Game 7. Times Three.

There’s nothing like a Game Seven in post-season professional sports.  One game.  Winner take all.  Loser goes home.  The ultimate relegation, if only for a long, hot summer.

And within the next 36 hours, we lucky fans will get to experience it three more times.

Sure, we had a taste of it in the first round, especially so with a thrilling Toronto-Boston elimination game that saw the Bruins drive yet another dagger into the tortured hearts of the Maple Leafs faithful.  And the Cleveland Cavaliers ended the dreams of a gutty young Orlando Magic team a couple of Sundays ago, only to quickly prove they were no match for a Boston Celtics juggernaut that is awaiting the winner of this afternoon’s showdown between the chaotic Indiana Pacers and the injury-riddled New York Knicks.

But for a New York faithful desperately hoping to see true progress at last, there is indeed a little hope on the horizon.  For one, they’re at home, and each of this series’ first six games have seen the home team win.  And as BLEACHER REPORT’s Andrew Peters reported, they may be getting some help from the walking wounded:

New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby has been upgraded to questionable for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.  

According to Wojnarowski, Anunoby is likely to go through pregame warmups to decide whether he can return to the lineup.  SNY’s Ian Begley added there’s “optimism” Anunoby will be able to return on Sunday.  Anunoby suffered a hamstring injury in Game 2 and has not been back on the court since. He is averaging 16.4 points per game and had 28 points in Game 2 before the injury.

With iron man Josh Hart suffering an abdominal injury during Friday night’s blowout loss in Game 6, one that will at the very least compromise him to an extent, the Knicks need as many healthy bodies as possible.  But it also appears that he will suck it up and at least mollify the angst of Stephen A. Smith long enough to make the effort.

The last time these teams met in a Game 7 was in a similar conference semifinals situation,  a 97-95 squeaker won by Indiana at MSG.  The prior year, the Knicks advanced to the NBA Finals with yet another Game 7 win over the Pacers on the now-storied Patrick Ewing finger roll.  So call this a rubber game.

Tonight in Denver the upstart Timberwolves will attempt to eliminate the current champion Nuggets.  After Denver rattled off three consecutive wins, two in Minneapolis, it appeared highly unlikely that this game would have been necessary at all.  But that was before they gained a little motivation, as CNN’s

Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels said the team’s coaches showed the players a highlight reel of their best defensive plays this season before the game.

“It was like kind of a hype video,” McDaniels said, per ESPN. “It had a good effect on us. Just showing that we’re able to compete with these guys. Like, we’ve done it before.”

And as the DENVER POST’s Bennett Durando reported, another Wolf has some additional adrenaline coursing through his veins:

Donovan Mitchell had collapsed to the floor, devastated, after Utah’s final 3-point attempt spun out of the cylinder as time expired, leaving Mitchell with only an 80-78 loss to show for his Herculean effort in the bubble: 36.3 points per game on 52% outside shooting in the seven-game saga.  

The player who missed the shot?

“It’s hard to escape it,” he said Saturday. “You find that clip every now and then. Sometimes it comes across the phone. I don’t actively search it. I don’t want to bring up that memory too much. But at the same time, though, it’s something that I’ve thought about in workouts. I think about it when I’m having a tough day at work, or I miss a certain shot. I’m like, man, I’ve gotta make this because I might be in this situation again. I might get the opportunity again.”

The loneliest man in the gym that night will finally get that opportunity again Sunday in another Game 7 — against the same opponent. Murray and Mitchell are forever intertwined by that 2020 first-round playoff clash in the bubble, but 32-year-old point guard Mike Conley was Utah’s second-leading scorer, averaging 19.8 points in the series on 53% shooting from 3-point range. The only shot that’ll live forever was his last one: a pull-up three in transition that would have won the series and eliminated the Nuggets.

Now 36 and still chasing his first championship, Conley has been waiting for an opportunity like Sunday.

His Minnesota Timberwolves against a similar Denver Nuggets core in another Game 7. How many times has he replayed the moment in his head over the last 48 hours, since Minnesota forced a winner-take-all game?

“The last four years,” Conley said, “not the last 48 hours.”

So in case you’re looking for a longshot to make headlines besides the current MVP (Nikola Jokic) and the purported Michael Jordan legacy heir (Anthony Edwards), you might want to a move a white chip to the come line on Conley.

And tomorrow night, the NHL gets another Game 7 and this time, a Canadian team will be sure to win.  More importantly, all of North America will get a chance in a window where they will have the post-season stage all to themselves.  Those of us that have been focused on the heroics, overtimes and controversies of the Rangers and Hurricanes, the Panthers and Bruins and Stars and Avalanche perhaps have missed what’s been transpiring north of the border.  Last night, the ATHLETIC’s  Thomas Drance and Daniel Nugent-Bowman caught us up:

Connor McDavid was never going to go away quietly. And on Saturday night, in a must-win Game 6 for McDavid and the Oilers, the best player on the planet took over the proceedings and bludgeoned the Vancouver Canucks.

It was, in truth, a fitting result for a back-and-forth series in which none of the outcomes in any individual game have felt tethered to the rest of the series.

The Oilers seemed to be reeling after key Game 3 and Game 5 losses, only to bounce back and play their best, most responsible hockey the next game. The Canucks missed an opportunity to put the Oilers away in Game 4, and responded with their most impressive performance of the series in Game 5. Now they’ll have to do it again, with their season on the line, in a Game 7 on Monday night at Rogers Arena.

That game will be for all of the marbles. For the Oilers, they can’t afford to miss this opportunity, with McDavid and Draisaitl still in their primes and at the top of their powers. They’re built for this moment, despite the significant flaws up and down their roster.

For the Canucks, it’s a chance to keep a dream season going, a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a franchise that has only made three previous appearances in the conference final.

This series has been defined by moves and countermoves. Haymakers and counterpunches. A knife’s edge separating two teams in a dramatic All-Canadian matchup.

It deserves a seventh game. And it will get one.

And lucky us.  We get three in two days.


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