Sunday, May 4, 2008

Game 7 in Beantown

Well, Georgia's professional basketball franchise has done the unthinkable, and pushed the NBA's best regular season team (at least record-wise) to a Game 7. If you held my feet to the fire and asked me to pick this game, my brain would say Celtics. They won the first 3 games in Boston by more than 20 points per game. However, if the Hawks can keep it close into the 4th quarter, the fact that Atlanta has won all the close games in this series could prove useful. No Celtic has proven in this series that they can keep their cool in the clutch, and especially not when Atlanta "bows up":

ESPN did a piece for Sunday morning's SportsCenter with Boston's "Big Three", with Michele Tafoya mostly throwing out softball questions about how this team would respond in any Game 7, much less a Game 7 against a #8 seed that had 29 less regular season wins than the C's. As usual, KG was the most vocal in the interview, with Allen and Pierce taking the usual subservient stance. None of them looked nearly as shocked to be sitting there talking about a Game 7 against the Hawks as Doc Rivers has in the interviews I've seen in the last 2 days. But I have to believe that some doubt has now crept into the minds of the Green People (players and fans), if not about their ability to win this series, certainly about any chances they have at winning the Title that has eluded them for the past 22 years.

For all the baggage that KG brings to any game - the trash talk, the cursing (hopefully the children in Boston can't read lips), all his crazy arm motions and facial expressions - he has played the 4th quarters in Atlanta like a scared puppy. A few times down the stretch in Game 6, KG had the ball in the post and gave it up. Any other situation he'd be taking that to the hoop, no matter who is guarding him.

One of two things will probably happen Sunday afternoon:
1) The C's will come out shooting lights out as they have for the most part in the previous 3 games in Boston. If Mike Bibby doesn't keep it under control, throwing up quick jumpers and turning the ball over, the C's could jump out to a lead that would be hard for the Hawks to come back from.
2) This game is close throughout, and maybe the Hawks even take a lead late in the 3rd. If that happens, we could see the Boston crowd start to show its frustration. The Big Three, none of whom have ever gotten it done in the postseason for any team, are likely to tighten up. Atlanta has been the "looser" team throughout the series, and that will serve them well down the stretch if this game is close in the 4th.

For the average NBA fan outside of Boston, it will almost be as enjoyable to see how the Celtics handle a close game, as it would be to see the Cinderella Hawks pull off the biggest postseason upset in NBA history.

Some side notes:
-One of the ESPN SportsCenter anchors this morning actually made a comment that the Celtics had to like their chances today, because Boston is 3-0 all-time in Game 7s against the Hawks. Seriously? The last time Boston played a Game 7 against Atlanta was 20 years ago.
-Impressive showing from the New Orleans Hornets last night. I don't think there is anyone in the NBA who doesn't believe this team couldn't make it to the Finals this year. Imagine if Atlanta does pull the upset today, and you have the prospect of a Finals that features the Hornets against anyone from the East (including the Hawks.) If you aren't a die-hard NBA fan, I don't see you paying much attention to that series. That's a shame, because the world really should take note of Chris Paul (even if Hawks' GM Billy Knight hasn't.)

Enjoy Game 7!!!

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