For scheduling and bookkeeping purposes, there will indeed be two Game 7s this weekend involving Boston sports teams:
But by the close of business Friday night at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum, after the Celtics had kept their end of the bargain with a take-that 108-95 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, it suddenly seemed as though the entire weekend is going to be one great, big, long Game 7, one game bleeding into the next. It’s rare that the Bruins and Celtics ever have solid postseasons in the same year, and the outcomes of Saturday’s Game 7 and Sunday’s Game 7 could mean the two teams are playing into June.
So, yes, it’s going to be a wild time around Boston this weekend.
Game 6 was barely in the books Friday night in Milwaukee and already everyone had Game 7 on the brain. Jayson Tatum, who submitted a game for the ages with a 48-point effort against the Bucks, put it this way: “It means everything. The best atmosphere in the NBA. Game 7s are the biggest, the best games. Looking forward to it, truly … biggest moments, biggest stage.”
And here’s Marcus Smart, who scored 21 points in the big Boston victory, on Game 7: “It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be loud. I’ve had a few Game 7s in Boston and I understand and know that the Garden is a place you don’t want to be on the road in Game 7.”
And on it went like that. But while Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox fans are well-versed in what Game 7s are all about — both the sublime and the horrific, which we’ll get to in a moment — what makes this Bucks-Celtics Game 7 so different is that it’ll be the finale of a series that has defied expectations on several levels. At the top of that list is the Celtics’ 110-107 loss to the Bucks in Game 5, which happened to be at TD Garden. The Celtics blew a 14-point lead in that one and put on a doing-things-wrong clinic in the final two minutes. The Bucks, in fact, have won two games in Boston. The Celtics have won two games in Milwaukee.
That little fun fact has not gone unnoticed by Celtics coach Ime Udoka.
“We’ve both won two games in each other’s building now, so I don’t know how much of an advantage the home court is to two very evenly balanced teams,” he said. “You have to go out and do it without relying on home-court advantage, being that they’ve already beaten us there twice.”
By the time the Celtics meet the Bucks on the parquet Sunday, the Bruins-Hurricanes series will already have been decided. And that series has been played in accordance with historical norms, with the home team winning every game so far. But given the way the Bruins bounced back in Game 6 after being virtual no-shows in Game 5, nothing should be taken for granted.
With the Celtics and Bucks, though, here’s some advice: Toss out whatever little historical factoids about Game 7s that are presented to you between now and Sunday afternoon. Home-court advantage for the Celtics? As we’ve pointed out, it means nothing in this series. And here’s another Game 7 Fun Fact you can toss in the ash can: The Celtics are 24-9 all time in Game 7s, whereas the Bucks are just 3-8.
Sorry, but Bird, McHale and Parish aren’t walking through that door Sunday. Nor will you see the Big Three reboot of Pierce, Allen and Garnett. No Russell. No Cooz. No Big Red.
This has been an epic series so far. It’s been tough, grueling and physical, and the exploits of Tatum for the Celtics and Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Bucks are awe-inspiring. And while Giannis and the Celtics’ Al Horford have been shooting little laser daggers at each other, the mutual respect these teams have for each other is off the charts.
“They’re tough,” said Jaylen Brown. “Give credit to Milwaukee. They execute their game plan defensively. They make it tough for us. When we’re driving and being aggressive, somebody’s always coming.”
So the series has all that. Most of all, though, it’s been unpredictable to a degree that … that … well, put it this way: Marcus Smart may have been speaking for a lot of people from both sides when he said he didn’t sleep after Game 5.
As for Game 7, Boston sports fans all have their favorites. The Red Sox and their history-making comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS culminated with a Game 7 victory at Yankee Stadium. In 1969, Bill Russell famously told the Lakers those victory balloons would be staying up in the Fabulous Forum rafters after Game 7 of the NBA Finals was over. Those balloons never moved. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, it was via a 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 at Rogers Arena.
Not-so-great memories? Every time I watch Kendrick Perkins doing basketball analysis on television, I’m reminded that the Celtics might have defeated the Lakers in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals had not Big Perk been out injured. The 1970-71 Bruins broke every record in the book en route to a 57-14-7 regular-season record, but thanks to rookie goaltender Ken Dryden they were eliminated by the Canadiens in a seven-game opening-round series. And the Red Sox lost the World Series in seven games in 1946 (Cardinals), 1967 (Cardinals again), 1975 (Reds) and 1986 (Mets).
However Sunday’s Game 7 between the Celtics and Bucks turns out, I have a feeling you’re going to remember it for a long, long time.
(Photo of Jaylen Brown: Stacy Revere / Getty Images)