The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will play a decisive Game 7 at TD Garden on Saturday night, to determine the last spot in the NBA's Conference Finals. The narrative of the entire series has pitted the youth of the Sixers against the experience of the Celtics, who are almost certainly on their last stand in this incarnation. While the NBA Playoffs always ratchet things up from the regular season, Game Sevens are an entirely different experience altogether.
This will be Philadelphia's first foray into a Game 7 atmosphere, and it won't be easy on the road in an arena that has seen plenty of them. Most assume that the Celtics will follow through and finish off the Sixers, defeating the underdog and holding serve in front of a rowdy home crowd.
But the Sixers are trying to posit their youth as an advantage heading into Game 7, indicating that their naiveté will allow them to stay loose in the decisive hours of their season. At least that's what Doug Collins is telling us, via Ian Thomsen of SI:
"That's the beauty of youth," Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. "They look at things a little bit more naively, and maybe not as much analytically as I do. I just want our team to play with no fear. I want us to be tough at the defensive end and I want us to play free on offense."
"Late in the game when it was tight,'' Collins said after Game 6, "I looked down and a couple of our guys were smiling. They were enjoying the moment. That's the beauty of competition. We're playing the Boston Celtics, let's see what we can do. I love that with our young guys.''
Boston has been so unpredictable from game to game in this series that Collins's team has a great chance to pull off the upset. But it will be more than just the reckless naiveté of youth that gets it done.
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