Kevin McHale On Celtics-Wiz, Game 7s And More
- Kevin McHale knows a thing or two about postseason battles. The former player, coach and executive previews Game 7 of Celtics-Wizards and offers a few additional thoughts about this year's playoffs.
Kevin McHale has not worn Celtic green since May of 1993. His final game took place on the road in a playoff loss to Charlotte, and the Hall of Fame power forward believes the Washington Wizards will play their final game of the 2017 playoffs tonight on the road in Boston.
“Home court is the deciding factor in the series between the Celtics and Wizards,” said McHale. “I really dislike when people dismiss the regular season. Home court is why you play all season.”
To preview Game 7 and dissect the many storylines in the Eastern Conference semifinal, SI.com caught up with McHale, a current Turner Sports analyst and former player, coach and executive in the league, and asked him to break down the series in his own words.
(The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity).
On the lopsided contests between the Celtics and Wizards...
“Half the games in this series haven’t even been close, and you don’t see that in a series where the two teams are so even. Normally at this time of the year, you fall into a pretty good rhythm as a team, but this series has seen the home team coming out making shots and the road team just falls apart and plays so uncharacteristically sloppy. It’s almost inexplicable. The road team just isn’t showing up, so it’s a huge advantage having the seventh game in Boston.”
On the daunting nature of playing Game 7 on the road in Boston...
“That aura from the old Boston Garden doesn’t carry over to these younger guys. There was so much more folklore to the old Garden. It had so much history. There is a great crowd at the new Garden, and the Celtics’ fans are always very passionate, so they’ll get great support wherever they play. But when you walked into the old Garden, it was so unique. Everything was straight up and on top of you, and so much history had taken place there.
“Some of the memories transfer over, but there was so much more of an aura around the old Garden. When I played in the 80s, we would talk as players about some of the things that happened with the Bill Russell teams in the 60s and we were only a handful of years removed from Dave Cowens’s teams in the 70s. We really weren’t that far removed from it at the time. To tell these kids today that something happened in 1982, they would be like, ‘Huh?’ It’s just been too long.”
On what goes through a head coach's mind before a Game 7...
“This is Game 7, so Scotty Brooks and Brad Stevens are each set on how they want their teams to play. They know each other’s offense and they know their personnel, so this game will come down to the simple things–rebounds, loose balls, 50-50 balls. Both of those coaches know their team is going to make shots and miss shots, but you have to be able to rebound the ball and win the loose ball battle.”
On what the Wizards need to do to pull off the upset...
“Washington has to move and play at their pace. The Celtics can’t allow that if they want to advance. They need to jam up the paint and defensively rally to the ball to give them second, third and fourth efforts in order to stop a guy like John Wall. The basket doesn’t grow bigger in a Game 7, so the winner will be decided by who is going to be the tougher team tonight. All series long, that’s been the home team.”
On his best Game 7 memories...
“Red [Auerbach] would come in the locker before Game 7 at the Garden, look us in the eyes, and say, ‘This is what we played for all year. That’s why we have home court. Let’s go win the game.’ That was it, and you’d fully believe him. Red was very forceful, and always really positive with the team. Red told more stories when you were individually with him and you’d ask him questions, and Red loved to share things like that. In front of the team, he was more pragmatic and say, ‘We worked for this all year, and now today we’re going to win.’”
On who Isaiah Thomas reminds him of...
“Isaiah reminds me of Tiny [Archibald] in the way he beats you off the hesitation stop-and-go. Tiny could cross you over like Isaiah, but Tiny didn’t go to spin moves to beat you. Tiny straight-line drove you. He’d get in the paint and he’d finish, but as the defense stepped up, he was really looking to pass.
“Isaiah straight-line drives you but he is looking to score more than Tiny, but they are similar in the sense that they can score without the spinning, gyrations, crossovers, and comebacks. They straight line drive you with hesitation, speed, and explosiveness. They’re both really, really good finishers around the hoop, so there are some similarities.”
On the Cavaliers waiting in the wings...
“Cleveland has supreme confidence and they think they beat either of those teams. When you have LeBron James on your team, that’s easy to think.
“Time off and rest can be good for you, but add up the amount of games LeBron James has played in the playoffs and add up the amount of days he’s had off. LeBron already has all the rest he needs.”
On the inevitable feeling of a Warriors-Cavaliers trilogy...
“Golden State is playing the best as a team, but LeBron is the best player in the playoffs up to this point—and LeBron is the best player by far. I watch him and think, ‘Wow. There is no way the game can be that easy for him.’ You just marvel at the way LeBron is playing, but the Warriors play team basketball with movement and attacking—the boom-boom-boom pass—that makes them unstoppable.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.