BOSTON (AP) — Joe Mazzulla’s Game 7 experience has been as an assistant coach, including last year when the Celtics won two of them on their way to the NBA Finals.
One of them was a 28-point blowout.
The other was a one-possession game in the final seconds.
“We know how to win easy and we know how to battle to the death,” the rookie head coach said Saturday as he prepared for his first winner-take-all game as the No. 1 guy. “Definitely looking forward to Game 7.”
The Celtics will meet the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday for the last remaining spot in the NBA’s final four. It’s just the second series to reach a seventh game so far this postseason.
“We know what we have to do,” said Sixers center Joel Embiid, who was crowned as the NBA MVP during the series. “It’s going to be fun. Game 7. That’s what we play, for these types of games.”
The Celtics earned the home-court advantage by finishing three games ahead of Philadelphia in the standings; Boston also won three of the four matchups in the regular season. (The winner of Sunday’s game will also have home-court edge in the NBA Finals, if they can eliminate Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.)
But playing at the TD Garden hasn’t been such an advantage for Boston: The Celtics have gone just 7-9 in their last 16 home playoff games — a far cry from the days when playing on the parquet was almost a sure thing.
Boston swingman Jaylen Brown has heard the complaints from fans who’ve watched the team cough up big leads and give away games in both playoff series so far this postseason.
And the feeling is mutual.
“Celtics fans, they love to call us out, right? So I’m gonna call you guys out this time,” Brown said after the Celtics won in Philadelphia on Thursday night to force a seventh game. “Energy in the Garden has been OK at best all playoffs. Game 7, if you’re there or if you’re not there, if you’re watching at a bar, if you’re watching down the street at a friend’s house, I don’t care. I need you to be up, I need you to come with the energy, because we’re gonna need every bit of it. So I’m calling you guys out. Let’s make sure the Garden is ready to go.”
76ERS AT CELTICS
Series tied 3-3. Game 7, 3:30 p.m. EDT, Sunday, ABC
NEED TO KNOW: The Celtics are 26-9 in Game 7s all-time, including two wins last year on their way to the NBA Finals. The Sixers are 6-11, losing their all three winner-take-all games since their last trip to the NBA Finals in 2001.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Celtics’ starting lineup. Coach Joe Mazzulla inserted Robert Williams III into the lineup for Game 6, putting him alongside Al Horford to combat newly crowned NBA MVP Joel Embiid. The Celtics jumped to a 15-3 lead.
INJURY WATCH: Since returning from a right knee injury that kept him out of Game 1, Embiid has not shown any lingering effects. The Celtics have a clean injury report except for Danilo Gallinari, who has missed the entire season with a torn ACL.
PRESSURE IS ON: Sixers coach Doc Rivers has blown 3-1 leads in seven-game series three times in his career. Philadelphia was up 3-2 over Boston this year, but another collapse would add to his reputation for collapses. He has lost nine Game 7s — four more than any other coach, according to ESPN.