WALTHAM Despite all the chatter about the Boston Celtics and their edge in experience over the Philadelphia 76ers, few outside of the Big Four understand what a playoff Game 7 feels like.
Mickael Pietrus does.
In fact, his lone Game 7 experience came at the expense of the Celtics in 2009, when he played for the Orlando Magic and they came into the Garden and left with a 101-82 win.
That would serve as the lone Game 7 loss at home during the Big Three era.
Pietrus remembers that game vividly, a game in which he scored 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
Now that he's a member of the Celtics, he'll bring a similar approach -- win at all costs -- to Saturday's Game 7 matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, with the winner moving on to the Eastern Conference finals to face the Miami Heat.
"I'm fighting for my jersey," he tells CSNNE.com. "I'm coming to protect my jersey. I wear a Celtics jersey. I have too much pride. I'm not going to let them have it easy. I'm going to fight for my jersey; fight for my teammates; fight for the Celtics."
And that, more than anything else, is what Game 7's are about.
It is a brutal slugfest between teams that are well aware that their season has literally come down to this one game.
"Whoever steps out on the that court, understands this is it, this could be the season," said Paul Pierce. "We have to play like a desperate team, regardless of if we're home or not; whoever wants it the most, is going to get it."
Pierce has delivered a slew of big-game performances in his career, but few were better than the 41-point effort he had in the C's 97-92 Game 7 win over Cleveland in 2008.
"I like challenges; I like being in pressure situations," said Pierce, who will be playing in his seventh Game 7 on Saturday -- more than any other Celtic except Ray Allen, who has already played in seven. "Game 7, I been there before. I understand what it takes, and I'm ready for it."
For Pietrus, Game 7's in Boston mean more - a lot more - than others.
"Whatever it takes, fight for your jersey," he reiterated. "That's what the Celtics are about; it's all about fight. It's not about how many points you score. It's not about who scores. You fight; you fight to win. That's what it means to be a Celtic."
As much as this game is about the playoff survival, there's no mistaking that for players like Pietrus, pride is also a factor.
"This is a special franchise; even when you play elsewhere, you kind of have that in mind when you talk about the Boston Celtics," guard Keyon Dooling told CSNNE.com in an earlier interview. "There's a brotherhood here that's really special and unique; we're always pulling for one another and pushing each other to get better. It really is something special."
That's why while disappointed, the Celtics are far from devastated at the news that Avery Bradley had to have season-ending shoulder surgery which robs them of their best on-the-ball defender.
"We've been through this all year," said coach Doc Rivers. "Stuff happens; you deal with it and move on. That's what we've been, and that's what we'll have to be (in Game 7)."
Rivers has raved all year about how this group of C's is one of the best teams he has ever coached.
Not necessarily because of their talent or ability to win.
But more because of their fighting spirit, the ability to persevere when the odds are stacked against them.
"They have a way of being ready," Rivers said.
Pietrus believes he has a good feel for why the Celtics have been able to overcome a season filled with injuries and other assorted setbacks.
"It comes down to how hard are you willing to fight for your team," Pietrus said. "That's what it takes. I'm ready . . . and so are my teammates. Let's go!"