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Anything is possible for the Celtics in Game 7

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  June 8, 2012 02:53 PM

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With the way this series is going, we won't be surprised if the Celtics push back and push back hard in Game 7. (Jim Rogash / Getty Images)

As Kevin Garnett said in the guttural scream he let out after the Celtics won the NBA title four years ago, anything is possible -- especially when we're talking about these Celtics.

It's possible to have instant chemistry and win a championship. It's possible to go 27-27 to end the 2009-2010 regular season and then return to the NBA Finals as a No. 4 seed. It's possible to be six minutes away from another title and watch it evaporate in Los Angeles. It's possible to be down 2-0 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals and rally with three straight wins. It's possible to have the head-case Heat on the ropes and then submit your worst performance of the playoffs in the potential clincher on your home floor, getting blown out 98-79 to set the stage for a climactic Game 7 in South Florida.

And, yes, it's possible to take your talents and full suitcases -- "Pack for a week" was the practical and impudent message on the dry-erase board in the Celtics' locker room -- to South Beach and win a Game 7.

These Celtics are equal parts endearing and maddening, underestimated and overconfident, unflappable and indignant. They're a team at odds with the odds and constantly courting adversity.

"This team has been about adversity all year long," said captain Paul Pierce, who turned in a 4-for-18, 9-point dud in Game 6. "You know so this is not going to be nothing new. It's been tough for us all year long to get to the point that we want to be at. Why wouldn't it be tough now? Winning is hard. Getting to the Finals is hard, and this is as hard as it gets. I think we're prepared for it."

I can't tell you that the Celtics are going to win Game 7 in Miami. This series has been too unpredictable and too full of Maalox moments. Both teams have a right to feel like they should have won it already. The Celtics easily could have won Game 2 in Miami. The Heat was a Dwyane Wade 3-pointer away from stealing Game 4.

The Celtics have outplayed Miami for the bulk of the series. The Heat can point to the fact that they've twice had dominant, virtually wire-to-wire wins.

I will say with virtual certainty that the Celtics will submit a better effort in Game 7 than they did in Game 6 Thursday night at the Garden.

Win, lose, or for those of you watching in Maine, tie, in Game 7, the Celtics are going to do it huffing, hustling and scowling. There are horror-movie villains who have died easier than a group that has come to define Celtic Pride.

A silver lining from last night's loss is that the Heat still hasn't proven it can withstand the pressure of a rubber-glove tight, elimination game.

The 1972 presidential election was more contested than Game 6. The Celtics trailed by 13 at the half and never cut Miami's lead below double-digits in the second half.

The most damning stat of the playoffs for Miami is this one -- the Heat are 0-6 when trailing after three quarters. All the front-runner talk is not just a media creation. Whether Miami has the requite reservoir of mental toughness and execution under fire to succeed in the crucible of a close Game 7 is still open for debate.

What is not up for debate is that LeBron James had a signature moment in Game 6.

The NBA's resident Atlas, James had the weight of the basketball world on his shoulders, and he shrugged it off. LeBron was supposed to be a big-game choker and the Celtics were supposed to have a stranglehold on the series, but LBJ grabbed control of this game and never let go.

The Decision-maker missed his first shot, a 19-foot jumper, then hit his next 12, before finally misfiring again with seven seconds left in the half, when he attempted a long 3-pointer over Mickael Pietrus. In between he scored 30 points.

The biggest play James made though wasn't a field goal; it was a foul drawn. James gave Pierce a taste of his own medicine with 5:40 left in the second quarter, coaxing the captain into the air with an upfake and then launching into him. That was Pierce's third foul. It took him out of the game, both literally and figuratively.

Pierce never found the flow, shooting a ghastly 2 of 12 in the third quarter. At the end of three quarters, Pierce had as many field goals (three) as personal fouls.

James finished with 45 points and 15 rebounds, while dishing out 5 assists and a heaping helping of crow for his critics to dine on. It was the first time in his career that when his team faced elimination on the road it came away with a victory. James had been 0-4 in such situations, including a pair of losses at TD Garden, the latter of which closed the curtain on his Cleveland career and spurred his move to Miami. His teams are now 3-6 in elimination situations.

LeBron bucked conventional wisdom to extend his season. Sounds familiar, huh?

Sadly, it's possible that Thursday night was the last time we'll see Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo on the TD Garden court together, a cruel notion considering the effort they submitted was in no way representative of what the last five years of Celtic basketball have been about.

It's possible that they'll do in Miami what they've done so many times -- beat the odds and extend their championship window -- and we'll be watching them in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.

At this point, anything really is possible for a defiant team that defies prognostication.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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