CLEVELAND – It’s time to run it back and do this thing one last time, for all of the marbles in the Eastern Conference.
Boston, are you ready for another Game 7?
Cleveland took care of business on its home court Friday night with a 109-99 win during Game 6 of the Eastern Finals, knotting the series up at 3-3. Each of the first six games of the series have been won by the home team.
Now Game 7 is set to be played at 8:30 p.m. Sunday night in Boston, with each team’s season and a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.
The Celtics worked all season long to earn the right to host this game. Now it’s going to happen, and they’re anxious to feel the energy from their crowd that is sure to be electric.
“It’s a whole different feeling when you’re playing at home,” said Terry Rozier, who scored a team-best 28 points Friday night and whose team will now prepare to host its second Game 7 of the postseason. “You’re just so amped. Our crowd is unbelievable.”
That crowd has been absurdly prominent throughout this postseason run. It blew the lit off the Garden when the C’s won Game 7 against Milwaukee, it shook the Garden’s foundation when they came back from 22 points down against Philadelphia, and it has made the Cavaliers shrink during this latest series.
The Garden faithful stands as a determining factors as to why Boston will enter Sunday’s do-or-die game with a perfect 10-0 home record during the Playoffs. The team’s home-road splits are rather remarkable.
At home this postseason, the Celtics have gone undefeated while outscoring opponents by an average of 11.5 points per game. They have averaged 108.7 PPG on 46.0 percent shooting during those games, all while limiting their opponents to just 97.2 PPG on 44.9 percent shooting.
The script has flipped on the road, where Boston is now 1-7 during postseason play while being outscored by an average of 11.8 PPG. The team is averaging 95.0 PPG on 42.0 percent shooting on the road, while their opponents have scored 106.8 PPG on 47.7 percent shooting.
The Celtics are well aware of those splits, but so too are the Cavaliers, who have not been competitive during this series while playing inside the Garden.
“It’s going to be tough,” Cavs point guard George Hill said of the challenge, after he boosted Cleveland with 20 points during Game 6. “No team has won there in these playoffs so far. We’ve got to try to be the first. We know it’s going to be a tough atmosphere and a crazy time, but we’ve got to focus on just one game.”
The Celtics, meanwhile, must focus on avoiding the assumption that home court will lead them to the Promised Land. Playing at home will surely be a factor, but Boston can’t presume it will be the factor that will decide between a trip to the NBA Finals and trip to an offseason vacation.
““We’re looking forward to it,” said Rozier. “We’ve got to come out aggressive, and we’ve got to make things happen.
“We can’t just rely on being at home for an excuse that it’s going to be easy. It’s not.”
It might not be easy, but it will be fun.
Boston is less than 48 hours away from hosting Game 7 of the Eastern Finals, against the best player in the world, with a trip to the Finals on the line. It doesn’t get much better than that.
What does a coach say to a team while such a moment looms ahead?
“Prepare well and have a great time,” Brad Stevens said of his message to the Celtics. “Enjoy it.”
Boston has enjoyed every game that has been played inside TD Garden thus far in the postseason. There’s no reason to stop that party now.