After a game ends, the coach normally addresses the team and goes over the main points he wants to get across before the team dresses and heads home (or to the hotel). Normally the media have time to finish up their game stories and work their way to the press conference room. On Friday night, Brad Stevens was waiting at the podium for the press to arrive. Why? Because he had a very succinct message for his players.
“Game 7 Monday.”
All Brad Stevens told the Celtics after the loss: "Game 7 Monday." pic.twitter.com/ICncATIzxC— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) May 13, 2017
Honestly, what more needs to be said?
This round has been a series of haymakers thrown by each team. Either from game to game or as often as not, within each game. The Celtics landed the first few big blows in Boston, in part because Isaiah Thomas kept doing Isaiah Thomas type things. The Wizards counterpunched in Washington, in part because they were able to take Thomas out of his game by sending multiple people at him.
The Celtics adjusted to that strategy by finding open cutters in game 5. Washington dared anyone but Thomas to beat them and the Celtics happily obliged.
In game 6 the Wizards started hedging a bit more and the Celtics missed a lot more shots (open 3’s, layups, and dunks). The result was a close game that John Wall was able to secure with a big time shot. Hats off to him.
There aren’t many adjustments left to be made at this point. Each team has scouted and studied the other team ad nauseum and they know every set and tendency by heart. At times the games have been chippy but at some point both sides seemed to realize that they have to get down to business and prove it on the court for it to mean anything. These are two very evenly matched teams and it only makes sense that this series would have gone to 7 games.
So what’s left to say? It comes down to which team can execute better on Monday. It certainly helps that the Celtics have home court advantage. In particular in a matchup where the home team has won every game in both the regular season and playoffs.
Generally speaking, the stars are going to be stars no matter where they play. However, the role players and bench guys tend to be much better at home than they are on the road - in particular in the playoffs. In game 6, the Celtics bench contributed just 5 points. The Wizards bench has been atrocious for much of the series but in particular in Boston. Hopefully the Celtics can get enough from their bench to make the difference in a tight series where any bounce of the ball could be critical.
Game 7. One team will advance, the other will go home for the summer. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready for the offseason. We have the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, a potentially franchise altering event, and I haven’t even allowed myself much time to think about it (not that mulling over the number combinations is really going to help them to come up in our favor).
Maybe all that is waiting for the victor is a 4 game public humiliation at the hands of LeBron James and defending champ Cavaliers. But it also means a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals (no banners hung for that in Boston, but a modest accomplishment just the same). Besides, you never know what could happen in a 7 game series and one of these teams could very well shock the world and advance to the Finals.
Still, as evenly as they’ve played, only one can advance for that opportunity. As much as these two teams have grown to dislike each other, I can’t help but to admit that I have a great deal of respect for John Wall, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, and even coach Scott Brooks. I still don’t like Markieff Morris, but begrudgingly I have to admit that if he was on my team I’d probably have a lot of fun rooting for him. I honestly feel like the Celtics are the better team, but I know it is close and I know that the final game will be provide the ultimate ruling.
When you were a kid and practiced shooting by yourself, chances are you counted down a game clock in your head, a mythical announcer prattling on with cliches and catchphrases, ...and it was always game 7. Why? Because game 7 is the ultimate win-or-go-home moment in the NBA.
On Monday these guys get to live that dream. Will they be up to the challenge? Will they drain the shot and hear “the crowd goes wild!” in their heads? Or will the shot clang feebly off the rim, as they feel “the agony of defeat?” I guess we’ll find out.
Game 7 Monday.