In the immortal words of Zaza Pachulia, “We’re going to game 7 baby! Game 7! Game seveeeeeeeen!”
The former NBA big man shouted those words when his Atlanta Hawks forced a Game 7 against eventual champion Boston Celtics in their first-round game in 2008. And while that game featured a seeded 1 against a No. 8 seed, Sunday’s Game 7 between the No. 2 Celtics and the No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks will possess the same kind of passion and energy that Pachulia showed in his iconic proclamation of post game.
Here’s why Game 7 between the Celtics and Bucks will be an all-time classic.
The Heart of the Bucks & Giannis Championship
As defending NBA champions, the Bucks have a little extra motivation heading into Game 7. They don’t want to be known forever as a one-time champion. A stroke of luck. Or just luck.
This 2021 championship will forever be part of Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo’s already iconic legacy. He led his team to victory, dominating with his monstrous athleticism and unique skills.
Antetokounmpo nearly did the same in Milwaukee’s Game 6 loss, becoming the first player in NBA history to record 40+ points, 20 rebounds and six assists. in the playoffs. He also became the first player since Hall of Fame big man Shaquille O’Neal to have more than 40 points and 20 rebounds in a playoff game, finishing with a whopping 44 points and 20 rebounds.
Considering Antetokounmpo’s track record, it’s very likely that he’ll put on another historic performance in Game 7. He’s not happy with just one championship, and Game 7 is his chance to show how badly he craves another ring.
Plus, as former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich once said, “Never underestimate a champion’s heart.”
While Antetokounmpo was sensational in Game 6, Celtics All-Star swingman Jayson Tatum was equally spectacular.
Making sure his team lived to fight another day, Tatum staged an offensive clinic against the Bucks, making a superstar statement with a masterful 46 points and nine rebounds. Tatum’s shot was wet as water throughout the game, going 17 of 32 from the field (53.1%) and 7 of 15 (46.7%) from behind the arc.
In NBA history, only five players have scored 45 or more points to force a Game 7: Jamal Murray, LeBron James (the Lakers superstar has done it twice in his illustrious career), Wilt Chamberlain, Kawhi Leonard and now, Tatum. It’s a pretty iconic company to be a part of. (Yes, Murray is the anomaly, but he’s only 25 so who knows how awesome he can be.)
Similar to Antetokounmpo, if Tatum was able to do it in Game 6 on the road, what’s stopping him from etching his name even further in the annals of NBA history at home in Game 7? ?
Game 7 in the Garden
Since finishing the regular season No. 2 in the East, the Celtics have home-court advantage in Game 7 as the game-winning or home game takes place at Boston’s TD Garden. And while it’s a more modern, corporate take on the Garden from Celtics, the TD Garden is still steeped in history.
In 2008, the eventual champion Celtics led by the Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen passed a Cleveland Cavaliers team led by LeBron James in a Game 7 second round game. The game was a seesaw battle that featured an epic battle between Pierce and James as the two tried to fight each other. James finished with a game-high 45 points and Pierce had 41.
That year also featured Game 7 between the Hawks and Celtics in the first round. It was the game that Pachulia had put forward. But despite Pachulia’s excitement, the Celtics quickly took down the Hawks, eliminating them 99-65.
A year later, the young Chicago Bulls upstart managed by Derrick Rose forced the defending champion Celtics to a Game 7 at TD Garden. Chicago played the Celtics tight throughout the game and shot under three with five minutes left. But thanks to the superstar play of Pierce and Allen, the Celtics closed things down and secured victory in Boston.
Also of note, the Celtics beat the Bucks in Game 7 of a first round game in 2018. This game took place at TD Garden and featured much younger versions of Antetokounmpo, Taytum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown .
The Celtics also suffered notable losses in Game 7 at TD Garden.
In 2009, the Celtics dropped 19 points to eventual Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic at home in Game 7. match 7 clash in the first round. The TD Garden was known as FleetCenter back then, but while the name may change, the story remains.
Most recently, in Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, the LeBron James-led Cavs defeated a Celtics team that included Al Horford, Smart, Tatum as a rookie and the second-year forward. Jaylen Brown. James was truly dominant in the game, finishing with a near triple-double of 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.
And despite only being in his freshman year at the time, Tatum’s performance foreshadowed his future as a superstar as he dropped 24 points and had that monster dunk on James:
With the storied garden serving as the backdrop, there’s no doubt Game 7 between the Celtics and Bucks will be a game for the ages.