Celtics know they can't be overwhelmed with importance of Game 7

Celtics know they can't be overwhelmed with importance of Game 7

BOSTON – Kelly Olynyk was having a conversation this morning with one of his friends and naturally, their talk turned towards tonight’s Game 7 against the Washington Wizards.

It’s a big game, the kind that becomes as much about playing for pride as it is about playing to perform well.

And for this 7-footer from Canada, he takes a prideful approach to tonight’s game, akin to how he feels towards his native country.

“The best thing I compare it (Game 7) to … it’s like when you have one game to make the Olympics,” Olynyk told CSNNE.com a few minutes ago. “And that’s kind of what it’s like (Game 7) for me. That’s how I’m looking at it, the way I’m approaching it now.”

That’s a good thing, because Boston will need all hands on deck in order to emerge victorious tonight and in doing so, move on to the Eastern Conference finals where they would host the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

While there’s no mistaking the pressure that exists in a game of this magnitude, veterans like Al Horford - who has been in Game 7’s and emerged victorious - understand how important it is to stay in the moment and not let the game’s importance overcome them.

“The big thing for us is to just come out and just play with a lot of freedom, understand just because it’s a game 7, nothing changes,” Horford told CSNNE.com. “We have to come out and play, do the things we do; defend, be active, rebound and just move the ball.”

Olynyk, a key reserve for the Celtics this season, understands all too well how important he and the rest of Boston’s bench will be in tonight’s game.

Playing with good health and clear mind has been among the many mantras talked about this season by head coach Brad Stevens as being important to success.

Olynyk gets it.

“You just have to play,” he said. “You play a lot of games of basketball in your life. it’s another game with bigger ramifications and on a bigger stage. This is what it’s about.”

Morris drills game-winner to lead Celtics over Thunder, 100-99

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Morris drills game-winner to lead Celtics over Thunder, 100-99

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving was decked out in all black, as was Jaylen Brown. 

The look was fitting for the somber mood many Celtics fans are in right now with Irving’s sore left knee being worse than initially thought

These are not the best of times for the Celtics as they try and cope with yet another rash of injuries.

The Celtics may not be where they want to be fit-wise. 

But that has nothing to do with their fight which was once again alive and well. 

And Boston’s gritty effort was rewarded with a 100-99 win over Oklahoma City. 

Marcus Morris drained the go-ahead basket, a 3-pointer, with 1.2 seconds to play.

Following an Oklahoma City time-out, Russell Westbrook’s desperation heave barely grazed the rim as time expired.

Boston was indeed on the comeback trail most of the fourth quarter.

With the Celtics trailing 95-92, Westbrook missed a 3-pointer that was rebounded by Jayson Tatum. 

However, Greg Monroe was called for a foul against Steven Adams that sent the 7-footer to the free throw line with less than a minute to play. 

Adams, who had 14 points and seven rebounds made both free throws. 

But as we’ve seen with this team, they play until the final buzzer. 

After a 3-pointer by Terry Rozier made it a 99-97 game, Oklahoma City’s Carmelo Anthony missed a pair of free throws, leading to a Celtics time-out with 7.7 seconds to play which set up Morris’ game-winning basket.

Boston opened the third quarter with a 12-4 lead capped off by a Tatum 3-pointer to lead 57-52. 

But once again the Thunder rallied back and went into the fourth quarter ahead, but not nearly as comfortable as they would have liked after Boston’s Shane Larkin made a 3-pointer at the buzzer that cut the Thunder’s lead to 75-73 after three quarters of play.

The game being so close down the stretch was indicative of how it began. 

Boston and its patchwork lineup stayed within striking distance in the first quarter, but found themselves on the short end of a 13-3 run near the end of the first quarter which ended with the Thunder leading 26-18.

The Celtics spent most of the second quarter on the comeback trail, but eventually blazed a trail of prosperity that allowed them to go on an 8-0 run fueled by Rozier that put the Celtics ahead 41-36.

But the Thunder, winners of six in a row coming into tonight’s game, bounced back with back-to-back baskets in a matter of seconds to make it a one-point game.

Oklahoma City went on to score eight of the last 12 points to lead 48-45 at the half.



Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

File photo

Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has stepped up his game this season. There’s no disputing that point. 
And the Celtics have rewarded him with increased playing time, which he has proven he deserves. 
While he has made the most of his opportunity with an increased role due to injuries, at some point Rozier’s minutes should go back to being 20 or so per game. 
It’s amazing how far Rozier has come in such a short period of time, from a first-round pick many questioned as being a reach on Boston’s part, to an integral part of the team’s quest towards Banner 18.
And it is games like tonight’s against the Oklahoma City Thunder that will put the experience gained by Rozier as a major contributor, to the ultimate test when he faces off against reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook.
No one expects Rozier to put up Westbrook-like numbers . . . but would anyone be shocked if he did?
Remember, Rozier’s first NBA start came this season and he racked up his first career triple-double. The next game out, he dropped a career-high 31 points. 
But as we get deeper into the season, he’s no longer viewed as a backup or a role player, They see him as a player that has to be accounted for, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. 
“There’s a lot of teams in this league you could easily see him starting for,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston via text. “He’s not Kyrie [Irving] obviously, and he’s a different kind of player than Marcus [Smart], but he can play. If teams didn’t know it before, they know it now.”
Rozier may not be a secret anymore, but here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on tonight as the Celtics go for the season sweep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 


If the Celts expect to win tonight, they better get it done in four quarters of play. Because overtime has been a good time for the Thunder. They come into tonight’s game with a 3-0 record in overtime this season. They are one of eight teams with an unblemished overtime record, and no other team in the league this season has as more wins (3) in overtime without a single defeat. 


The NBA hit Marcus Morris up for $15,000 following “verbal abuse of a game official” at the end of Boston’s 108-89 loss at New Orleans.  Morris will be lighter in the wallet, obviously. But it also might get him even more fired up tonight which could lead to him lighting up the Thunder. 


Scoring around the basket has not been a strength of the Celtics, but with key players on the perimeter hurt, Boston has to generate points in other ways. Doing so against the Thunder, a team that has allowed 43.1 points in the paint per game --10th-fewest allowed in the league this season -- will be a challenge.


At some point tonight, Boston will be challenged to get back on defense and not allow Russell Westbrook to score on the break. The Celtics have been one of the league’s better transition defense teams in allowing 10.2 fast-break points, which is the fourth-fewest allowed per game this season. Meanwhile, the Thunder average 14.1 fast-break points, which ranks third in the league. 


The Celtic players talk all the time about how great the TD Garden crowd can be. But at the end of games lately, they haven’t let them much to cheer about. The C's come into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with losses in five of their last seven home games with the lone wins coming over Memphis and Charlotte – two teams currently out of playoff seeding. Boston’s last home win over a team that’s currently in the top 8 was a 97-96 win over Portland on Feb. 4, a game in which Al Horford hit a game-winning, fadeaway jumper as time expired.