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Game 3: Celtics vs. Magic, a must-win?



Game 3, series tied 1-1
Friday, May 8, 2009
Amway Arena, 7 p.m. EDT

I love the modern day “must-win game” arguments.

Not that there’s such thing as a “it’s-okay-if-we-lose game” in the Playoffs, especially in a 7-game series. But to go down 2-1 isn’t the end of the world by any means.

Losing tonight, however, would shift the Celtics into Panic Mode for Game 4 to avoid a 3-1 deficit, which would essentially put them six feet under.

So, I guess this is a must-win?

“In the history of the NBA playoffs, the team that has won Game Three of a best-of-seven series that was tied at one win each has gone on to win the series 75.3 percent of the time (125 of 166).”

That, according to ESPN research.

So with all the intangibles working in the favor of whoever wins a “pivotal” Game 3, is it really must-win game? Do these intangibles actually exist, or are they a media/fan-generated reasoning as to how a player or team performs.

Here are common terms that don’t appear on a box score for a reason:

Momentum: Don’t buy it for a second. In baseball, the common phrase is: “Momentum rides on your next day’s starter.” Well in basketball, momentum doesn’t ride at all. It rides the bench, if anything. Just because Game 1 was arguably a moral victory, and Game 2 an actual victory, doesn’t mean the Celtics have this “momentum” heading into Game 3.

The same goes for Cleveland. Just because they’ve bulldozed through its opponents throughout the Playoffs, doesn’t mean the Cavs’ next game is a lock down win because of some sort of magical momentum. No player, not even LeBron, can automatically drop 25, 10, 5 just because of momentum from the night before.

Psychological: Along the same lines as your mysterious momentum myth, there’s no psychological block when players get on hot streaks or shooting slumps. Fans want to think that everything carries over from game to game. The only thing that carries over is our memory.

There are no rollover minutes in basketball, or any sport for that matter. It comes in daily preparation both mentally and physically. When players say they take “one game at a time,” that’s generally the instance. Pro athletes generally keep short-term memories when it comes to single-game performances, etc. The media loves to highlight slumps, streaks and statistics.

Must-win games: Do not exist, literally, until the 48-minute brink of elimination period begins.

Don’t be brainwashed by irrelevant “pressure” games.

  • Yo

    certainly not a must win, but if we lose it makes game 4 a must win

  • Yo

    Dont quite think the big bad celtics thought this was a must-win…they thought they just had to show up…..wow, this team never learns

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