Opportunity Knocks for Celtics as Game 7 Approaches

BOSTON – Brad Stevens somehow found tranquility in the aftermath of an emotionally exhausting, double-overtime defeat to the Raptors in Game 6 Wednesday night.

A looming win-or-go-home Game 7 hasn’t stressed him one bit. It has instead excited him as a rare opportunity that has been placed in front of him, his players and his staff.

“It’s funny,” he said Thursday, “out of the last four weeks, I think I slept better last night than I’ve slept at any time, because I knew we competed, I know there’s things we can clean up, and I’m also looking forward to this because this is what you’re here for.”

‘This,’ as Stevens and his players have consistently referred to Game 7, is the aforementioned opportunity, which in this particular case should be referred to in the plural.

Friday night is an opportunity for individual Celtics to go down as legends. It’s an opportunity for the Celtics to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years. It’s an opportunity for Boston to show that it can be shaken but not stirred.

It’s an opportunity for everyone involved to live out their dreams.

“These are things when you’re a kid, this is what you want to do,” Stevens said of competing in a Game 7.

Stevens himself has coached in three previous Game 7s during his seven seasons as head coach of the Celtics. He is 2-1 in those games, having beaten the Wizards in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals, upending the Bucks in Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and losing to the Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018.

The coach said Thursday that as time has passed in his coaching career, he has come to value these moments even more in real time.

“The older I’ve gotten, the more I appreciate it,” he said. “And I think that that’s because I know how hard winning is, and I know how hard it is to compete and to get back up.”

That’s exactly what Boston must do Friday night. It was on the verge of knocking Toronto out of the Playoffs during Game 6, but things didn’t quite go the Celtics’ way. Now Game 7 stands as an opportunity for them to rise to the challenge and answer the call to move on to the next round.

That’s a heck of an opportunity for everyone involved – an opportunity which has led to Stevens feeling eager, yet at the same time tranquil.

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