After what has seemed like an interminable wait for some reason, we finally get Game 7 today. Is this the end of the Celtics bizarre, thrilling, injury-riddled playoff run? Or will we get to watch this hard-working, ragged crew play at least four more games against Cleveland?
I watched Game 6 with a bunch of NBA bloggers and writers, and heard two things over and over: 1) “This game doesn’t matter; the Celtics will win Game 7 at home by 20.” And: 2) “This series doesn’t matter; the Cavs will destroy whoever wins.”
I disagree on both counts. There is no reason to expect a Celtics blowout in this game; the teams have split ten games this season, and the Celtics have had a truly easy time just once (in Game 2 of this series).
As for the Cavs, yes, they’ll almost certainly beat Boston if the C’s advance. But a spot in the conference finals, for a team suddenly this thin, would be a special accomplishment.
Things to watch tonight:
• WHICH SHOOTING GUARD WILL GO OFF?
The struggles of Ray Allen (30 percent shooting for the series, with misses on 31 of his last 36 threes) and J.J. Redick (3-of-25 since Game 2) have been well-chronicled. Ray seems confident that he has a big game in him, according to the Herald. Here’s the money quote:
“Every shot that I take is good. For the last second you see the ball rattling around the rim, and sometimes it toilet bowls and it goes down and sometimes it goes out. You never know until that ball goes all the way through, and I’ll be making sure it goes all the way through (tonight).”
ESPN’s Mike Moreau is looking for Allen to try and get into the paint or to the free throw line by driving when he catches the ball off a curl instead of shooting a long jumper. I completely agree.
As for Redick, he opted not to shoot at all in practice on Sunday, watching film instead, according to the Globe. He joked that he didn’t miss a single shot at practice.
• WILL THE MAGIC BE NERVOUS?
Rashard Lewis: “This is fun more than anything.”
The Master of Panic (I keed, I keed): “I think the playoff experience is important and great, but at the end of the day it’s a basketball game. These guys have all played hundreds, even thousands of basketball games. They’ve all been in various places and various levels in very big games.”
Rafer Alston is leaning on Hedo Turkoglu’s experience with the Kings and Anthony Johnson’s NBA Finals experience with New Jersey: “I look at that more than if someone has ever played in a Game 7. Going to the conference finals, the Finals, I think that helps a lot.”
And McCann has the news that Dwight Howard’s cereal is sending him a message about Game 7: “That’s the word of the day: Dominate. I was eating some Alphabits cereal. The first scoop I picked up it said dominate, so I put it back down and said “dog this is crazy.” So I picked it up again and it said dominate! So I ate it, stirred the bowl up, picked it up again and it was dominate! It was crazy.”
SPEAKING OF DWIGHT, CAN THE CELTICS GET HIM IN FOUL TROUBLE?
Moreau expects the C’s to have Rondo and Perkins go after Howard on offense. Seeing Dwight spend five extra minutes on the bench would be huge, if only because of his impact on defense and rebounding. As Steve Weinman over at CelticsBlog has pointed out, D12 is grabbing an insane 26.8 percent of available boards when he’s on the floor, and his ten offensive boards in Game 6 were among the outcome-deciders in that game.
CAN GLEN DAVIS AVOID FOUL TROUBLE?
This doesn’t need to be explained. And in case you were wondering, Mikki Moore is ready just in case, according to the Globe.
CAN RONDO, SCAL AND HOUSE MAKE THE MAGIC PAY FOR DOUBLING PIERCE?
Moreau, who has been on the ball about most everything in this series, expects Orlando to continue sending Alston/Johnson at Pierce to force another Celtic to shoot. This means Pierce will have to make his passing decisions quickly, and that Scal/House will have to make shots from the weak side. Look for Rondo to try and squeeze himself into more threatening positions on the baseline or on the wing, and for him to try and drive by the rotating defender after receiving the pass from Pierce.
Really, we could on and on with potential “keys to the game” here. Will Rashard Lewis have the monster game we’ve been dreading? Will someone unexpected (Marbury? Gortat? Pietrus?) step up and play a huge role in this game? Will the Magic have their first good night from three-point range since Game 3?
The reality is that anything can happen, and anyone could emerge as tonight’s hero. That’s the fun of Game 7. Enjoy the game, and go Celtics!