One of the greatest spectacles in all of sports is Game 7. The reason? Well, by definition, it's all or nothing. Play better than another team for one game, regardless of what happened in the first six games, and you'll be moving on while your opponent makes tee times. Throw records and statistics out the window, and don't even think about making a prediction.
In the history of the NBA, there have been 108 total Game 7's played. Of those games, the home team has won 86 times, nearly 80 percent of the time. For that reason, and several others, the Philadelphia 76ers will have their work cut out for them when they face the well traveled Boston Celtics in Saturday night's do-or-die Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in Boston, MA.
Boston has played in more Game 7's than any other team in basketball history (27), in which it owns a 20-7 record (a .741 winning percentage). TD Garden has played host to five Game 7's, most recently on May 2, 2009 when the Celtics met the Chicago Bulls, a 109-99 win for Boston.
As previously mentioned, picking a winner in an Game 7 is usually senseless. You just can't script these things. With that in mind, let's take a look at three reasons why the Celtics and 76ers could win the game and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the big, bad Miami Heat.
HISTORY, AND PLENTY OF IT
They have been here once or twice before. Actually, as you read above, 27 times to be exact. And at the other end of five of those Game 7's were NBA titles. As for this group -- the Big Three plus Rondo -- they have played in five Game 7's together, winning three. Experience matters, a lot.
Having three (maybe four) future Hall of Famers is always helpful. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo have logged quite a few games under their belts together, not to mention two NBA Finals appearances, and sometimes, you just have to get a legendary game to push you over the top in a seventh game. Any of those four are capable of doing so, as they have on quite a few occasions before. Hey, "hero ball" does work sometimes. Boston may need it, too.
BIG GAME RONDO
Rajon Rondo might just be the one who plays some "hero ball" on Saturday. Rondo has been known to have big games in big situations. Doesn't this fit the description? Rondo is usually one of the few players who has a major advantage over the opposition, mainly because he's just so good. That will be the case in Game 7, and while the likes of Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams are both solid players, they don't compare to Rondo. You might as well just bet on a triple-double.
THESE YOUNGSTERS AREN'T SCARED ANYMORE
Sensitive and fragile were the words Sixers head coach Doug Collins used to describe his team late in the regular season when seemingly nothing was going right. Well, fast forward about a month, and Collins is calling his players grown ups. These aren't your fathers Sixers' (if they were, they probably wouldn't be a No. 8 seed), but they are confident bunch. As Collins said, one game in the playoffs is worth about 10 regular season games in terms of experience. Ergo, the Sixers have picked up 130 games worth of experience so far. Don't sleep on these kids ... er, men.
NOT YOUR EVERYDAY EIGHTH SEED
They did upset the No. 1 overall seed in the East, you know. OK, I know ... that No. 1 seed (the Chicago Bulls) didn't have its No. 1 weapon in Derrick Rose, and it was bitten pretty badly by the injury bug in their first round series against Philly. Still, that's a tough task. Doc Rivers, the Celtics' head coach, warned his team before the start of this series that these Sixers are resilient, and they just won't go away. Disregard the seeding, because this squad has talent, and some heart.
HEALTH VS. HURT
Ah, the injuries, the injuries. Boston is banged up pretty badly. Philly isn't. Could that be what this series comes down to? Unfortunately for the Celtics, it may very well be. Pierce and Allen are banged up, as are Mickael Pietrus and Greg Stiemsma, but perhaps the biggest loss of all is Avery Bradley, the second-year guard and Boston's defensive backbone who had season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday. As for Philly's injury list? Here it is: nobody. (Big) advantage, 76ers.
THE VERDICT: Homecourt and experience favor the Celtics, but health really favors the Sixers. So how can you make a prediction? You really can't, it's a toss up. Basketball is a game of runs, as Rondo likes to remind the media every so often, and this game is likely going to come down to whichever team has the last run. I'm going to give the edge to the Celtics (knock on wood), but it's very narrow. It's game seven, after all. Go big or go home. Anything goes. Are you ready?