WALTHAM, Mass. – The enormity of a Game 7 can leave some players shaking in their sneaks. Not Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics.
“I don’t believe in pressure,” Thomas said Sunday afternoon of Monday night’s impending Game 7 against the Washington Wizards. “I work too hard to be scared of any type of pressure.”
The rest of the Celtics seem to fall right in line with their leader’s thought process.
Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Brad Stevens all spoke to the media following Sunday’s practice in Waltham. None of them gave any indication that nerves are currently an issue or will become an issue Monday night.
In fact, the opposite was the case, as each member spoke with discernable levels of both confidence and tranquility.
As for confidence, Bradley stated, “We believe we should be playing against Cleveland (in the next round), and beat Cleveland and go to the championship.”
As for tranquility, Stevens said: “I’m just getting ready for another game tomorrow night.”
The team appeared to be so confident and tranquil that the possibility of defeat, at leas to them, doesn’t seem to be a possibility at all.
“I think it’s going to say a lot about us as a team.” Bradley said of winning Game 7.
Yes, that’s ”it’s”, not ”it would”. As in when it happens, not if it happens.
The Celtics expect to win this game. To them, there really is no other option.
One key reason for the team’s belief, as well as the lack of pressure on its shoulders, is the fact that this game will be played at TD Garden. The Celtics worked all season long for the right to play any Game 7 throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs at home. Now they will be afforded the opportunity to use that right to their advantage.
“We know the Garden is probably going to be the best we’ve ever seen,” Thomas said of Monday night.
Minutes later, Horford spoke of the influence Boston’s crowd could have on the game.
“Opposing teams, they feel that (energy). The players feel it for sure. There’s no question about it,” he said matter-of-factly. “You can talk around it, but when your fans are into it and giving you that energy, the other team feels it.”
Horford knows this first-hand, as he has played a Game 7 as a visitor inside TD Garden, way back in 2008 against the eventual-champion Celtics. On that night, he remembers, his team had no chance during a 99-65 loss.
“What hit us was something different,” Horford remembered, “because the energy in the Garden was… was unbelievable. I just felt like it just kept getting poured on, and they stayed at it, and they beat us down.”
Another reason why Thomas is confident that the Celtics will snag a series-clinching win is the presence of his teammates, and in particular the reserves. He believes that the bench will play at a high level, one game after shooting 2-for-15 from the field during Game 6.
“Like I’ve said from the jump, I believe in those guys,” Thomas said of the reserves. “And I know if they play well, it’s hard for teams to try to put two or three guys on me, because you’ve got to pick your poison.”
The Wizards will be the team with pressure pushing down on it if that happens. Meanwhile, the Celtics will be the team playing free and easy basketball on the parquet floor.
That’s exactly what Boston anticipates happening during its do-or-die matchup Monday night. There’s no pressure when you expect to win.