Game 7. Stop chewing your nails and pacing nervously. This is supposed to be fun.

I have no idea if the Boston Celtics can go to Miami on Sunday night and win a third road game against the Heat to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in a dozen years. I have no idea if the Celtics who play tenacious defense like wolverines will show up, or if the Celtics who surrender wide-open shots and turn the ball over like it’s covered in murder hornets will take the court against the Heat.

I just know it will be fun. It could be euphoric, it could be disappointing, but it will be fun.

Remember where this team was in January? On Jan. 6, the Celtics blew a 16-point halftime lead and lost to the New York Knicks. Boston was 18-21 and in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Fans were not thinking about the Eastern Conference finals. They were hoping the Celtics would go on a lukewarm streak and just make the playoffs. Or, if they were especially nihilistic, they were calling for Brad Stevens to blow the team up, turn the rest of the season into a burning Viking funeral, and try to get a high lottery pick.

We know what happened after that. The Celtics woke up. They figured out how to play offense together, and more importantly, how to play defense together. They went 33-10 the rest of the regular season and climbed to second place in the East.

That kind of midseason turnaround isn’t unheard of, but it’s rare. It’s Sasquatch-riding-a-unicorn-in-a-field-of-four-leaf-clover rare.


That’s why, as much as it feels like the Celtics made things harder than they had to with losses to the Heat in Games 1, 3 and 6, this is fun. Remember your expectations in early January. I get it, expectations are clay and get remolded. Still, these Celtics have been a joy to watch improve and develop. If they lose Game 7, don’t wallow. Embrace the ride they’ve taken you on.

The contract between fan and team should be short. As fans, all we can ask for is an honest effort. The Celtics frustrate at times, making decisions on the court that raise blood pressure and goosebumps, but you can’t accuse them of ever phoning it in. It’s hard to win in professional sports, and the Celtics have been in the conference finals four times in six years. This is coming not long after the longest stretch of mediocrity in team history.

When I was a kid, the Celtics were the only sure thing in Boston sports. The Red Sox would always find new ways to break your heart and stunt your growth. The Patriots were the punchline to the joke nobody told. The Bruins would make the playoffs every season, but would run into a brick wall named the Montreal Canadiens, always good enough to not be good enough.

The Celtics, though, were usually good enough. Until one day we woke up and they were not.

I need a time machine. Not to go back and place bets on every Super Bowl or throw that sixth-grade bully down a well, but to warn 13-year-old me not to be so cocky about the Celtics. In the summer of 1986, I was running around central Vermont in a “Sweet 16 for the Green Machine” T-shirt. It was adorned with caricatures of the newly crowned champion Celtics. They had just tossed aside the Houston Rockets in the finals like 7-foot candy wrappers.

Savor this, I would tell 13-year-old me. There’s no doubt if told it would be 22 years until the Celtics won banner 17, 13-year-old me would scoff, puff out his chest, and point to the cartoon Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. Those guys are never going to fade away. And they’re adding Len Bias. The Celtics aren’t going anywhere except to more victory parades.

I could tell my 1986 younger self to avoid Game 6 of the World Series in a few months, because you won’t believe how the Red Sox will kick the hope out of your soul, but I wouldn’t. Some things, no matter how painful, need to be experienced.

There’s a segment of Boston fans too young to recall either the glory years of the Bird teams or the rock bottom years of the ’90s and early 2000s. They know only the minor frustration that comes with reaching the conference finals, only to fall short. If the Celtics lose Sunday night, those fans might call this season a failure, but they’ll be wrong if they do.

We’ve seen failure. We know what failure looks like. A deep playoff run is not it.

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