Why Celtics-Heat Game 7 is about more than NBA Finals trip

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E

Boston’s core has made clear the Eastern Conference Finals is familiar territory. There’s no denying them in that, either.

“It’s no secret. It’s Game 7, trip to the NBA Finals — a lot on the line,” Jayson Tatum said after Friday’s loss. “Couple of us have been in this situation before, so we know what’s at stake. We know how much this means to everybody.”

Sure, a lot is at stake from a micro perspective, but there’s a bit more to it. If this Eastern Conference Finals appearance doesn’t turn into anything more for Boston — like the others these Celtics have experienced — this core group needs to look inward.

Now, of course, the Celtics can very well win Game 7 and make a very loud statement. They’ve handled more than their share of tough moments this season, so a win on Sunday is well within reach. The Heat won’t gift wrap a win, though. Quite frankly, they need this series win for more than just an NBA Finals trip — just like the Celtics.

“That team over there is hungry,” Jaylen Brown said. “They are experienced. So, we got to come out ready to go and almost just forget about last game.”

For the Heat, they’ve been disrespected up and down since their run to the NBA Finals in the bubble, where they lost to the Lakers. A win on Sunday would quiet some of that chatter.

As for the C’s, there’s a bit more going on. In this current era of Celtics basketball, Boston has seen both overachieving and talent-laden rosters come up short. To see this same core do so again, despite having all the momentum and being one of the favorites to make the NBA Finals at the start of the postseason, would be a very tough pill to swallow.

“We got to do a better job — we will do a better job — on Sunday,” Brown said.

They need to. Because the Heat aren’t about to give up now.