Understandably, there is a lot of grumpy folks posting today and a lot of criticism of the way the Celtics played last night. Believe me, I was frustrated watching the game like everyone else. This was a winnable game against a Magic team that did not play well at all. But, we need to put our initial reactions aside and look at the positives from this game, which will hopefully carry us over to Game 7.
1. Our defense played well and held the Magic to 85 points at home.
2. Perk continued to play well even though Howard was a beast last night. He was not getting any help with coverage on Dwight and played with foul trouble. He also gave us some clutch offense with a few jumpers.
3. Rondo also played well and almost had a triple double. Although he made a terrible inbound pass at a crucial time, we would have never even been in the game but not for his energy. And his ridiculous rebounding.
4. Scal has to play due to the injuries. So, we cannot debate why he is in the game. With that said, he has been one of the better players for the Celtics this series. If he does not play well, we do not get to a 7th game and this thing is over. We have to be elated with his quality minutes even though he cannot guard Lewis. Without KG, there really is no one on the team that can guard him. So at least we are getting points from him on the offensive end. And he has not had another concussion.
5. First half play of Pierce. He played this half like he should have played the whole series. He drove to the hoop and drew some fouls, as well as made his outside shots. At home, he should be energized to take that king of control the whole game.
6. The Celtics have plenty of experience playing Game 7's at home the past two years. Not something to shoot for every series, but it is what it is and they have won all three times. Throw in the overtimes in the Bull series and you have a battle tested team. Win or lose, they will not buckle under the pressure because they have been here before.
7. The home crowd will be rested and well lubed for a Sunday night game. I expect the Garden to be louder than it has been all season. It has to be because we really need the crowd to be in it on every possession.
8. To contrast, the Magic do not play well in elimination games and did not play well last night, except for Howard. They are not used to this kind of pressure, especially on the road. It will be tough for them to win such a pressure packed game at the Garden, though not impossible. And their coach can melt down on a moment's notice.
9. Although everyone said the right things the past two days, do not assume that all is forgiven between coach and players. Howard expressed his frustration with Van Gundy publicly, but does anyone think other players are muttering to themselves in private? Did anyone notice during a timeout last night in the fourth quarter, while the Celtics were still leading, that the team were tuning Van Gundy out? He even had to tell them to listen to him. If the Celtics can get a lead early Sunday night and keep pushing it, then they will play for themselves and quit on their coach. Not a good thing for them.
10. The law of averages. I know. I know. EVERYONE has been posting that Ray will get his shot back in this series. Based on his shooting percentage, that will happen. I just cannot imagine him missing like he has at home. Being the professional that he is, and his penchant for preparation, odds are that he is going to have a great Game 7. If he does, then our chances are very good. And if he is raining 3's, the Garden will go nuts and completely rattle the Magic.
11. Finally, the biggest positive is that we have come this far. Honestly, not many of us thought the Celtics would push the Magic to Game 7 without KG and Powe. We hoped for it and rooted for it, but logically did not think it could happen. Well, here we are. This game should be a celebration, win or lose. A celebration of this team's grit, heart and character. In the event of a loss, I hope all the fans at the Garden stand at the end of the game and give this team a long, loud ovation. They deserve it. And if they win, that ovation should be even longer and louder. I am excited that we have the opportunity to advance to the ECF. Let's erase the past 6 games of this series and look at this like the NCAA tournament. Winner advances and loser goes home. Let's forget Ray's poor shooting, KG sitting on the bench in nice suits, Mikki actually wearing a Celtic uniform, etc.. and just look at this game as an opportunity to do something great and unexpected.
Have a great weekend everyone and rest up for an exciting, interesting Sunday evening.