Many analysts use a variety of statements when describing the psyche of the Boston Celtics,
“Grizzled Veterans who know what it takes to win Big Games”
If you ask me, these “proud” Celtics are not playing with a Champion’s attitude nor approach. They seem to be playing with the mindset that infuriates many fans about the NBA, “We’ll play hard and well when we NEED to”. In a series that could have ended in 5 games, the Celtics find themselves returning to Boston to have to play a Winner Takes All Game 7 (potentially without Avery Bradley) thanks to their inability to play with urgency on a night-in and night-out. In Games 3 and Game 5 the Celtics outclassed and thoroughly outplayed the 76ers in winning those two games by an average of 16 points per outing. In both games the Celtics offense came alive as they were able to score above the 100 point threshold. They certainly showed their dominance in those games and in both situations were able to regain/uphold home court advantage. The C’s clearly believed they sent the message to Philadelphia that the Celtics were a better team than Philly when they wanted to be. To Philly’s credit, they ignored the memo. In Games 4 and 6 they responded with an impassioned, stifling defense to complement an aggressive offensive mentality. The Sixers have taken the Celtics best shot twice and have refused to succumb to what many in the NBA believe to be a stark reality; that the Celtics are unmistakably going to win this series.
The Sixers are dangerous because they don’t care about the Championship Pedigree of the Celtics. They don’t care that Boston has been in this spot before and won. They are playing inspired and fundamental basketball under Coach Doug Collins and have embraced the challenge of closing the window on the Celtics. The Sixers are growing up before our eyes and if the Celtics aren’t careful, the 76ers will steal a series the Celtics should have already closed out.
On Saturday the 76ers have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Celtics’ should have recognized that as an older team they needed to close out the 76ers as quickly as possible to prevent injuries and to garner as much rest as possible for a (potential) rematch with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, the Celtics’ inconsistencies and the 76ers mettle have elongated the series. The question that needs to be answered Saturday is not what the margin of victory for the Celtics will be; rather it is which team is actually more mature.
The answer may not be as obvious as you think.
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