It was one of the most epic series in recent NBA history. The Bulls and Celtics battled through seven overtimes and five games decided by one possession it seemed these two teams were in for what would be an epic seventh and decisive game.
Seems like we always expect something epic in Game Seven. Watching two teams duke it out for a two-week period, you expect there to be an exciting ending. The whole winner-takes-all, do-or-die, win-or-go-home attitude kicks in and you wonder how any team could let this situation get the better of it and watch another team walk away with a blowout victory.
The scary part is that, much like what happened to the Bulls in Game Seven of that first round series with the Celtics, this is how Game Sevens end. The Celtics defeated the Bulls 109-99 in Game Seven in 2009 and then proceeded to lose Game Seven to the Magic 101-82 a round later.
With Memphis and Oklahoma City set to compete in the first Game Seven of the 2011 NBA Playoffs on Sunday afternoon, NBA fans will continue to anticipate a close, competitive game. But in all likelihood, that is not what those fans will get.
Last year’s NBA Finals Game Seven should prove to be the exception and not the rule when it comes to competitive decisive games. The Lakers won 83-79 on a night where the Lakers posted a 100.0 offensive rating and the two teams combined to shoot 36.4 percent for the game. Hardly the entertaining up-and-down game fans want to believe every Game Seven should be.
The only other Game Seven in 2010? It was a 95-74 blowout from Atlanta over Milwaukee.
In 2009, there was the aforementioned Magic blowout in Boston and the Celtics big win in the first round over the Bulls. But 2009 also featured more Game Seven blowouts. The Lakers defeated the Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals with an 89-70 victory in Game Seven. The Hawks also defeated the Heat 91-78 in Game Seven of probably the worst competed seven-game series — there was an average margin of victory of 19.1 points per game and the lowest winning margin was 10 points.
The previous year also presented more lopsided Game Sevens than competitive ones. LeBron James and Paul Pierce had their duel in Boston’s 97-92 win over Cleveland in the second round of 2008. But aside from that game, the other Game Sevens of 2008 were not as competitive. San Antonio upset New Orleans on the road 91-82 and Boston trounced Atlanta 99-65.
What does this tell us? Much like the NCAA Tournament, in a one-and-done scenario you are just as likely to get a close game as you are to get a blowout. With the pressure of a seventh game — something NBA players never really have to deal with because they are not in preseason or conference tournaments before heading into the big dance. Likely the intense pressure of playing in a do-or-die game at an NBA level can be a little overwhelming. It feels like whichever team survives that first storm is the one that can pull away and win.
Which makes this Oklahoma City-Memphis series so interesting.
The Grizzlies have played the entire series extremely loose with a never-say-die attitude. Will they finally feel the pressure to deliver with the season on the line on the road? It sure seems like Memphis will not after mounting comebacks at home in Games Three and Six at home. But this is at Oklahoma City Arena where the Thunder blew out the Grizzlies in Game Five.
For Oklahoma City: can this young Oklahoma City squad finally play up to the expectations of a winning team? The Thunder seem to be pressing — especially forward Kevin Durant. Will Game Seven overwhelm them or energize them?
These are all questions the Thunder and Grizzlies are going to have to answer in Game Seven.
What is going to happen? Anything. Anything can happen. Just don’t be surprised if it is not quite the close game you expected.
Photos via DayLife.com.