as a head coach have all ended in the first or second round. His last three coaching seasons ended in the second round, including the last two years with the 76ers.

He does have several Game 7 wins on his resume, as well as an NBA title with the Celtics in 2008. But since leaving the Celtics in 2013, Rivers has never reached the conference finals.