The Boston Celtics have come all the way back to tie the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. The remarkable last tenth of a second victory in Game 6 authored by Derrick White's put back gave the Celtics a 104-103 victory that tied the series at 3-3. While many observers believe the Heat has little chance to beat Boston in Game 7 on its home court, history gives Jimmy Butler and the Heat a puncher's chance.
The Celtics are among the most storied professional franchises in all of North American sports. They have had remarkable success, and are often mentioned in the same breath with the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball, the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League and the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. Along with the Los Angeles Lakers, these are the most historically successful professional franchises.
But while the Celtics have often dominated and have won 17 NBA titles, they have suffered their share of defeats. Four of those defeats have come at home in 7th games of playoff series. This should give Jimmy Butler and his teammates some hope.
Rivals win in Boston
The 1973 Celtics faced the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Celtics trailed the series 3-1 before they won Game 5 at home and Game 6 at Madison Square Garden. It appeared the Green had Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Willis Reed right where they wanted them. Game 7 was played at the Boston Garden.
This seemed especially true when the Celtics, featuring Dave Cowens, JoJo White and an injured John Havlicek, jumped to an early lead. But the Knicks never panicked and played brilliant team basketball and punished the Celtics by a 98-74 final score on the famed parquet floor.
The 1982 Celtics were an overpowering team that featured the great trio of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. The Celtics fell behind the Philadelphia 76ers by a 3-1 margin before rallying to tie the series. With Game 7 at the Boston Garden, Bird & Co. were brimming with confidence.
The Sixers were not the least bit intimidated, as they featured Julius Erving and hot-shooting guard Andrew Toney. Led by Toney's 34 points, the Sixers executed their offense to perfection and rolled to a 120-106 triumph and advanced to the NBA Finals
In 2005, the Celtics hosted the Indiana Pacers in Game 7, and it was a blowout for the Pacers. Indiana ran the Celtics, Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce off their home court, rolling to a 97-70 victory. Indiana featured Reggie Miller, but it was Stephen Jackson who led the way with 24 points.
Four years later in 2009, the Orlando Magic also overpowered the Celtics in Boston. While the Celtics had Pierce and Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett was injured and the Magic had 5 players in double figures and came through with a 101-82 triumph.
Heat should take note
Not only did the Celtics lose the 7th game at home 4 times, none of the defeats were closer than 14 points.
If Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo can get off to strong starts and head coach Erik Spoelstra can orchestrate a defense that slows down Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Heat can keep the Celtics from becoming the first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit and win a best of 7 NBA playoff series.
Playing Game 7 in Boston is a difficult assignment for the visitors, but it represents no historical guarantee for the Celtics