BOSTON (CBS) – All that can be said about Saturday night’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals is that one team will be moving on to face the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the other will be heading home.
With the way the series has played out – and the entire Celtics’ regular and postseason run for that matter – it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen.
To get all cliche on everyone “Anything Is Possible.” That’s pretty much how the postseason has gone for the Celtics anyways.
The Celtics entered the playoffs as the fourth seed, without home-court advantage — against the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the first round. A spectacular finish to the regular season saw them go 24-10 after the All-Star Break, and they were poised to be the dark horse in the NBA Playoffs.
But doubt surfaced when they dropped Game 1 in Atlanta; the first drop in the roller coaster ride that is the Boston Celtics postseason. And with Rajon Rondo suspended for Game 2 for bumping an official, the Celtics could have easily begun what could be the last playoff run of the Big 3 era in a 0-2 hole.
Instead the Celtics won thanks to 36 points from Paul Pierce. Then they won the next two in Boston to take a 3-1 series lead. The Celtics were on cruise control it seemed, ready to close out the Hawks and move on to face either the Derrick Rose-less Bulls or the eighth seeded 76ers.
Unfortunately, close-out games have been a problem for the Celtics. They squandered an opportunity to close the first round series in Game 5 in Atlanta when Rondo couldn’t get a last second shot attempt up. They won two nights later in Boston, but it was a game they shouldn’t have had to play.
That was true for the Philadelphia series as well. Against an eight-seed, the Celtics were supposed to win. It wasn’t going to be easy to dispatch the young and energetic 76esr, who were in the second round for the first time since AI stopped practicing.
But the Celtics couldn’t win two straight in that series, once again losing out on a chance to rest up for the Eastern Conference Finals after taking a 3-2 series lead. They handled Philadelphia in Game 7 in Boston, with all five starters scoring in double-digits, and once again moved on. Against Miami, not many were giving them a shot, especially after losing guard Avery Bradley.
But, as unpredictable as the Celtics have been, they are right there, one win away. They could have beaten the Heat in five games had it not been for missed opportunities, turnovers and a few bad calls in Game 2.
But they have no one to blame but themselves for having to play another Game 7 Saturday night. After an emotional Game 5 win in Miami, they came out and laid an egg in Game 6 in Boston. LeBron James could not be stopped, but the Celtics did little to weather the storm early on. They eventually succumbed to King James’ wrath, and now we sit and wait to see if the Big 3 played their final game on the Garden parquet.
The Celtics have a chance to win Saturday night; a great chance. The question remains will they take advantage of that chance? The norm this season has been they’ve followed up their stinkers with strong performances, and their strong performances with stinkers. Now they’ll face their toughest test; a do-or-die game on a hostile American Airways Arena.
Sure, there are plenty of things the Celtics need to do to win. Paul Pierce needs to shoot better than 4-for-18, Kevin Garnett needs to dominate, and Rajon Rondo needs to dictate the flow of the offense. The list goes on and on.
The Celtics can beat the Heat. They’ve proved that three times this postseason and another three times (well two, the final matchup with mostly scrubs doesn’t count) in the regular season. Whether they have the will to do so will be the question.
With their future uncertain, all that can be predicted is the Celtics will give it their best Saturday night. It will be their seventh Game 7 together (they are 4-2 in the previous ones) and are not going to go down without a fight. They’ve been able to trade blows with the Heat this series, and now have to go out and do it for another 48 minutes.
It could be their last time together. And that is what makes them such a dangerous bunch.