By: Jeffrey Newholm
“One win to rule them all, one win to find them, one win to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”. So said TNT studio host J.R.R. Tolkien. While that may not be quite how that quote goes, it doesn’t get any bigger than a game seven in the NBA. Either the Celtics defend home court and avoid a huge letdown, or the Bucks reach their first second round since 2001. Barring an invasion of Orcs, these are the only two scenarios. Either-or, win or go home. The Celtics had a chance to avoid such a scenario, but the Bucks erased that script Thursday night.
After only taking ten shots in a crucial game five loss, Giannis Antetokounmpo was vocal about doing more. Early Thursday night the Celtics had the confidence of a team closing out an underdog. But that lasted for just a quarter. Behind Giannis’s 31 points and 14 boards, the Bucks chipped away until eventually taking a comfortable lead. The Celtics went on a late counter-run to make the game mildly interesting, but the Bucks calmly trotted to the final horn. Now the Celtics get a final shot at a target that’s now rapidly dribbling at the same pace.
Thus far the home team has won every game in this series. If the Celtics hold serve, they’ll exhale as a Pyrrhic victors. Even without Kyrie Irving, the Celtics seemed too proud of a franchise to take the lowly Bucks to seven games. Preseason expectations had the team as finals favorites, and a first round loss would lead give an already cranky fanbase more angst. By contrast, the Bucks are almost in a no-lose situation. The team has steadily progressed since drafting Giannis. The Bucks have gone from sixth game embarrassment, to sixth game heartbreak, to now having a significant chance to win game seven. The Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center already towers over downtown Milwaukee and beckons for more prestigious basketball and more profitable seats. But the enticement of a rematch against the Sixers, the Buck’s foil in the 2001 semifinals, can’t be resisted. Saturday night the team with everything to lose, at home, tips against the one with all to gain, in a daunting basketball cathedral. Two teams, one game to win it all. Who’ll make the next lap in the NBA’s marathon, and who’ll run home?