The NBA Finals, a test as much physical as mental

The NBA Finals, a test as much physical as mental

The Game 4 buzzer just sounded at TD Garden. The joy of the Warriors contrasts with the disappointment of the Celtics and their fans, but the players of both teams will nevertheless have similar words after the meeting. No matter the result, you have to compartmentalize each match because the truth of a meeting is not that of the series.

“It’s just a game,” repeated Marcus Smart yesterday before Celtics training. “We are already thinking about the next one because tomorrow we have the opportunity to catch up. »

Each match has its own truth

“Taking the matches one after the other” is an old cliché in the world of sport, but is it the banality they want us to believe? After a game as intense and rich in emotions as Game 4 of these NBA Finals, how is it possible to turn the page so quickly and block everything that says until the next game?

“It’s hard to do but you have to do it” told us Otto Porter Jr. “As cliché as it sounds, you have to focus on the next game and only the next game. You can’t think of Game 6 or 7. You have to put all your focus on the present moment. »

Besides what can happen in the series if the Warriors win Game 5 and come one step closer to a victory that only Curry, Green, Thompson, Looney and Iguodala have ever known, how can we not remember the incredible performance of Game 4? For Otto Porter Jr, it’s all about perspective.

“The Game 4 win was important but that’s over, that’s in the past. Now we are only thinking about protecting home advantage in Game 5. We have an opportunity to take the lead in the series. We have no room for error at home. »

Nemanja Bjelica also told us that he was “It’s complicated to start from scratch each time because winning a match in the Finals requires constant energy and concentration. Mentally, you have to be tough because you know you’re going to suffer. »

A long-used way of dealing with the ups and downs

On the Celtics side, we were treated to the same story. Boston was a few minutes away from taking an almost decisive advantage in this final and here they are tied with 72 hours before Game 5. It would then be easy to replay the match in your head, to regret certain mistakes, rather than to watch ‘before.

Grant Williams explains to us that it is simply a question of looking at things with a cool head.

“It can be difficult, it depends on each person’s personality, but if you take a step back, you quickly realize that you can’t change what happened in Game 4, and you can’t control the future without focus on the present moment. The next match is always the most important moment. so tomorrow [ce] evening, we have to make sure that we are 100% focused on what we have to do to win because there is nothing else that matters. »

If the players of the two teams are embarked on an emotional roller coaster during these NBA Finals, Gary Payton II describes that having habits helps him to be able to quickly move on to something else.

“We have a routine to be able to turn the page” he explains. “You watch the video from the previous game, you take the take, and from there you turn the page, and you focus on the next meeting with them in Game 5.”

Listening to the players, this transition from one game to another seems easy. You have to remember, though, that they are conditioned to think that way. Since the beginning of their career, they have been instilled with this philosophy. This high-level learning is necessary to find a balance between having a short memory, not to drag on poor performances or being too confident after a victory, and keeping in mind the mistakes of previous matches to know how to adjust.

“From university, you are told every day about the importance of each game and to take the season game after game because if you think of something else, you open the door to a lack of preparation,” reveals Grant Williams. So the only thing that matters is the next game, the 12-15 guys you’re going to play against that night and put all your energy, mental and physical, into that. »

It’s one thing to do it in college or in the regular season, it’s another thing when it comes to doing it in a series finale. During the two and a half weeks of the NBA Finals, players are carried around from obligation to obligation. If they are used to talking to the media every day, this attention is increased tenfold throughout the final, especially for the players on the bench.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with external pressure.

So players need to be able to separate the game from the spectacle of the Finals, and what’s at stake is the elixir that allows them to focus on what really matters.

“For the group, this final and the next game is all that matters” continues Grant Williams. “I think when you are told that there is only one thing that matters, even if there are a lot more obligations than in the other series, I have complete confidence in my teammates and I know that we are all pulling in the same direction. »

What about all the noise around the Finals on social networks and in the media? After the Celtics’ victory in Game 1, everyone was ready to give the Larry O’Brien trophy to Boston. After the Warriors response in Game 2, it was the opposite excess. Same for Games 3 and 4.

In his podcast after Game 3, Andre Iguodala explained that listening to everything that is said, especially after a defeat, is the perfect recipe for losing your confidence. Players must therefore find the balance that suits them and it is different for Draymond Green or Grant Williams.

“Everyone has their own way of dealing with it all” told us the strong winger of the Celtics. “Personally, I don’t watch much TV. If I want to watch something, I go to streaming sites to watch my shows and that’s how I manage to clear my head. I try to isolate myself from everything going on around the show and block out all that buzz. I don’t read Twitter, I’m not on social media, and I stay in touch with a select group of friends and family. »

While the rest of the world draws hasty and contradictory conclusions after each encounter in these Finals, the protagonists hide behind their favorite adage. They take game after game to keep their feet on the ground. A cliche, but a useful cliche.

Interview in San Francisco.

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