Stan Van Gundy’s Words of Wisdom and the Unforeseen Heroics: Celtics Force Game 7 in Historic Fashion.
Game 7 in Boston on Monday night is set to be a spectacle like no other. As the Celtics secured a dramatic 104-103 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 6, forcing a historic seventh game in the best-of-seven series, there are two undeniable truths that stand out from the rest. Firstly, the upcoming game cannot bear any resemblance to the previous one. Secondly, regardless of his ability to predict the future, Stan Van Gundy’s influence on the outcome of the game is limited.
It was the latter truth that lingered in the aftermath of Boston’s nail-biting win. Van Gundy inadvertently played a role in setting up the Celtics’ crucial final inbounds play. With the nation fixated on the potential heroics of the other players, Van Gundy casually mentioned that Miami’s Max Strus should pay attention to inbounder Derrick White. Little did anyone know that this passing comment would prove to be eerily prophetic.
With just three seconds remaining on the clock and the Heat leading 103-102 following three clutch free throws by Jimmy Butler, the Celtics called a timeout to set up one last chance to salvage their season. In a surprising move, White, not an obvious offensive option, was tasked with inbound duties. As he successfully passed the ball to teammate Marcus Smart, I, like many others, fell for Van Gundy’s diversion and found myself closely watching White’s movements.
Smart executed his part, launching an off-balance and tightly contested turnaround three-pointer over Gabe Vincent. Meanwhile, White sprinted towards the basket, anticipating the rebound that seemed unlikely to find him in time. Momentarily distracted by the threat of Jayson Tatum, who was positioned nearly 40 feet away from the basket, Strus allowed White to seize the opportunity. White quickly secured the missed shot and converted the follow-up with a mere tenth of an inch remaining, delivering a climactic conclusion to this enthralling display of athleticism.
Van Gundy’s foresight stemmed from his role as a coach-turned-analyst, where considering all potential options during timeouts is a fundamental aspect of the job. Similar strategic musings could be expected from the likes of Hubie Brown, who has dedicated countless decades to dissecting every scenario. While other broadcasters may have focused on the star players and the impending NBA Finals, the inbounder often goes unnoticed since, with only three seconds left, their contribution rarely leads to a game-winning play.
Yet, to his credit, White defied the odds—albeit for just two more days—by capitalizing on his one-in-a-hundred chance. In a night filled with reasons for both teams to celebrate and lament their decisions, he emerged as the unlikely hero, aided by Strus’ momentary distraction by the opposition’s key player instead of guarding the fifth option.
In the two days leading up to the climactic Game 7, much will be said about Butler’s erratic shooting, Boston’s questionable reliance on three-pointers despite their effectiveness inside the arc, and the historical parallels to past sporting triumphs. Game 6 will be remembered as an instant classic but ultimately overshadowed by the anticipation of a Game 7 that promises to deliver its own unique blend of suspense and excitement. These three points, however, will undoubtedly hold significance on Monday night: Stan Van Gundy’s words will be heeded, time will be constantly monitored, and the inbounder will be closely guarded. These intricacies of the modern game are about to take center stage for a brief but unforgettable moment.