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Write off the Celtics at your own peril heading into tonight’s pivotal Game 5 of the NBA Finals. They are back in San Francisco tonight, on the road…and in their comfort zone.


Well, these Celtics for some reason perform better on the road than they do at home, where they are a mere 6-5 in the playoffs. The Celtics have played 11 road games in the postseason and have won eight of them, which is pretty much reason No. 1 why they are one of two teams still standing as we hit the 13th of June.

One week from today is Game 7…if we get to a Game 7. First things first, as they say, and what could be a long eight days or a short four will be determined when the winner of tonight’s game goes for the championship Thursday night at Boston. The bounce back thing is big for the Celtics, who have gone 13-1 following a loss since turning their season around in mid-January when they were 23-24 before winning 11 of 12.

If the Game 4 loss at home was especially painful because of the way the team collapsed offensively in the final 5 minutes, what is soothing for the Celtics is knowing that they have come back when they were previously counted out.

“It was a tough loss, and we understand that, and I think we've been here before,” Jayson Tatum said Sunday. “This is third time in a row I feel like we've been here. So we know what it takes. We know what we have to do and attention to detail and things like that. I'm confident like I have been all playoffs, confident in the fact that we'll respond and play better for the majority of the game tomorrow.”

ESPN on Monday morning was describing this series as career-defining for Steph Curry, which is the type of hyperbole thrown around as everyone reaches for superlatives to describe what we have been seeing from a 34-year-old who went off for 43 points and 10 rebounds as the Dubs evened the series at two games apiece.

Curry is the -135 favorite to be voted Finals MVP, with Tatum right behind him at +170 and Jaylen Brown third at +600. Marcus Smart is not a bad bet at +5000 because if the Celtics win it, the player who performs best in Games 5 and 6 (and possibly 7) will override whatever anybody did in Games 1 through 4. Smart is averaging 15.5 points to the 22.3 being scored by Brown and Tatum, and if he can start getting to the free throw line (he has attempted only eight all series), his Game 2 disappearing act will be forgiven. Pun of the day: That could be a Smart bet.

Unless you have covered the finals, which your faithful correspondent has done 20 times, it is hard to comprehend how different the mood is for Games 5, 6 and 7 than they are for Games 1-4. There is a familiarity factor and a fatigue factor that will continue to grow exponentially, and at a certain point the two teams are likely to develop a distinct distaste for one another. Yes, we are due for a dust-up.

When this game gets into “clutch time,” it will be important for the Celtics to not get outscored 17-3 as they were in Game 4 when Golden State turned a 94-90 deficit into a 107-97 final score, beating the 4-point underdog line by a full 14 points as the under hit for the second time in this series.

The line is again 3.5 points, which is the third time we have seen that in this series. The Warriors have gone 28-19-2 against the spread as a home favorite, while the Celtics have gone 25-13-0 after a loss. But those stats include regular-season games, which were eons ago and have zero relevance to what will take place tonight.

A series tied 2-2 is going to teach us who is a gamer and who is not, and the former list begins with Curry, whose point total over/under is 30.5 and who is only +400 to score 40 or more. He has scored at least 29 in every game and is in a special zone occupied by mega superstars, and we want you to ride him with so much on the line to night. But where to find the right play?

His 10 rebounds last game were only the third double-double he has posted in the postseason, and getting it done with rebounds speaks to his aggressiveness. Boston simply has no one who can defend him, as Al Horford and Grant Williams have learned the hard way, and chess match question No. 1 will be how Ime Ukoda schemes against him. Coaches usually throw double-teams at superstars and force someone else to beat them, so that is the educated guess here.

With that in mind, start building your parlay with Curry over 5.5 assists (+115) because he is going to be forced to become more of a distributor, and he went over 5.5 in the final three games of the Dallas series when Jason Kidd sent two of his defenders (who were better than Boston’s) at him.

Because Marcus Smart is coming off a four-steal game, and because Smart is a hard-core gamer in the mold that we truly appreciate here at the home office, leg two of the parlay is Smart over 1.5 steals (+105), and leg three is Smart over 2.5 3-pointers made (+120), with leg four Tatum going over 3 ½ 3s made.

We are steering clear of scoring lines for Jaylen Brown and Draymond Green because both have been too hard to predict, especially Draymond, whose scoring average has dropped from 10.6 last series to 4.3 this series, who has more fouls (18) than points (17). But Green is still getting other things done, and the line we like him to go over 1.5 steals. He had four last game, and that is your fifth leg.

But we need more. We need a flyer, and it has to be something other than Smart for Finals MVP.

Curiously, Curry’s double-double line is +650 while Robert Williams of the Celtics is at +725 despite the fact that he has never had one this postseason. But of those two, you could make a good argument that Williams is overdue since he had four in March, six in February and five in January. Williams has been about 87 times more tenacious than Horford, so go with him to double-double for flyer bet No. 1, and also go with Kevon Looney to get a double-double (+650) since he should be back in the starting lineup after the Otto Porter-as-starter experiment did not go well last game.

If you really want a flyer that might pay big, try small wagers on these five things: First point of the game to come via a free throw by Green (+10000), Looney (+10000) or Williams (+6000). All it will take is a foul on a putback of an offensive rebound, and those three players are leading their teams in offensive boards.

And because Wiggins has somehow turned into a ferocious rebounder (a sentence we ever imagined we would write), drop the same amount on Wiggins to score the first points via a free throw (+9000) or via a 3-pointer (+2200). Good luck, all. We will see you again Thursday morning.