Time to accept the Celtics’ identity, as Jayson Tatum has


We’ve all asked the question endless times over the last few years, why are the Celtics seemingly at their best with their backs against the wall, so to speak?

Why does it have to be difficult? Why do they have to push playoff series to Game 6 and Game 7 when their talent should probably allow them to take much easier, more direct paths to success?

All-NBA superstar Celtics leader Jayson Tatum has been asked the question plenty, including asking it of himself. And the worst part for the young Green Team legend-in-the-making is that he has come to accept the answer.

“That’s a great question. I wish I didn’t know the answer,” Tatum said with a smirk minutes after helping his team to the 110-97 must-win victory over Miami at TD Garden.

Following the Game 5 wire-to-wire cruise to victory over the Heat the Celtics are now 7-1 in elimination games over the last two postseason runs. Yes, one of the most talented basketball teams in the league and perceived title favorites over the last couple springs has put itself in win-or-be-blown-up situations – OK, maybe that’s extreme but we did hear “Trade Jaylen Brown” talk as recently as this week – with alarming regularity. Alarming regularity, that is, if they weren’t so darn good in said situations.

“For some odd reason, even last year, we always seem to make it a little bit tougher on ourselves,” Tatum acknowledged. “But what I do know is that you can see the true character of a person, of a team, when things aren’t going well.”

Things certainly weren’t going well early in this series with Miami. The Heat were hot from three-point land. The Celtics were not. Jimmy Butler looked like the best player on the court. Tatum and Brown did not. Erik Spoelstra was pushing the right buttons for the “Heat Culture.” Joe Mazzulla was getting anything but “Celtic Pride” to show up on the court.

Three games. Three well-deserved losses.

“Game 3, that was a low as you can be. The good part of being that low is you only can play better,” Tatum said with retrospective philosophical optimism.

So Boston found itself down 0-3 in the series. Bottomed out. Fighting the Heat, its own poor play and even history that says 150 times in NBA annals a team has gone down three games to none in a playoff series and 150 times that team has failed to win the series.

Backs don’t get any more against the wall than that. And, subsequently, here come the Celtics!

“Our ability to come together, figure things out when it’s not necessarily looking good for us, it’s unlike any team I’ve been on, this year and last year. The core group of guys of being able to respond. I think that’s just a test to our togetherness, obviously how bad we want it. We have a room full determined, tough guys that push come to shove that you look to the left and the right of you believe that the guy next to you is going to do whatever it takes and go down fighting if it doesn’t work out.”

When things look easy, the Celtics seemingly play like the Eagles – the band, not the defending NFC champion football team – and “Take it easy.”

When things look dire, it lights a fire for Boston.

For now it’s who they are. It’s what they do.

Tatum has accepted it, even if he doesn’t totally understand it.

So should we, even if it can be infuriating at times.

The Celtics now head to Miami down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Even with some momentum, their backs remain very much against the wall.

Just the way they seem to like it.

Just the way they almost seem to need it.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Sports