It all came together for the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter as they edged out Washington Wizards to reach the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
The Celtics trailed 76-72 late in the third quarter before ending the period on a 13-3 spurt. They needed inspiration to change the game, and it came from the most unlikely of places.
An unexpected legend was made, Boston.com argues, as Kelly Olynyk was so hot, it was "a surprise his man-bun didn’t spontaneously combust". The Canadian scored 26 points off the bench in 10 of 14 shooting. The 26-year-old backup centre, with "fans chanting his name in delirious unison", scored 12 of his points in a stretch that lasted less than four minutes in the fourth quarter.
Less unexpected was the headline-grabbing Isaiah Thomas who continued to put big numbers, scoring 29 points in this tight Game Seven. The 28-year-old Boston Celtics guard pushed through pain, both physical and emotional, to add 12 assists. He lost his 22-year-old sister Chyna in a car accident at the start of the NBA playoffs, USA Today reports, as well as needing surgery for a fractured tooth and two other shifted teeth he sustained in Game One.
While the Wizards had a "more explosive starting five", according to the New York Times, the Celtics had more depth to live another day. The power of the bench helped the Celtics secure the win, scoring 48 points in one turnover compared to the Wizards' bench scoring five points in 2 turnovers.
Boston, unlike their Game Seven opponents, were no stranger to this stage of the playoffs; although it has been a while, with their win seeing a return to the Eastern conference finals for the first time since 2012. Washington, meanwhile, were playing its first Game Seven since 1979. While their teams are steeped with history in the competition, neither had a roster of players with experience in this stage.
The Celtics may be the underdogs against Cleveland in the Eastern finals, but it is a role they have played this series. As star player Thomas notes: "They didn't give us a chance (against the Wizards). They didn't give us a chance when we were down 2-0 to Chicago.
"They don't ever give us a chance, and we just keep going; we don't care about what others say."
Top-seeded Boston Celtics will play Cleveland Cavaliers in Game One of the NBA Eastern Conference finals tomorrow at 8.30pm.