Heading into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics' mission was simple: Win four straight games, or go home.
They may still have a long way to go, but they completed step one on Tuesday night with a 116-99 win over the Heat. The series will now shift back to Boston for Game 5, where they once again must win to keep their season alive.
It's a well-known fact that no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit. In league history, 150 teams have lost the first three games of a series and not one of them has gone on to advance. In fact, only three teams have even forced a Game 7 after trailing 3-0, and all three of them lost the decisive matchup.
But heading into Tuesday night's elimination game in Miami, the message from the Celtics' camp was clear: don't let them get a win.
"At this point, we have nothing to lose, just got to go out there and leave it all on the floor," Smart said.
"[We] feel very good about tonight. ... Don't let us get one, just don't let us get one."
"Don't let us win tonight"— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 23, 2023
Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown channel their inner Kevin Millar ahead of tonight's must-win Game 4 pic.twitter.com/du9Qykvw7X
Brown echoed that sentiment, warning Miami not to let the series head back to Boston.
"Don't let us win tonight, because that's our mindset," Brown said pregame. "Let us get one, we feel confident, so we'll come out and play free, play ready and we should be fine.
"[Our] backs on the wall, win or go home, win or the seasons over type of game tonight. Definitely gotta leave it all out there."
That's exactly what they did, storming to victory thanks to a second half offensive explosion from Jayson Tatum. Tatum finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, while Brown and Derrick White both posted 16 points.
After the win, Brown was inevitably asked about his pregame comments. He said his team's confidence will only continue to grow if they can get a second straight win in Game 5 on Thursday.
"We want to come back to Miami," he told reporters. "If that happens, I feel like we'll feel good about ourselves. The next one should be fun, it should be a big one and we gotta come ready to play."
"We want to come back to Miami. If that happens, I feel like we'll feel good about ourselves. The next one should be fun, it should be a big one and we gotta come ready to play."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 24, 2023
Jaylen Brown after the Celtics' Game 4 win vs. the Heatpic.twitter.com/kaF9lK2m5g
So, will Miami regret allowing Boston to get a foothold back into the series? Only time will tell. But another Celtics win would suddenly make the rest of the series very, very interesting.