The NBA Playoffs are almost always an emotional rollercoaster for all involved. The stress and pressure have been turned up to 11. Every 9-point run feels like a momentum swinging event and every game feels like a defining chapter in the franchise. So, it would be myopic and self-absorbed to assume that we have it worse than any other fanbase.
But doesn’t it just seem ...more with this team? My goodness, this team is giving me ulcers.
Maybe last year it was a little easier because the whole season felt like we were playing with house money. It started off poorly and then everything seemed to coalesce at nearly the right time ...until the gas ran out at the end. It was still stressful in the playoffs, but it felt like if they didn’t win a particular series, they would still have something good to build upon.
Once they made it to the Finals, expectations were raised though. A second round flameout would be a massive disappointment. Al Horford’s age window becomes a real concern. The offseason will be dominated by Jaylen Brown’s contract situation and to a lesser extent, Grant Williams’ restricted free agency.
Had the Celtics lost last night and had Jayson Tatum hadn’t had his big 4th quarter, the narrative surrounding the team all summer would have forced me to buy a cabin in the woods with no WiFi or contact with the outside world.
But they did win Game 6 and they have forced a Game 7. The Celtics play at home (which hasn’t been as big of an advantage as you would normally think) everyone gets another chance to rewrite the history of this series.
The Sixers are a worthy foe and my respect for Joel Embiid has grown even more. James Harden has been more Jekyll and Hyde than Tatum. Tyrese Maxey would be a joy to watch if he wasn’t so terrifying to root against. For all of our angst, you have to imagine the Sixers fans must be rocking back and forth muttering “trust the process” over and over.
So, we’re on to Game 7 on Sunday. It is too simplistic to say that Games 1-6 don’t matter, but you know full well that the story of this series will depend on the outcome of this game. We would have remembered the Heat series last year very differently if Jimmy Butler hits that shot at the end. We would have remembered the Bucks series last year differently if Grant Williams didn’t go supernova from 3.
Somehow, we need Jayson Tatum to snap out of his slow starts. We need Al Horford to shoot like an elite shooter. We need Jaylen Brown to show his clutch gene. We need Robert Williams to be a disrupter. We need to make 3 pointers and defend as if the whole season is on the line, because it is.
We need this because this is who we are as fans. Our emotional state is inexplicably wrapped up in grown men playing a game in which we have little to no influence over (the TD Garden crowd also needs to absolutely be rocking on Sunday). Wins are more of a relief than a moment of joy and losses feel devastating. I’m not mentally or emotionally prepared to talk about the offseason yet, so let’s win, survive, and advance.