Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
“I definitely, as a little boy, dreamed of being in a Game 7 — or winning a Game 7,” [Isaiah Thomas] said. “Hopefully, we can do that. It would be so good for this city and so good for this team to win [Monday] night.”
Like Thomas, Celtics coach Brad Stevens seemed downright giddy about a winner-take-all Game 7, the first of his NBA coaching career.
“These are the moments that you live for. This is what guys have always dreamed about,” Stevens said. “That’s what they enjoy. It should be a bunch of fun.”
Like Thomas, Bradley gushed with confidence on Sunday. He praised the progress of the Celtics this season but believes Boston is capable of more than just winning Monday’s Game 7. Asked if Boston could be deemed ahead of schedule by simply making the conference finals, Bradley refused to put a ceiling on what the Celtics are capable of this season.
“The sky is the limit. Every team should think that,” he said. “You should never think that you over-accomplished. I feel like every team feels like they should be wherever they end up at or better. Teams that fall short, you should always reach for the top, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve always believed we had a chance to be first place [in the East], that we’d have a chance to be where we are now. I feel like we have a chance to — we believe that we should be playing against Cleveland, beat Cleveland and go to the championship.”
Game 7 is upon us. What happens tonight will dominate the story lines for the next five months. If the Celtics lose, they blew a 3-2 lead, Danny should have improved the roster at the trade deadline, and they couldn’t beat an evenly matched Wizards team despite home-court advantage. If they win, they overachieved all the way to the conference finals, the organization went from a bottom five record to a top four finish in three seasons, Brad Stevens is a genius, and they still have cap space and assets to acquire another star — everything’s awesome!
It’s a twisted way of thinking, but that’s the reality of sports fandom and the media cycle. If John Wall — a 32 percent three-point shooter — missed that contested deep ball at the end of game six, Celtics nation would be rejoicing. Regardless of how it transpired, Boston is fired up about hosting this game seven.
This series has lived up to the hype in terms of intensity, physicality, individual performances, and trash talk. In a league where rivalries are all but dead, the Celtics find themselves in the middle of a heated matchup between teams that genuinely disdain one another. While the series has seen four blowouts in six games, both sides have each won a nail-biter, and the teams have scored nearly the same amount of points on an identical field goal percentage.
This is the most important game for the Celtics organization since the end of the Garnett/Pierce era. Forget about potential trades, the Brooklyn picks, championship timelines, free agent targets, collecting assets, forget all of that today. For now, it’s all about game 7, the two sweetest words in sports.
Page 2: Keys to a Game 7 Victory
The good news for the Celtics is that this Game 7 will take place in Boston. In NBA history, home teams in this situation have a combined record of 101-26, for a .795 winning percentage. But for the Celtics, the recent history seems even more encouraging.
They have faced the Wizards 10 times this year — including the regular season and the playoffs — and the home team has won each game.
“We worked during the season to get that homecourt advantage, and we have it,” Horford said. “And we need it [Monday.]”
“We know the Garden is going to be probably the best we’ve ever seen,” Thomas added.
Through the first six games, Washington and Boston have a near identical offensive rating (WAS: 114.0, BOS: 113.5) and an even 46.2 field goal percentage. Isaiah Thomas is averaging 27.2 points and 6.3 assists shooting 45 percent from the field and 45 percent from three, while John Wall is pouring in 26.3 points, 10.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks on 40 percent shooting. The all-star guards have delivered as expected, but the performance of role players have decided each of the games.
For Washington, Markieff Morris averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds in the three losses but 14 points and 9 rebounds in the three wins. Otto Porter no-showed game 6, but he averaged 18.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals on 68 percent shooting during their wins in game three and four. Bradley Beal is averaging 21.7 points but the Boston defense is limiting him to 26.3 percent three-point shooting.
Al Horford is putting up an amazing stat line, averaging 17.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks. He’s made 12 of 21 threes and shooting a ridiculous 69 percent from the field. Bradley was lights out the past two games and Crowder was the big performer of game one. Marcus Smart is the main problem, as he’s shooting only 31.6 percent an has a -20 net rating.
The formula is simple. Thomas will carry the Celtics offense while Wall carries the Wizards. Horford and Beal are the steady second bananas. The team whose role players have the big performances is the team that will take the series, and almost every game it’s been a different guy who fills that spot.
Following from an insider piece by ESPN’s Chad Ford:
Several agents told me that they were considering holding their clients out of workouts with the Boston Celtics as well. The Celtics currently have the best odds of winning the No. 1 pick, and unlike the Kings, they have one of the most respected front offices and coaching staffs in the league…
“I have deep respect for the Celtics,” one agent said. “They may have the best GM and head coach in the league. But I’d have to understand what the plan would be for my client before I let them come. They are loaded at every position. There’s a real danger that they take a player and either he plays a limited role of the bench, or he becomes an asset to be traded to a situation that we’re uncomfortable with. It’s tough.”
Whether the Celtics advance or not, we’ll be hearing a great deal of draft buzz over the coming weeks. The 2017 draft class is loaded with guards, and on the Celtics’ guard-heavy roster, it’s predictable that agents don’t want their potential stars playing on a competitive roster. A 53-29 team isn’t supposed to land a top college prospect — this is uncharted territory for these agents.
This should not have any impact on the C’s draft pick. The agents can hold their players out of Celtic workouts, but the team is in the position of power. If the Celtics draft Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, they will have control for the next four years, and either player would happily play for Boston regardless of whether it’s an ideal situation. The agents can decline workouts or speak negatively about the Celtics in public, but that’s not going to influence a draft selection.
The Rest of the Links:
Providence Journal: Horford Proving His Worth