The Boston Celtics entered Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals as the darling of the NBA. The media were picking them to wrap up the series at the TD Garden, and the downfall and future of the Miami Heat were hot topics.
Forty-eight minutes of basketball and 45 LeBron James points later, and the basketball world is singing a different tune. The momentum is firmly back in Miami's court, and the Heat will get home-court advantage for the decisive Game 7.
The Celtics are going to have to be firing on all cylinders to slow down James and the Heat, especially if Chris Bosh is able to play significant minutes.
Kevin Garnett will once again be responsible for spearheading the Celtics' defensive efforts. His energy, physicality and size down low has made him a force throughout the playoffs. But his 36-year old legs will have to hold up for another sizeable workload in Game 7 for Boston to slow down Miami.
Offensively, the Celtics have leaned on their distributer, point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo was not himself in Game 6, making a handful of unforced turnovers, as the Celtics struggled to get going on offense. If he can revert back to form, the Celtics should be able to find a better rhythm on offense.
Meanwhile, Paul Pierce lives for moments like these. One of the greatest players to ever don a Celtics uniform, Pierce will need to rebound from a dismal 4-for-18 shooting performance in Game 6. After settling for too many jumpers in the 21-point loss on Thursday, Pierce will have to get to the basket more often to get into a groove.
Hobbled by an ankle injury, Ray Allen has been hit or miss during the 2012 NBA Playoffs. The Celtics are hoping for the former when Allen suits up Saturday night. Allen is not relied upon to be a huge producer, but double-digit points from the veteran would take a lot of pressure off the rest of the Celtics.
The Big Four won't be able to do it all, however. The bench play of Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus has been a huge asset for Boston at times during the postseason, and Game 7 would be the perfect time for the reserves to rise to the occasion again, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
Who do you think is the biggest factor in Game 7 for the Celtics?