“But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
The Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks are so close competitively. They finished the season with the same record. They play two of the best defenses in the league. They focus their offense on their stars and the stars make the players around them better. They’re style of play isn’t the same, they go about their gameplans in different ways, but the end result is largely the same. So, it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that this series has gone seven games with both teams winning twice on their opponent’s homecourt.
Interestingly enough, both teams have also had to fight back from a late game collapse to show resilience in the next game. In Game 4, the Bucks had control of the game until the Celtics stormed back and stole it from them. In Game 5, the Celtics had control of the game until the Bucks stormed back and stole it from them, showing great mental resolve. In Game 6, the Celtics had control of the game, the Bucks stormed back but the Celtics held them off, showing great mental resolve.
Zoom out and you’ll recall that the Bucks were down 3-2 last year against the Nets. People were openly calling for Coach Budenholzer’s job. At that point in a series, there aren’t many schematic adjustments left to make. The Bucks just found an inner resolve and an extra gear and it was largely led by their star, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Looking back to the start of the season, the Celtics needed to shed some bad habits, establish a winning culture, and develop the resolve it takes to win close games. They struggled in close games all season, and some of that was luck, but some of it boiled down to focus. You can see it play out on a micro scale in this series. When the Celtics get a lead, they slip back into bad habits: walking the ball up the court, overthinking possessions, and generally not being the aggressor.
If there’s one thing we have learned about these two teams it is that Game 7 is going to be highly competitive. I would be shocked if either team ran away with it, if only because the other team will refuse to give up hope. So if the Celtics hope to survive and advance, they have to learn the same lessons the Bucks learned last season. The same lessons that they’ve been learning all season long. And they have to execute those lessons against a team very much like themselves in the highest pressure situation they’ve faced this year.
Spider-man is pointing at Spider-man and both teams are worthy of advancing to the next round. Both sides deserve to be proud of the way they’ve handled themselves in the series and each has earned the respect of the other team. With the matchup as close as that, it might just boil down to the TD Garden rims feeling that much more comfortable to Boston. Here’s hoping at least.