And so it has come to this for the Boston Celtics.
After squandering another golden opportunity to put away the upstart Philadelphia 76ers once and for all Thursday, Kevin Garnett and his Celtics squad now face an inevitable win-or-go-home scenario on Saturday night back at the TD Garden.
They say you get what you deserve, and Doug Collins’ squad definitely earned the right to die another day after outplaying their Boston counterparts on both ends of the court of an 82-75 Game 6 win in Philly. Playing in front of Sixers legends like Allen Iverson and Julius Erving, Philly used a balanced scoring attack and a stifling defense to get them one win away from an improbable trip to the Eastern Conference final.
Five 76ers (including Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday) scored in double figures to keep the pressure on the Celtics to match them on the scoreboard throughout the night. Overall, it’s safe to say Boston didn’t return the favor.
Sure, the ageless Kevin Garnett had another ho hum solid night at the office, with 20 points and 11 rebounds. And Paul Pierce fought through a pesky Philadelphia defense to tally a game-high 24 points.
But outside of that duo, Doc Rivers’ team couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. Brandon Bass proved his Game 5 performance was merely a one-hit wonder, as his encore consisted of just eight points on a dreadful 2-of-12 from the field.
The Celtics finished the game shooting a meager 33 percent overall and have now lost 11 of their last 13 road playoff games when they have a chance to win the series. And with that, the scene—and all of the pressure—shifts back to Boston.
Call this a herky-jerky, panicking statement (which, in case you haven’t noticed, Boston fans tend to proclaim a lot when adversity hits), but it seems like the basketball gods are on Philly’s side entering Game 7.
After all, it was exactly 30 years ago that the aforementioned Dr. J led the Sixers to a Game 7 playoff win in Boston. Three decades later, they’re poised to do it again.
Philadelphia is the younger, deeper and healthier team right now. Collins can match Rivers blow for blow in the coaching department.
And just to remind you, the Celtics have struggled at times to close out teams in this particular Big Three era. As a franchise, Boston is 35-2 all-time in playoff series in which it holds a 3-2 lead.
And it won’t surprise me one bit if that record drops to 35-3 after Saturday night. Outside of Garnett, the Celtics can’t get a consistent offensive performance out of anybody.
Ray Allen’s bum ankle has rendered him old, slow and totally useless on defense. And if Boston loses the turnover battle again like it did in Game 6, then Philly could very well be moving on.
So in the final run for this embattled group of Celtics, it has come to this. After Game 7, they’re either going to be labeled as a gritty group of guys who continue to move on without excuses, or simply a gritty group of guys who couldn’t finish.
We’ll find out which label is accurate soon enough.