Saturday night will be the sixth time the Philadelphia and Boston have met in a Game 7.
These are two of the NBA’s legendary franchises and located less than a six-hour train ride apart. They are natural rivals and this Game 7 Saturday in the Eastern Conference semifinals is just the next chapter in that history.
Let’s take a look back at the first five (the Celtics lead 3-2):
1965 division finals: Celtics 110, Sixers 109: Everyone thought this would Philadelphia’s year — ending the Celtics six-year title streak — because they had just acquired this little guy named Wilt Chamberlain. Wasn’t to be the case. This was a one-point game at the end and Philly was going to have the last shot but John Havlicek stole the inbound pass. Boston made it seven titles in a row knocking off the Lakers.
1968 Division finals: Celtics 100, Sixers 96: Philly was the defending NBA champion and had a 3-1 series lead on the Celtics, but it wasn’t enough. Boston had Sam Jones dropping 22 in the final game and Philly had no answer.
1977 conference semifinals: Sixers 83, Celtics 77: This was a low-scoring game just like Game 7 this year will be. You’d like to think the newly acquired Dr. J was the answer for the Sixers (and he wasn’t bad) but it was World B. Free dropping 27 off the bench that was the difference. You hear that Lou Williams?
1981 conference finals: Celtics 91, Sixers 90: This was as close an NBA playoff series as there has ever been — five games were decided by 2 points or less. Including Game 7, where Larry Bird drained the game-winning jumper. Bird did those sorts of things, he was cold blooded.
1982 conference finals: 76ers 120, Celtics 106: This is the 7th game current Sixers coach Doug Collins pulled out to show his team before Game 6, to say it could be done. This is the game where Andrew Toney earned the nickname “The Boston Stranger” as he had 34 points and hit all the big shots it seemed. But that Dr. J guy added 29, he was impressive as always.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.