We’re heading for a do-or-die game seven in the Eastern Conference Finals after the Boston Celtics failed to close out the series in front of their own fans.
Jimmy Butler gave his best LeBron James rendition, with shades of game six from the 2012 conference finals against the Miami Heat coming back to haunt fans. Speaking after the game, Butler told the media his team knew they were going to win, and expect to be playing in the NBA Finals next week.
Butler’s performance, most notably in the opening period of the game, helped lead his team back into a series that many were declaring over, leading Kyle Lowry to risk an NBA fine by telling the media he thought his teammate played ‘f****** incredible’ throughout game six.
In 45 minutes of play, Miami’s star wing dropped 47 points, dished out eight assists, grabbed nine rebounds, notched four steals, and blocked a shot while shooting 55.2% from the field and 50% from deep. The Celtics had no answer for Butler’s intensity and physicality in the lane and will need to revamp their gameplan if they want to limit him on Sunday, May 29, when the loser will be watching the finals from home.
Tatum Confident Heading Into Game Seven
Oftentimes, the Celtics look like two different teams. First, you have a united unit who swat aside their opposition early, dominating on both ends of the floor and leaning into their physicality and defensive identity, and second, you see a team that constantly looks shellshocked at the speed and aggression of the game at this level.
On May 27, we saw the second side of the Celtics, and throughout the first quarter of play, it looked like they were trying to tread water. Sure, Boston managed to get back into the game in the second quarter and kept the game close until the final few minutes of the contest, but once a team has grasped the momentum it’s incredibly difficult to wrestle it back from them.
“Scale of 1-10? 10, I mean, It shouldn’t be any less than that, right? It’s the last game. This is what it’s all about. So, on a scale of 1-10, it’s a 10 for my confidence level in myself and the group,” Tatum told reporters, “It’s no secret. It’s Game 7, a trip to the NBA Finals, there’s a lot on the line. A couple of us have been in this situation before, so we know what’s at stake. We know how much this means to everybody. We know that going into the game.”
Home Court Holds Little Advantage
Looking back through this series, it’s apparent that home court holds little-to-no advantage for either side. Both Boston and Miami have won games in the others back yard, and neither has shied away from a fight, even when trailing in the series.
So, while game seven will take place in South Beach due to the Heat finishing the regular season as the first seed, it looks like the boost they will receive from their fans will be minimal at best. In fact, two of the Celtics’ three victories have come at the FTX Arena as opposed to their one win at the TD Garden.
The Celtics have also proved exceptionally gifted at bouncing back from losses, and haven’t lost back-to-back games throughout the post-season, showing some of their best performances while gaining revenge.
Of course, with so much at stake on May 29, both teams will be under tremendous pressure to perform at their absolute best, and whichever roster manages those expectations better, will likely be heading into the NBA Finals to face the Golden State Warriors.