Celtics guard Marcus Smart listens to head coach Joe Mazzulla during the second half of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat on Thursday night. (Matt Stone/Boston Herald)
The Boston Celtics continue their remake of “Four Days In October” on Saturday with Game 6
against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals at Crypto-Crash Arena in South Beach.
Boston trails 3-2 after its Game 5 wire-to-wire blowout of the Heat at TD Garden. It marked the
first time Charles Barkley ever cashed a winning bet.
Game 6 often lacks the pop, punch, and power of Game 7.
Game 6 is Miley Cyrus.
Game 7 is Taylor Swift.
Game 6 is Jan.
Game 7 is Marcia.
Game 6 is Twitter Spaces.
Game 7 is Instagram Live.
Game 6 wears trifocals.
Game 7 has 20/10 vision.
Game 6 has Derrick White’s hairline.
Game 7 carries the coif of Marcus Smart.
Game 6 has a Dad Bod.
Game 7 is 2018 Gronk.
Game 6 Is Narragansett.
Game 7 is Sam Adams.
Game 6 is “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Game 7 is “Star Wars.”
What can we expect tonight? Once in a great while, Game 6 leaves an undeniable impression. It
becomes the one we remember.
Let’s give it some respect.
Game 6 gave us Carlton Fisk.
Nearly 50 years later, Fisk’s foul-pole shot in the 12th inning of the penultimate game of the
1975 World Series at Fenway Park is as much a part of Red Sox lore as anything John Henry
could ever hope to manufacture. Game 7 was played later that same night. It was the greatest
anticlimax in Boston sports history. Most people know the Red Sox lost, but few remember the
details. I was there in the bleachers at age 10. The scar is sutured into my sports soul.
Game 6 gave us Bill Buckner.
Yes, we all know that Stanley blew it. And that Calvin Schiraldi pulled the original Schiraldi. But
Bill Buckner’s inability to put his glove to the ground has forever (unfairly) been bronzed as the
signature moment of the 1986 World Series. Game 7 came two nights later. Al Nipper
administered the final dose of pentobarbital.
Game 6 gave us Curt Schilling.
He took the mound in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium as Boston continued to claw back from its 3-0
deficit to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Pitching on one leg, more or less, Schilling and the Red
Sox bled their way to 4-2 win. Game 7 was a victory lap as hell froze over in the New York
tabloids. After leaving baseball, Schilling committed treason by voting Republican. He has since
been banned in Boston by the Boston Globe’s editorial page.
Game 6 gave us 17 Seconds Of Hell
The 2013 Boston Bruins trailed Chicago 3-2 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Boston held a
2-1 lead late in the third. But Chicago’s Bryan Bickell tied it at 18:44. Dave Bolland potted the
game-winner just 17 seconds later. And the Bruins completed the greatest collapse this side of
the Berlin Wall. Thanks, Tuukka.
Game 6 gave us “Anything Is Possible!”
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and the rest of the Celtics demolished Kobe Bryant’s
Lakers 131-92 in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals. That win clinched Banner 17. Sadly, it’s been
15 years since the Celtics won a championship. Even worse, they’ve only won one NBA title in
the past 36 Junes. Garnett’s primal “anything is possible” scream has become a staple on NBA
Of the 150 teams who lost the first three games of an NBA playoff series, the Celtics are the just
15th to reach Game 6. Only three forced a Game 7.
And, of course, none has ever completed the four-game comeback.
“Why Not Us?”
Depends on which version of the Celtics opts to appear. Boston waited until the final quarter of
Game 4 to arrive in this series. Aside from Jayson Tatum’s historic play in Game 7 against the
Sixers, the Celtics have historically underperformed this postseason.
Boston should have dispatched Atlanta and Philly in no more than five games apiece. That the
Celtics never peak until their literal and metaphorical backs are against the wall is – in a word –
The Celtics were a substantial favorite before this series. Boston was allegedly healthy, deeper,
and more talented. Unfortunately for three-plus games, the Celtics lacked the grit and balls that drove
Garnett & Co. in 2008.
The Heat ran at room temperature in Game 5 without the injured Gabe Vincent. That Vincent
has emerged as perhaps the Heat’s Non-Jimmy Butler MVP is a tell at just how deep Miami has
dug into its roster.
The Celtics were vintage Aerosmith on Thursday night. They found their harmony and jammed
non-stop while rocking the house. “Back In The Saddle” for 48 minutes.
But you don’t get a Duck Boat parade for winning Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Or
Game 6, either.
While pieces of the calamitous narrative sown earlier this week may have tempered, the season
ranks as a “Major Fail” if the NBA Finals do not begin in Boston next Thursday night. Whether it
is viewed as an historic choke job, or just a major disappointment, won’t really matter.
Joe Mazzulla may have saved his job by not getting swept. But if Mazzulla does return, it would
only be out of convenience and deference to his alleged benefactor, Tatum.
In much the same way Bill O’Brien was brought in to reclaim the Patriots offense at the behest
of Robert Kraft, Mazzulla will have an adult presence or two in his coaching staff. Whether he
wants it or not.
The same holds with the lineup. Substantial change is inevitable even if the Celtics were to
sweep this home-and-home with Miami. Just how deep and drastic that change will be depends
much on what happens tonight – and Monday in Game 7.
Bill Speros (@RealOBF and @BillSperos) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)