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Analysis: Buckle up for a battle between Cavs, Celtics

By STEVE BUCKLEY
Boston Herald

May 26. 2018 10:35PM
LeBron James reacts during the Cleveland Cavaliers' 109-99 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Game 7 is tonight at TD Garden in Boston. (USA TODAY Sports)



CLEVELAND - Let's put aside the basketball analysis for a moment.

Instead, let's place the 2017-18 Celtics on an analyst's couch and ask this question: Where are these guys' heads?

Thanks to their 109-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena, the two teams are headed back to the Garden tonight for - drum roll, please - the winner-take-all Game 7.

Game 7, we all know, is the Steel Cage Match of the NBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball. Game 7s inspire books, documentaries, poems. (I can't back that last one up, but I'm sure there's an ode or two to Game 7 out there somewhere.)

But what's going to set this Game 7 and this series apart from many of the others isn't just that the home team has won every game so far, but that, with the exception of last night's Game 6, the home team has won handily, convincingly. Heck, we might as well throw Game 6 in there as well; even though the Celtics were within seven points in the fourth quarter, LeBron James put a pretty bow on his 46-point night with a pair of late-in-the-night, back-to-back treys and then stopped to scream with such ferocity that he could be heard as far as way as Akron.

So let's get to this business of where the Celtics' heads are: Do these guys bank on a Game 7 victory tonight simply because they're home and the home team has ruled in this series? Expanding on this topic a little, should they give themselves a pregame pat on the back by reminding themselves they're 10-0 at home this postseason?

They have history on their side, correct?

"At the end of the day you've got to make your own history," Jaylen Brown said. "We gotta come out and do what we gotta do. People can say whatever they want, but two teams have to come out and play. At the end of the day we'll see what happens after that."

If you're a concerned-citizen Celtics fan, you should pleased by Jaylen Brown's words. He may be young, but he's wise: He's not about to wrap himself up in the flag of home-court dominance. Not with LeBron lurking in the shadows.

And if you're a Celtics fan who liked what Jaylen Brown had to say on this topic, you'll l-o-v-e love what Terry Rozier (a team-high 28 points) had to say.

"We can't just rely on being at home as an excuse that it's going to be easy, because it's not," he said, flatly.

Perfect. On a night when he was the best player in Green, Rozier took all the pyscho-babble about Game 7 and turned it into one very simple, easily-understood sound bite.

We can't just rely on being at home.

It's OK to be afraid, to be very afraid, of the youngish, inexperienced Celtics. Their springtime playoff run has been as joyous and fun as it has been improbable, especially at their Lion's Den Garden, but tonight is going to be different. Tonight is when LeBron James takes the Cleveland Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals, or it's when he quite possibly plays his last game as a member of the Cavaliers. That's why tonight's Garden party will be no ordinary home playoff game, no ordinary Game 7, no ordinary nuthin.'

"As soon as I leave here and head home to Akron I'll start to prepare," LeBron said. "I'll try to get as much sleep as possible."

Will the Celtics' sleep at all? They had the best seats in the house for LeBron's season-saving performance, and Jayson Tatum in particular was practically in the King's lap for those back-to-back fourth-quarter 3-pointers and the mighty roar that followed.

Alas, "After he shot it, I just walked to the bench," Tatum said. "I didn't see what he did."

Just as well, perhaps. What LeBron did was offer a glimpse of what tonight is going to be.

Tonight is going to be a bloodbath.


Celtics/NBA