Despite their status as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics remain an unfinished product, and their time is not yet here.
But if the C’s are able to close out their second-round series with the Wizards in tonight’s Game 7 at TD Garden, the core pieces of this team — many of whom have been here since the beginning of the post-Big Three rebuild — take that next step towards proving that their time is closer than the current NBA landscape would suggest.
“Every game in the playoffs is a big game, but this definitely means a lot for us as a team,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley admitted at practice on Sunday. “I think it’s gonna say a lot about us as a team as well. All the adversity we’ve been through this year, I think there couldn’t be a better situation we could be in than to go up against a great team like the Wizards, the great individual players that they have in a Game 7, and come out on top and move on to the conference finals.
“A lot of people counted us out this year and I feel like every single game throughout this year we got better and better and better and better. I feel like the teams that continue to get better in the playoffs, it really says a lot about them. And we’ve been one of those teams and I’m hoping that we continue to grow and we can finish this series and play against Cleveland.”
But this is a situation that’s yet to be experienced by just about everybody in that C’s locker room.
“All of these guys in college played Game 7 every time they took the court in March,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who will coach the first Game 7 of his NBA coaching career tonight, said. “Certainly there are moments during the season that are really pivotal where you can go one way or another. There are moments in a series where you can go one way or another. But when it’s how you play tomorrow determines if you play Tuesday, I can’t think of anything more fun, to be honest, if you love the game.”
The most NBA experience can be found in Al Horford, who has played in three Game 7s in his career, with a 2-1 record. That one loss certainly sticks out for the 6-foot-10 big man, too, as it came in Boston during his rookie season with the Hawks in 2008.
“It was a beatdown from the beginning,” Horford said of that 2008 Game 7, which ended as a 99-65 final, against the eventual NBA champion Celtics. “We did a lot to push it to seven games against that team. I don’t think you guys or anybody gave us any chance to even win a game or two. So by that point I think our group – what hit us was something different because the energy in the Garden was unbelievable. I just felt like it kept getting poured on us. And they just stayed at it, and they beat us down.”
The 26-year-old Bradley was part of the 2012 Celtics team that played in two Game 7s in a three-round effort that came up just short of the C’s third Finals appearance in five seasons, but sat both out of them due to a season-ending shoulder injury, the first one coming in a second-round win over the 76ers and the second one coming in Game 7 against the Heat.
“I think our mindset in 2012 was just to leave everything out there on the floor. I wasn’t able to play against the 76ers in the second round but when we went to Game 7 against [Miami] I know that was our mindset; We weren’t gonna settle. We weren’t gonna say, ‘OK, we accomplished our goal. We made It to Game 7, it really doesn’t matter if we win or not,’” Bradley recalled. “Because to me, that’s what it’s all about. What team really wants to go onto the next round.
“It’s either go on vacation or leave everything out there on the floor, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Full article @ Despite their inexperience, Celtics realize the magnitude of Game 7 in Boston
Source: GreenStreet Blog