MILWAUKEE — Boston Celtics big man Al Horford has been on both benches at TD Garden for a deciding Game 7 during his 10-year NBA career. As the Celtics brace for a win-or-go-home showdown with the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, Horford knows as well as anyone the value of home-court advantage.
A stagnant Celtics offense sputtered Thursday night in Boston’s first chance to close out its Eastern Conference first-round series against the Bucks. But as the series shifts back to Boston, Celtics players believe they have an advantage playing on their home turf.
“TD Garden is going to be great. As a basketball player or fan, one of the places you want to enjoy and be, it’s TD Garden for a Game 7,” said Horford, whose first postseason trip, with the Atlanta Hawks, ended with a Game 7 loss to Boston’s most recent Big Three during the team’s 2008 title run.
Added Horford: “I’ve been on both sides. It’s tough about [Thursday’s loss], but I’m definitely looking forward to Saturday.”
Celtics players lamented their offensive inconsistency during Thursday’s 97-86 loss at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks turned bad Boston offense into easy transition baskets while building a double-digit first-half lead, then fended of some second-half surges.
Now the Celtics need a win Saturday to extend their season.
“The result is our guys get to experience a Game 7, which, again, we didn’t want,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Game 7 in TD Garden is what you play for. It should be what you’re excited most about. What you worked for all summer, what you worked for all year. It’s a blast.”
The Bucks expect a frenzied atmosphere in Boston.
“It’s going to be crazy. It’s do or die at this point,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “The crowd in Boston is rowdy, just like they are here. It’s going to be a great game. There are no secrets between teams. It comes down to who has more will.”
Only four players remain from Boston’s 2016-17 team that won a Game 7 against the Washington Wizards in the conference semifinals. Third-year guard Terry Rozier even made special mention of last year’s unexpected hero in Kelly Olynyk (now with Miami). The Celtics are hoping another hero will emerge from their young roster.
“This is where home-court advantage comes up, where we’ve been playing the right way all season,” second-year swingman Jaylen Brown said. “This is where playing the right basketball all year long is going to come to a benefit. Game 7, a lot of people haven’t experienced it on this team. It’s crazy, and I expect nothing short of a tremendous performance from everybody.”
What’s the difference in Game 7?
“Back against the wall, both teams, loser go home,” Brown said. “That’s all that needs to be said. You win or go home.”
“The approach is by any means necessary get the win,” Marcus Morris said. “We did lose [Thursday], but it’s not all bad. We get to go home and play in front of our fans. Game 7 in Boston I heard is really crazy. So I’m excited.”
Asked about his team’s confidence level, Morris said, “A lot of confidence. [The Bucks] did what they were supposed to do. They handled home court. And now we get to go play in front of the best fans in the NBA.”