First things first: I still expect the Celtics to win on Saturday.
Thats far from a guarantee, but more an educated assumption based on five years of watching this team. Sure, we can sit here and break down each awful aspect of Game 6 and every way that Game 7 might end in disaster. And sure, the C's have given us plenty of ammunition to do just that. But we cant have it both ways. Does this team have unmatched character? Do they possess unparalleled pride? Are they resilient beyond comprehension?
Because we spent the last two days screaming a resounding yes on all three counts, and that doesnt disappear after one game. Either its still there or it never existed. Which one is it?
Are the Celtics going to reach down in front of their home crowd, with their season (and in some cases, careers) hanging in the balance and do what it takes to beat a team they should beat, or will they roll over and die?
For all the ways you can evaluate Wednesdays loss, for all the concerns and negativity that arose from Rondo's timidness and continued refusal to play legitimate defense to KG's sudden allergy to that painted area under the hoop to the absence of Avery Bradley to the sad state of Ray Allen to Elton Brand's awakening to Phillys dynamic guard play, superior spacing, young legs and athletic excellence its still a makemiss league, and the most important take away from Game 6 is that the Celtics couldnt make squat.
As Sean Grande points out: Last night was the second-worst shooting performance in nearly 500 games of Big 3 basketball.
Actually, theres a lot of great info in that Grande post, and its short, so Im going to re-post it (If you don't already, follow Grande over here):
33 shooting is the 2nd worst shooting night in the 479-game New Big Three Era. (31.8 Game 4 2008 ECF at Detroit). They shot an identical 33.3 in the Game 6 Finals loss to the Lakers in 2010. In 394 regular season games, they've never shot below 34. LOW FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE NEW BIG 3 ERA - REGULAR SEASON.342 - @ PHOENIX JANUARY 28, 2011.345 - @ DALLAS MARCH 20, 2008 (W).345 - VS. ORLANDO NOVEMBER 19, 2009.346 - @ INDIANA NOVEMBER 1, 2008.346 - @ ORLANDO DECMEBER 25, 2010.350 - @ PHILADELPHIA MARCH 7, 2012.358 - @ CLEVELAND APRIL 12, 2009.375 - VS. CLEVELAND DECEMBER 2, 2007 (W).375 - @ SACRAMENTO FEBRUARY 16, 2010 (W).375 - @ TORONTO APRIL 13, 2012.377 - @ MILWAUKEE MARCH 15, 2009.377 - @ NEW ORLEANS DECEMBER 28, 2011.378 - @ CHICAGO JANUARY 8, 2011.380 - VS. INDIANA DECEMBER 22, 2009 (W).381 - @ WASHINGTON APRIL 11, 2011.384 - @ CHICAGO APRIL 7, 2011.385 - @ PHOENIX FEBRUARY 22, 2008.386 - VS. MIAMI MARCH 30, 2008 (W).386 - @ INDIANA JANUARY 14, 2012.388 VS. PHILADELPHIA DECEMBER 22, 2010 (W)
OK, so within that text, Grande mentions the three worst playoff and 20 worst regular season shooting performances of the New Big Three Era. Notice anything?
Of the 23 games, 18 came on the road. And of the five games that took place at the Garden, the Celtics were 4-1. It's different at home. It will be different at home.
Of course, what won't be different is that the Celtics are physically in a worse place than they've been all season. And Lord knows that's saying something. They've also put themselves in a horrible position. They've created a scenario where the margin for error is almost invisible, where all it takes is one awkward Rondo fall, one uneven Paul Pierce step or one case of KG foul trouble to bring it all to an end. Game 7 is March Madness. It's the NFL Playoffs. Anything can, and very likely will happen. It's a terrifying predicament, but it's the price you pay for letting a team like the Sixers live this long. For choking away Game 4, and sleeping on Game 6.
But still, right now, gun to your head, do you think the Celtics will take care of business?
I know they're not playing their best basketball, but you could have said the same before Game 5 when they were without Avery Bradley, with a run down Ray Allen, playing against this same scrappy, speedy and athletic Sixers and still came out on top.
Second things second: If the Celtics do win on Saturday night, the traumatizing details of last night will mean very little. The anger, frustration, depression, confusion, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhea that youre dealing with this morning will feel like a bad dream.
Ive used this analogy before but its like a pregnancy scare.
At one point or another, we've all been through it. It doesn't matter if it's because you're not with the right person, or can't afford it, or that your parents will kill you or any number of extenuating facts of life.
When you're not ready for a child, and the possibility arises, panic sets in, and until it's resolved, it's all you think about. After all, there's a chance that your whole life is about to change.
Boom. It's over.
If you're a guy, you get the call. Or if you're a girl, you . . . um, get the call. The scare was only a scare and in a second, everything's as it was. Your life returns to normal and that panic seems a little silly. All that time spent worrying and stressing and imagining every worst case scenario . . . for nothing? You wish you could take back those days or weeks of restlessness, but then again, how were you supposed to act? Who out there is actually strong enough to ignore or more, remain entirely unaffected by such obvious signs of trouble?
That's where we are with the Celtics. We're so afraid that this might be it. That they'll take the court for Saturday's pregnancy test, the result will come out "positive" and, whether or not we're ready, we'll have to turn the page and start a new chapter of our lives. It's only natural to panic. But if the Celtics can step up and close out the Sixers on Saturday, we'll look back on the way we feel right now and laugh. For that, while there's a definite urge to look towards Game 7 with a sense of unbridled fear and start outlining those Big 3 obituaries, I'm holding off. We all know what's on the line. More importantly, the Celtics know. They feel and understand much more than we do. They'll be ready.
Of course, if the Celtics do win, there's the reality of what comes next. Given the all that's happened to this team over the last five months, and more, the last week, our once legitimate dreams of seeing them upset Miami or Indiana have become increasingly far-fetched. Having enough pride and resiliency to bounce back for one more win at the Garden against a beatable Sixers team is one thing. But hitting the reset button and starting from scratch against a more talented and physical Miami or Indiana squad, and doing without Avery Bradley, most of Ray Allen andor home-court advantage? Ehhh
It doesn't look promising, but there's no point in going there until the Celtics are there.
We'll find out on Saturday. Pride. Character. Legacy. Seasons. Careers. Pregnancy!
It's all the line. And while last night's performance might have you questioning if the Celtics can step up, five long, unforgettable years of Big 4 basketball have me trusting that they will.