Forty eight minutes before the teacher says, "Pencils down, turn in your test." Six games are in the books, and the decisive seventh game is all that's standing between the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and the Eastern Conference Finals. Who makes the grade?
Philadelphia forced Boston's hand with a hearty 82-75 win in Game 6, bringing the series back to Boston for Game 7, which tips off at 8 p.m. EST on Saturday night at TD Garden.
Jrue Holiday stepped up to bat and delivered for the Sixers, scoring 20 points and dishing out six assists to outlast the Celtics in the series' sixth game on Wednesday night. Paul Pierce scored 24 and grabbed 10 rebounds and Kevin Garnett totaled 20 points and 11 rebounds, but Boston received little to no production from anyone else on the roster in the agonizing defeat. Going into the game, Philly had just one goal: survive until Saturday.
"That's all we wanted was to win tonight and give ourselves a chance to go into Boston and see what happens on Saturday in Game 7," said second-year Sixers coach Doug Collins.
That being said, Collins doesn't want his squad to ease up. While reaching the second round of the playoffs is beyond expectation for this group, Collins wants them to get greedy.
"I'm not going to give them that out," Collins said. "I want more. I want more. We're going to get greedy, and we want more. We've fought, we've worked, and we've gone through a lot as a team. ... We're competitors. I love what our guys did [in Game 6]."
By now, Doc Rivers and the Celtics are certainly aware of the threat Philadelphia poses.
"They're athletic," said Rivers, the Celtics' coach. "They're young and they are very fast. They play with a lot of energy and it's very difficult for our guys. The regular season against them was hard, and that's why the playoffs have been hard. We knew this match-up coming in would be hard because they have a quickness advantage and we understand that."
But throw all of the stats and past performances out the door, because in Game 7, anything goes. Boston has a clear advantage in the experience department, with the current Big Four having played in five Game 7's together already, but Philadelphia's youth has served them well while Boston's core is banged up. Even with odds against them, the Sixers are ready.
"We know we have to battle," said Elton Brand. "We’re going to have to try to find a way."