Boston and Washington get to meet Game 7 again

Ball Don't Lie
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4716/" data-ylk="slk:John Wall">John Wall</a> leaves the court after Game 6. (Getty Images)
John Wall leaves the court after Game 6. (Getty Images)

This Celtics/Wizards semifinal series won’t be immediately forgotten after Monday night’s Game 7, but we won’t linger for too long on what was. That’s a shame, for a pair of seasons from Boston and Washington that gave us just about everything we could ask for, with the two teams mixing iffy starts and strong finishes to a regular season with entertaining, point guard-led play. Despite the best efforts of the two coaches at hand, both squads come off as capricious in winning, lasting ways.

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Yet, in comparison to the rampaging Cavaliers, Warriors, and Spurs, these two feel left out. They’ve given us the longest series of the Eastern playoffs so far, the longest of the NBA’s second round, and yet we’re treating them as if they showed up to the cattle drive’s coffee pot with a 32 oz. mug to fill. If other clubs are sipping from the water dipper, why do they get to take up more than their fair share?

Luckily we’re not sickened by their ubiquity – far from it, NBA Twitter has rarely been angrier at the length of time between Friday’s Game 6 and Monday evening, feeling as if the blockbuster Game 7 should be readied for prime time viewing on Sunday. The Celtics and Wizards, if anything, have warmed to each other’s presence, as the chants of “Double MMA” and Kelly-to-Kelly hotness feels as if it took place eons ago. What with James Harden’s personal life to pick apart, and Zaza Pachulia’s villainy to consider.

It’s that sort of distraction that Brad Stevens was trying to avoid on Friday, in the minutes after Boston’s Game 6 defeat, when he narrowed the scope:

This is Stevens’ first NBA postseason spent working as a favorite, toiling in a 53-win campaign that saw the addition of the devilishly-talented Al Horford chugging alongside perhaps Isaiah Thomas’ finest season.

Thomas’ future as an all-out scorer might look a little questionable following this offseason, when the Celtics could either move on dealing significant assets for another star or stars, or add a high-usage rookie to the Boston backcourt. While not a panic, with no stress shown in obvious places save the team’s fitful first two months, that knowledge loomed large over the Celtic season. Way past the Feb. 22 sell-by date of the league’s trade deadline.

The Celtics play game. No. 95 on Monday. (Getty Images)
The Celtics play game. No. 95 on Monday. (Getty Images)

Washington took a sharper route, deadening the punters yet again with a 2-8 and then 7-13 start before rolling toward yet another second round appearance behind John Wall and an evolving cast of performers that just haven’t gotten the character’s voice down yet.

The team remains pugnacious without playing too proud a defense, and they seem more than dignified enough to step into the role of the East’s No. 2. A position Toronto lost complete control of, and a post Boston might be 48 minutes away from relinquishing. From superstar to dodgy bench to coach Scott Brooks, you have to be in love with this team by this point.

A move to the Conference finals wouldn’t just be the first of Wall’s career, but of that of the Washington Wizards themselves. Born 20 years ago, the Wizards never made the postseason during its lone year with Chris Webber wearing the uniform in 1997-98, it could not turn a corner during the maxed-out days of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, and Wall’s attempts at pushing Washington into the third round were met with second round defeats in both 2014 and 2015. Impressive in defeat, but defeat never the less.

The issue here is that the Washington franchise itself hasn’t made the third round since it was a second round. Since the Eastern finals of 1979, in a two-round Conference bracket, back when the San Antonio Spurs somehow played in the Eastern conference, and the Bullets downed them in a Game 7:

It was the second consecutive seven-game series of the postseason for Washington, who had previously beaten the Hubie Brown-led Atlanta Hawks:

… prior to losing in five games to the Seattle SuperSonics, in the last meh NBA Finals for decades, during the Finals.

Still, the pair of wins in 1979, combined with the team’s Game 7 victory over those (mostly) same SuperSonics in the 1978 NBA Finals

… left those Wizards with a three-game, Game 7 winning streak. “Meh” the 1979 NBA Finals all you want, Kelly, but a streak of that length mirrors that of the two-time Rockets winner from the 1990s, the Showtime Lakers, and it eclipses the barely-there two-game Game 7 “streak” Michael Jordan’s Bulls enjoyed over wins in 1992 and 1998.

The only other big time team of the era to top it? The Boston Celtics, who have won a lot of these.

The Celtics have won 20 of them, in fact, dating back to 1957 and in only 28 tries. Larry Bird’s Celtics, as LeBron James has made a habit of doing dating back to 2011, did supremely well in squashing any attempt at an Eastern uprising during the mid-1980s, leading his team to four consecutive Game 7 wins, all in the conference bracket.

It began in the 1984 semifinals, when Bird’s 39-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist, three-steal, five-turnover night quashed Bernard King’s New York Knicks. King averaged 29.1 points in defeat.

Two rounds later, the Celtics held strong at home against the Los Angeles Lakers, winning Bird’s second NBA title:

In 1987, the Celtics faced a stiff challenge from a versatile, Don Nelson-led crew of Milwaukee Bucks before taking care of business at home in Game 7:

A round later, in perhaps Larry Bird’s finest moment as a pro, he downed a championship-worthy Detroit Pistons team in a Game 7 conquest, with Bird contributing 37 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, dominating down the stretch against a Hall of Fame defender in Dennis Rodman:

The overlaying theme here, for Boston, remains the home setting. It didn’t help in 1982, when the 76ers downed Boston in a Game 7 at home to take the Eastern crown, but it worked against Philly a season earlier in the same Game 7 setup in one of the greatest basketball games of all time, and the Celtics have to hope (as worked twice during the team’s 2008 championship run) that the home crowd provides what is necessary.

(Also, the NBA should award the Celtics an extra second to use in Game 7, at whatever point of the game that they want, as a reward for the Game 6 misstep.)

Heroes will have to step up, as Avery Bradley did deep into Game 5, as John Wall worked even deeper into Game 6. The Celtics’ season-long aversion to defensive rebounding won’t go away even with the three-night stretch between games, nor will Washington’s issues in protecting the front of the rim. The Wizards still stay silent on defense in possessions that remind of last fall, while Boston will have to receive expert defensive basketball from Amir Johnson, Al Horford and reserve athletes Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart if Washington’s offense flows as promised.

Cleveland, whatever the hell is happening in California right now, that can all wait. Remember:

Game 7. Monday.

Game 7. A few hours away.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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