2024 NBA Finals: If the Celtics win Game 5, they will finally be champions. If the Mavs win ...

No NBA team has come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs. They are 0-156. Thirteen of the 287 teams (4.5%) that trailed 3-1 have won the series. And 57 of the 350 teams (16.3%) that trailed 3-2 have won.

This is the widening window of opportunity the Boston Celtics are attempting to avoid in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. With a victory on Monday night, the Dallas Mavericks should feel four times as confident about their shot at the title, since they will no longer need to think as the only team attempting to rally from a 3-0 deficit. They will merely need to become the 58th team to win consecutive elimination games.

"They are a desperate team, and they are playing probably a little freer," said Al Horford, whose Celtics trailed the 2023 Eastern Conference finals 3-0 and forced a Game 7. "We know what that mindset is like."

There is a freedom in knowing there is no room for error. The Mavericks have little other choice but to give it their all on every possession because one mistake could mean the end of all championship hope.

"I think what helps is we were in that situation last game," said Dallas coach Jason Kidd. "So not to change or deviate from what we talked about in Game 4. Take each possession one possession at a time, and hopefully we can put ourselves up winning each quarter. We ended up doing that. Same thing that we are talking about today and tomorrow is we can only focus on Game 5, and trying to find a way to win here."

As hard as they may have tried, the Celtics do not have that same mindset.

"We would love to win tomorrow, more than anything," said Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who is shooting 36.5% in the Finals. "But if it doesn't happen, it's not the end of the world. We have more opportunities. So just setting that table of: Don't surrender to that idea that we have to win tomorrow. We would love to, absolutely. But Game 5 is the biggest game of the season because it's the next game on the schedule."

"It would be awesome to get it done. It would be great," added Celtics reserve Sam Hauser. "If we do lose, it's not like the end of the world. We'd still be up 3-2, but to do it at home would be pretty special."

Home-court advantage could be all the Celtics need. Mavericks not named Luka Dončić or Kyrie Irving were dreadful through the series' first three games, but they exploded to shoot 14 for 23 from 3-point range at home in Game 4. The result was a 122-84 blowout of the Celtics that breathed life into the Mavs.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 09: Jayson Tatum #0 and Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics high give during the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Two of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 09, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Boston's vaunted starting five finished just 7 for 22 from 3 in the lopsided loss. That is a 21-point margin between the Mavericks' "others" and the strength of these Celtics. It would be surprising to see that happen again in Boston, where Kyrie Irving has also struggled to find his game in these Finals.

"We just have to wait and see tomorrow, man," Irving said on Sunday, when asked about how unsettling the Boston atmosphere has been for him as he returns to a city he once (reluctantly) called home. "You know, change a few things up. Be prepared for what I'm getting myself into. Most importantly, not making this about me or getting into the energy with anyone else other than my teammates. That's about it."

The Mavericks believe they solved something in Game 4. They unlocked both their shooters and their rim-runners, as Dereck Lively II added a double-double on five shot attempts in 22 minutes. It was an efficiency masterclass, all as Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday and Derrick White — Boston's offensive firepower — combined to shoot 32.5% from the field and register more turnovers (10) than assists (8).

Dallas will tell itself that the series is settling, and its inexperienced role players are figuring it out.

"Yeah, I think there's probably something to that," said Kidd. "If we look at the analytics of our group, they are young, and as the series goes on, they get better. Hopefully that's true [on Monday] night. Sometimes when you do play an opponent over and over, you get used to the tendencies and you start to capitalize on that on both ends, defensively and offensively. Hopefully our group has seen enough of Boston to understand what they are good at, and hopefully we can take that away [on Monday] night."

What the Mavericks really solved, though, was their effort.

"They played very, very hard and very desperate," said Holiday. "We have to do the same thing."

Sometimes it really is that simple, especially if, as the first three games of the series proved, the Celtics have more talent. All that is necessary, then, is matching the Mavericks' will. Do that each night moving forward, and on shot variance alone Boston should be able to win one game before Dallas makes history.

As Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said, it is "the willpower, the mindset, the approach that you bring into it."

Except, if Boston puts forth another stinker, the Mavericks' belief in themselves will grow exponentially. The pressure will mount further for the Celtics if they have to return to Dallas, if they need another road win to avoid a Game 7, and the anxiety of becoming the first team to blow a 3-0 lead begins to feel real.

"I think we are ready for Game 5," said Brown, whose worst game of the playoffs came in Game 4. "I think that's the best answer that I got. I think that we're ready. We're at home, and we're looking forward to it."

Win, and the Celtics are champions. Lose, and doubt could find its way into their psyche. This is a team that blew a 2-1 lead in the 2022 NBA Finals and lost to the less-talented Miami Heat in last year's Eastern Conference finals. It is a team that has had a tendency to squander big leads in recent seasons. The Celtics insist they are different this year. If they are, no need to worry. They will win Game 5 at home, as the oddsmakers expect them to. If they are not, well, you are telling me the Dallas Mavericks have a chance.