MILWAUKEE — After surviving an elimination game Friday against the Bucks, the Celtics explained one of their keys was how fast they moved on from a crushing Game 5 loss days earlier.
Now, they’re turning the page just as quickly to Game 7.
“It means everything. The best atmosphere in the NBA,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said of returning to TD Garden. “Game 7s are the biggest and best games. So (I’m) looking forward to it, truly. Just winning this game, giving ourselves a chance to go back. And this is it. Do or die. It’s going to be fun.”
Tatum’s 46 points in Game 6, a signature performance for the rising superstar, overshadowed a bounce-back effort from Marcus Smart, who scored 21 of his own. Smart has played in three Game 7s as a Celtic, tied for most on the team with Jaylen Brown and Al Horford. Together, Smart, Brown and Horford won Game 7 showdowns over the Bucks and Wizards in 2017, after Horford had already played in three do-or-die playoff games earlier in his career.
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“Man, it means a lot. It means a lot. It’s going to be loud,” Smart said Friday night. “I’ve had a few Game 7s in Boston, and I just understand and know that being in the Garden is not a place you want to be on the road in Game 7.”
The Celtics dropped their last Game 7, an 87-79 tussle with the Cavaliers in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. Tatum fouled out that night, while going head-to-head with LeBron James and racking up a team-high 24 points. Brown was held to 13 points on an off shooting night, though that memory is far from his mind heading into Sunday’s tip-off.
“I expect it to be loud, I expect it to be fun, and I expect to be part of a great game,” Brown said. “I’m looking forward to it. (The) best two words in basketball are Game 7.”
Because they’re remain one game from elimination, the Celtics are likely to keep the same focus they did entering Game 6. Not only ignoring the past, but playing with an edge that furnished a fast start and allowed them to survive in an environment much more hostile than TD Garden.
“You’ve got to come out with the mindset like kill or be killed. Survival of the fittest,” he said. “We don’t want to be the team or feel like we should be the team that is going home. You come out, put your best foot forward, leave the past in the past and do the best job to execute in the next game.”