WALTHAM — Here are two things that have absolutely no bearing on tonight’s Game 7.
The Celtics‘ franchise 17-3 record in home Game 7’s: Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Larry Bird aren’t walking through that door and if they are they’ll be sitting in the loge seats. Patrick Ewing’s prediction: As other have pointed out, Ewing’s prognosticating skills are about as solid as the guy at Suffolk Downs who plays a can’t miss hunch on the No. 7 horse in the third race.
But there are more than enough subplots to go around for tonight’s penultimate game between the Celtics and Magic. Here are five.
1. UNDER PRESSURE
Normally the home team carries the weight of expectations in a Game 7, but not tonight. The Magic clearly have the heaviest burden because their entire season is based on taking the proverbial next step and if they can’t do it against a beaten up and wounded Celtics team their season will have to be considered a disappointment. ESPN ran an online roundtable discussion and six of the seven writers said the Magic had the most to lose (specifically Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy), and five of the seven picked the Celtics to win. Until proven otherwise this is the Magic’s lot in life: They need to win, but no one expects them to.
Taking that next step can be the hardest in a team’s evolution. Some 20 years later the old Bad Boy Pistons still talk about getting past the Celtics as the most important step in their quest toward winning an NBA championship. Last year’s Celtics skipped the formalities, but they were a unique exception in that their three most important players entire careers had been about building toward that moment.
“That was one of the things we talked about before (last year),” Doc Rivers said after the team’s hour-long shootaround Sunday morning. “This is not a team that needs a test run to win it the following year. We were going to win it now and that’s what we did.”
Orlando has taken a more traditional approach, advancing to last year’s conference semifinals before getting worn down by the Pistons. This is the Magic’s time to either continue that progression or risk treading water.
Pressure has been a funny thing in this series. Orlando almost blew a huge lead in Game 1 and then it failed to close out a winnable game at home in Game 4. Add in the Magic’s Game 5 collapse and that seemed to validate every negative perception they carried into this series.
Then in Game 6 the Celtics were unable to close out the series in what was a very winnable game. That was either poor execution or a statement on the Magic’s resiliency. It’s striking that even after that performance, very few people believe they can win tonight. (more…)