An NBA title is just 48 minutes away, a fact the Boston Celtics cannot deny.
"The moment that is before us, it's starting to rear its head in," guard Ray Allen said.
The Celtics, who lead the NBA Finals series three games to two, need to defeat the Lakers one more time, which can come Tuesday night or, if the series goes to a Game 7, on Thursday.
But no matter what, it will have to happen on the road, at Staples Center.
The Celtics are 1-7 in close-out road games in the playoffs over the last three seasons, and have lost two such games this season, in Miami and Orlando. In fact, the last time their starting five finished a road playoff series came in the 2008 Eastern Conference finals against Detroit.
Last season perhaps stung the worst. The Celtics led Orlando three games to two in the Eastern Conference semifinals but lost a possible road-clinching game and eventually lost the series.
"Whatever happened last year, I thought we had a great season, we got beat by Orlando," Allen said. "It's a new year and it's definitely been a blessing, but this year has definitely been a lot tougher, and I think the tougher it is, the more you want it."
Their playoff road has certainly been tough. The Celtics have faced Miami ( Dwyane Wade), Cleveland ( LeBron James), Orlando ( Dwight Howard) and now the Lakers ( Kobe Bryant).
And for a team that finished fourth in their conference after a 27-27 close to the season and was considered over the hill, the run seems remarkable.
"I think along the way, people forgot, forgot who we were and what we were capable of," Allen said. "We got back to that mentality, but it didn't shake us at all. We didn't worry about what people said, what they thought. People were saying that we were a team that was old, but here we are. We're capable, that's the most important thing and we all knew it."
Even though the Celtics beat the Lakers in the Finals in 2008, Rajon Rondo said they carry no mental edge into Tuesday.
"They're the world champions," Rondo said. "I'm sure they're going to come out and fight hard, so it's not over — the series is not over yet."
Said Kevin Garnett: "This will probably be the hardest game of the season, if not of the series, if not of everybody's career, this game coming up."
Allen said the Celtics are ready.
"I think I'm going to see urgency, desperation, a no-quit attitude — and that's from us," he said.
Chaos part of Celtics' plan
Often the Celtics look chaotic, out of control and on the edge of having their emotions boil over.
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers can't do much about it either.
"Listen, I've tried with all of them," Rivers said after Game 5. "Clearly none of that has worked. We have two guys one tech away. I don't know if 'calming down' and 'us' goes together. I would love that, but it hasn't worked out very well."
In Game 5, the key moment was Rondo shoving Ron Artest after Artest fouled Garnett in the second quarter. Rivers didn't like the move, which earned Rondo a technical foul, but Kendrick Perkins did.
"I told Doc that was the right play he made," Perkins said. "A hard foul on Kevin, and he retaliated. He's taking up for his big man."
Did Artest flop?
"I'm not that strong," Rondo said, laughing. "He did a little bit. He's probably the strongest guy on the court in this series. I've been lifting a little bit, but other than that, I didn't push him that hard."
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