The Celtics have played in a whopping 29 Game 7s in their storied history and have won 21 of them. In their current series against the Wizards, the home team has won every game so far.
Both of those nuggets would lead you to believe that the Celtics are a lock to win Monday night at the Garden and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Not so fast.
In 2009, many jumped to the conclusion that an Eastern Conference Finals trip was a sure thing when the Orlando Magic came to town for a semi-finals Game 7 against the C’s. Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard had different plans as the Magic outscored the Celtics 35-21 in the fourth quarter of that one, en route to a 101-82 victory and a date with LeBron’s Cavs in the ECF.
It should be noted that the Celtics did not have Kevin Garnett that entire series due to injury, but nonetheless the Celtics were heavy favorites going into the do-or-die contest.
As for the here and now, here are three things to keep close tabs on.
The Celtics did a terrific job on John Wall at the start of Friday night’s Game 6 in Washington, holding him to 1-of-12 shooting early on. Wall would eventually rebound, as would his Wizards, as he scored 26 points on 9-of-25 shooting – and hit a killer of a 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left – in a 92-91 Washington victory.
The Celtics will need to have a first half of Game 6 kind of effort on Wall Monday night as Washington will surely want to get the ball into the hands of its best player in a do-or-die Game 7.
For the series, Wall is averaging 26.3 points per game.
Given the home cooking in the series thus far, one could make the case that the Celtics played their best basketball of the series this past Friday night in D.C.. It was an inspired effort, and if the game had been held at the Garden, no doubt the Cavaliers would be in town right now instead of the Wizards.
One interesting note is that the Celtics have been on fire in their own building offensively in this series. In Game 1 they put up 123 points, in Game 2 they put up 129 points and last Wednesday in Game 5 they put up 123 points.
That said, Game 7s tend to be sloppy and ugly – with both teams going balls to the wall on defense (think 2010 Lakers – Celtics Game 7 in LA). The Celtics may have to win this one without breaking 100 points.
Fix the bench
Nearly all of the offensive credit for the Celtics’ strong Game 6 play, despite the loss, goes to their starters. Isaiah Thomas scored 27, Avery Bradley scored 27, Al Horford had 20 and Jae Crowder had 10. The Celtics’ bench though was mostly invisible on Friday night as it scored a grand total of five points. Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier both played 11 minutes but did not score and Marcus Smart played a whopping 28 minutes and scored just one point on 0-3 shooting.
In all of the Celtics’ victories in this series, they’ve had at least one player off the bench score nine points or more. They’ll need that offensive boost in Game 7.