Do or die

East fi­nals trip on line as Wizards, Celtics head to Game 7

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY KYLE HIGHTOWER THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Isa­iah Thomas used to imag­ine what it would be like to play in a Game 7 as he watched some of the NBA’s big­gest names ce­ment their lega­cies on the league’s big­gest stage.

The Celtics All-Star will get his first chance to do the same tonight when Bos­ton hosts the Wash­ing­ton Wizards with a trip to the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals at stake.

While Thomas is anx­ious for the op­por­tu­nity, one thing he says he won’t be is ner­vous.

“I don’t be­lieve in pres­sure,” Thomas said. “I’ve worked too hard to be scared of any type of pres­sure.”

Maybe not. But nei­ther is a Wash­ing­ton team that pulled out a one-point win in Fri­day’s Game 6, be­com­ing the first home team to stave off elim­i­na­tion on its home floor this post-sea­son. Teams had pre­vi­ously been 0-10 dur­ing the 2017 play­offs.

The Wizards will now be try­ing to be first team in this matchup to win on the op­po­nent’s home floor in 2016-17. All 10 meet­ings this sea­son have been won by the home team.

“A lot of guys doubted us win­ning (Game 6) at home,” Wizards point guard John Wall said. “The last two years we were in the play­offs we lost Game 6 here and we just had a lot of heart.”

Tonight’s win­ner earns an Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals matchup with the de­fend­ing cham­pion Cleve­land Cava­liers, who have been await­ing an op­po­nent since sweep­ing Toronto on May 7.

For the Celtics, an op­por­tu­nity to face the Cavs would val­i­date the No. 1 seed that Bos­ton out­lasted Cleve­land for in the fi­nal week of the reg­u­lar sea­son. It would also be the Celtics’ first trip to the con­fer­ence fi­nals since 2012, the last such run made by Bos­ton’s since-de­parted Big Three of Kevin Gar­nett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

In Wash­ing­ton, the drought has been much longer. The Wizards haven’t been out of the sec­ond round since 1979, when the then-Bul­lets beat the Spurs to ad­vance to the NBA Fi­nals. That se­ries was Wash­ing­ton’s last time in a Game 7.

Game 7 will also — at least for now — set­tle the score be­tween teams that haven’t hid­den their dis­like for one an­other. The Wizards wore all-black to a reg­u­larsea­son matchup with Bos­ton in Jan­uary be­fore soundly beat­ing them.

Sev­eral Bos­ton play­ers showed up wear­ing black for Game 6, but the Celtics weren’t able to end the Wizards’ sea­son.

Wash­ing­ton’s Ian Mahinmi, who was part of the 2014 In­di­ana Pac­ers’ team that elim­i­nated Wash­ing­ton in the East semi­fi­nals, said both Wall and Bradley Beal have ma­tured a lot since then.

“Now, those guys are not ba­bies any­more,” Mahinmi said. “They closers. They proven closers.”

Thomas has got­ten men­tal ad­vice this post-sea­son from both Kobe Bryant and most re­cently Paul Pierce af­ter the Wizards evened the se­ries in Game 4.

Pierce’s ad­vice was ring­ing in his ears on Sun­day.

“Win­ning’s hard. It’s not for ev­ery­body,” Thomas re­called Pierce telling him. “If it was easy it would be.”

AP PHOTO

Wash­ing­ton Wizards guard Bradley Beal (left) passes the ball over Bos­ton Celtics guard Isa­iah Thomas in Game 6 of an NBA sec­ond-round play­off se­ries on May 12 in Wash­ing­ton.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.