BOSTON (CBS) — It’s only fitting that Celtics-Bucks is coming down to a Game 7. There was some doubt their second-round series would get there after Boston blew Game 5 at home, but the Celtics bounced back with authority in Friday night’s Game 6 in Milwaukee.
Now this incredibly evenly matched series will come down to one final game at TD Garden for all the marbles — or at least a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. Both teams are going to leave it all on the floor and both head coaches will do anything and everything they can to get a win. It’s a stressful experience for players and fans, but this is what sports are all about.
There is nothing like a Game 7. The Celtics, after flirting with elimination, cannot wait for Sunday.
“Game 7s are the biggest and best games,” Jayson Tatum said after dropping 46 points on the Bucks in Boston’s Game 6 victory. “This is it. It’s do or die. It’s going to be fun. This is supposed to be fun. It’s basketball in the biggest moments on the biggest stage.”
The Celtics are an NBA-best 24-9 in Game 7s in franchise history, with a 20-5 mark at home. The odds are on their side too, with the home team winning 76.8 percent of the time.
There have been some truly epic Game 7 clashes in Boston. Most recently, Isaiah Thomas and Kelly Olynyk (yes, that Kelly Olynyk) led the Celtics to a thrilling 115-105 Game 7 victory over the Washington Wizards in the 2017 East Semis. Boston’s Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen earned an 85-75 Game 7 win over the 76ers at TD Garden in 2012.
And we all remember the epic Paul Pierce-LeBron James Game 7 battle in the second round of the 2008 playoffs, when Pierce scored 41 points and Lebron 45 in a thrilling 97-92 Boston victory. They really don’t get better than that one.
Celtics and NBA legend Bill Russell was the king of Game 7, winning all 10 in which he appeared in. Eight of those came at the Garden, with his final two Game 7 victories in enemy territory.
No matter how Sunday’s Game 7 between the Celtics and the Bucks measures up, this current group of Celtics have only one thing on their minds.
“The only thing I think about is winning. That is the only thing that matters,” said Jaylen Brown.
Boston’s young core of Tatum, Brown and Marcus Smart have their share of Game 7 experience. Brown was a rookie and Smart was in his second season for that win over the Wizards, and both have played in four Game 7s. Tatum has three of them under his belt. They were all part of Boston’s 112-96 Game 7 win over the Bucks in the opening round of the 2018 playoffs. Their most recent winner-take-all victory was in the second round in 2020, when the trio combined for 66 points in a hard-fought 92-87 win over the Toronto Raptors in the NBA bubble.
Their one loss was against LeBron and the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018, when Boston made a deep playoff run in Tatum’s rookie season despite losing Kyrie Irving late in the regular season.
They believe that all of those Game 7 memories — the good and the bad — will help come Sunday afternoon.
“Experience is the best teacher. Learning from them was great, being in bigtime playoff games, being in Game 7s, Eastern Conference Finals. You learn a lot and we have to show what we’ve learned in this next game,” Brown said after Game 6. “Survive and advance.”
The Bucks have a Game 7 win on their resume as well. In the second round last season, Giannis and Company came out victorious in a 115-111 overtime battle with the Brooklyn Nets on their way to a title. Antetokounmpo had 40 points in the win.
In clinching the two-seed in the East on the final day of the regular season, the Celtics will play host in Sunday’s deciding game. Everyone is expecting TD Garden to be rocking with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on the line. Tatum said that TD Garden has the best atmosphere in the NBA, and his teammates agree.
“I’ve had a few Game 7s in Boston and being in the Garden is not the place you want to be on the road in Game 7,” said Smart.
“I expect it to be loud. I expect it to be fun and I expect to be part of a great game,” said Brown. “The best two words in basketball are ‘Game Seven.’”
The fun will tip off around 3:30pm on Sunday afternoon. The noise will begin a few hours earlier.