Heat Avoid Elimination, Setting Up Another Celtics Game 7
Success hasn't come easy for the Boston Celtics this season. They’ve overcome one obstacle after another to carve out their path to the Eastern Conference Finals, and now the biggest challenge yet lies ahead: a Game 7 in Miami with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.
Boston had a chance to close out the Heat at home Friday night, but Jimmy Butler made sure that didn’t happen, putting forth a 47-point, nine-rebound, eight-assists, four-steal Game 6 masterpiece in a season-saving, 111-103 win.
Now, Boston has an opportunity to do what it has done all season long: respond.
“We've been resilient all year, and this is a different test,” said Jaylen Brown after logging 20 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals in the losing effort. “Obviously this game hurt to lose on our home floor, but we've got to have a short-term memory and come out. That team over there is hungry. They are experienced. So we've got to come out ready to go and almost just forget about last game and come out and have a great mentality.”
Having short-term memory after suffering defeat is what has helped the Celtics become so exceptional at bouncing back.
That’s why they’re 12-1 in games after losses since Jan. 21, including a perfect 5-0 in the postseason. And that’s why their confidence remains so high despite having to head into a hostile environment where they'll be playing for their lives.
“It's Game 7, a trip to the NBA Finals, a lot on the line,” said Jayson Tatum, who claims his confidence is at “a 10” heading into the series finale. “A couple of us have been in this situation before, so we know what's at stake. We know how much this means to everybody.”
It means so much to them because of their past failures at this stage. Tatum has already experienced two heartbreaking ECF eliminations, while Brown, Al Horford, and Marcus Smart have each experienced three.
Each of them is seeking their first trip to the finals, and all that remains in their way is this last challenge. It places plenty of pressure on their plates, but by now, Brown understands exactly how to confront such adversity.
“Just got to breathe,” he said. “You've got to get ready, prepare mentally, but come into the game loose, come into the game free, come into the game with a clear mind. You don't want to put unnecessary pressure on yourself and come and be ready to hoop, come ready to play basketball.
“Backs are on the wall, Game 7, loser go home. We've got to come out and find a way to win.”
It won’t come easy, but that’s exactly how the Celtics have gotten to this point, including in the last round when they had to overcome a 3-2 series deficit against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.
They’ve taken the hard road all season, they’ve overcome each obstacle thrown in their path, and that’s why they believe in themselves heading into this massive test on the road.
“If it was easy, it wouldn't be us,” said Derrick White. “We're going to get on this plane, we're going to go down to Miami and try to get the big win in Game 7. We've been here before, and we've got a lot of confidence in our group.”