The Impact of NCAA Experience in Game 7
|05.17.09 at 8:05 pm ET|
Veteran experience can be one of the biggest advantages in the NBA playoffs. The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, though, are relying on two of their more inexperienced players to help them advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Fortunately for 23-year-olds Glen Davis and Courtney Lee, they have been in high pressure situations before – the NCAA Tournament.
Davis was one of the driving forces on the LSU Tigers’ Final Four run in 2006, the school’s first in 20 years. Playing on a big stage prepared him for performing in the spotlight of the NBA, especially since being thrust into the Celtics starting lineup.
“This is the seventh game, the elimination game. Either win or go home,” Davis said prior to Game 7. “Every game in the NCAA Tournament is either win or go home. So it’s a good experience because it helps you understand the meaning of each game, and you understand the meaning of Game 7. No matter how you look at it, it helps you mentally prepare yourself to win or go home.”
Lee was one of the centerpieces of a tourney run at Western Kentucky. In 2008 he led the 12th seeded Hilltoppers to the Regional Semifinals, pulling off two upsets along the way. This season, the rookie has been a sharpshooting threat for the Magic, shooting 45% from the field and 50% from three-point range in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
But unlike Davis, Lee isn’t thinking too much about his college days.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with it,” he said. “NCAA experiences are fun but this is totally different. You’re playing amongst the best of the best in the world. Everybody is chasing one goal, the championship, so it’s a lot different.”
Lee added, “Ultimately it’s just basketball. You’re just playing basketball. No one’s life is on the line out there. This is the game you grew up playing and you enjoy playing it. You’re playing against the best so it makes it fun, and then you’re out chasing your dream, a championship, so it’s just basketball.”
Differences aside, both players agree that winning a Game 7 has a significant meaning in their short careers. For Lee, a victory on Sunday night would be a “milestone.” Davis, who has already won three Game 7s with the Celtics, concurs.
“It means a lot just to have that experience under your belt and know that you had a part to do with winning Game 7, one of the most important games,” said Davis. “You’ve just got to enjoy the moment. I am blessed and fortunate just to be in a Game 7 and start and play.”
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