BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics haven't made anything easy for themselves this season.
Why would they start in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals?
After winning a critical Game 5 on the road in Miami, the Celtics were positioned to close out the series and send the Heat back to South Beach with the Oklahoma City Thunder already waiting in the wings in the NBA Finals.
Instead, they surrendered their home court advantage early on, leading by just two points the entire game. LeBron James single-handedly forced a deciding Game 7 with 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in the Heats 98-79 victory.
The Celtics have been in this situation before. They went to seven games in the previous round against the Philadelphia 76ers and have played numerous seven-game series in the New Big Three Era.
But this time they are on the road, away from the cheers of their home crowd that lasted until the final buzzer on Thursday night, and forced to fend off injuries, fatigue, and the looming shadow of James.
This team has been about adversity all year long, said Paul Pierce. This isnt going to be anything new. Its been tough for us all year long to get to the point where we would be at, and why wouldnt it be tough now? Winning is hard. Trying to get to the Finals is hard, and this is as hard as it gets. And I think we are prepared for it.
The Cs will make adjustments and try to right their wrongs from Game 6. They already know how to beat the Heat -- they did it in three straight games -- and now it is a matter of executing the game plan.
It goes beyond stopping James. Paul Pierce talked about recovering during the game. Rajon Rondo discussed taking care of the ball and getting into his sets. Keyon Dooling talked about playing team defense.
For the Celtics, the key is putting all of the pieces together on Saturday night.
Nothing has been easy up until this point, said Kevin Garnett. Cant expect it now. It is what it is. Were going to take these cards and play them. Lot of confident guys in here. Lot of guys whove been through Game 7s. Lot of experienced guys. Were going to lean on that and were going to fight. A bunch of fighters in this locker room.
As the Cs look ahead to Game 7, they see it as just another obstacle they will have to overcome. It will be the biggest challenge they have faced all season, but one they feel they have been battle tested to survive.
Honestly, that was a great opportunity, but we have another opportunity, said Doc Rivers. We get to play another game, Game 7. I would say most of the people in this room would have said, Wow, theyre going to get to Game 7. Well take it. Thats the way we have to view it. We won a game at theirs, they won here. Now we get to play for all the marbles. This team has not done it the easy way this year. Maybe this is justified for us -- go in there and do it.