Game 7s are one of the most stressful things you can live through as a sports fan. Doesn't really matter the sport, there's nothing like it. In basketball, it doesn't matter whether it's the first round, the conference finals, or even the NBA Finals, they are going to take years off your life. In that regard I feel for both Nuggets and Jazz fans, I'm sure today has been BRUTAL for each fanbase as they do nothing but count down the hours until tipoff. I know I can't wait to see it and I don't give a shit who wins.
Then I started thinking about my own experiences when it came to playoff Game 7s because I've certainly had my fair share of these as a fan of the Celts. Starting back to the first one I really remember in 2005, I've lived through 11 of these bad boys. I've dealt with first round Game 7s, some second round ones, ECFs, NBA Finals, I've lived through it all. It hasn't all been pretty either. I know what the pain of losing a Game 7 feels like too. Since 2005 the Celts are 6-5 in Game 7s. I've seen this team fail to reach a Finals by losing a Game 7 at home. I've seen this team lose a title by dropping a Game 7. Both to hated rivals. It doesn't get more painful than that.
So for any fans out there that have never experienced a Game 7, this is pretty much how your day goes
I say "wake up" sort of jokingly because anyone who has lived through one of these will tell you there is no chance you got any sleep the night before. Your stomach is in knots since the final buzzer of Game 6 went off. You spend all night tossing and turning thinking about a play here or there that might have prevented this do or die game. You're thinking about the one game where your offense couldn't buy a goddamn bucket. You think about how awesome it's going to feel to win while also assuming the worst and the pain that might be in your future.
By now you've for sure looked up every obscure stat there could possibly be about your own team's Game 7 history, how your opponent does, who the refs are and how each plays with that crew, the list goes on and on. You see a positive stat and you feel over the moon and you try your best to ignore anything negative. By now you've looked at your clock roughly 10,000 times and haven't done a goddamn thing at work. Your TPS reports are a mile high but you don't give a shit, this is Game 7 day.
This is where you start to lose your shit. Yes, you're still working and no, the game isn't starting anytime soon. I'd say you've flip flopped how you feel about the game about four dozen times. You're an emotional rollercoaster of both positivity and the worst possible outcome. You still haven't touched your TPS reports, I imagine you've already gotten into a few Twitter arguments over your team being chokers or your favorite player not being clutch. You're very irritable at this moment. The slightest troll tweet or comment on TV sends you over the edge. You combat this by rewatching some of the best highlights of the season for your favorite team. You feel better. One more look at the clock and there's still hours and hours until tipoff. You don't know if you'll make it.
If this was a normal world, this is where you would find yourself rushing home. That's especially true if you are the first game. But today the Game 7 isn't until the late tip so that's obviously not happening. It's also true that most likely you are already at home. So this is where you turn on the first game and try and distract yourself. It's clearly not going to work. Why? Because they are going to mention your Game 7 about a billion times during the broadcast. You'll get commercials about it, you'll see tweets about wanting the current game to end so we can get to Game 7 already. Your anxiety raises with each passing second of the game clock. The thing about Game 7 is as much as you may want, there is no hiding from it. It's coming no matter what.
The actual experience of a Game 7 is where the real juice is. If your team starts off cold you're convinced they're fucked. Doesn't matter if they soon go on a 10-0 to get back into the game, the first few buckets are always the most stressful. You just want to see your team score that first basket. The longer they go without scoring, the more stressed you get. Even though a rational brain will tell you the NBA is a game of runs, you aren't really interested in being rational at this moment. On the flip side, if your team gets off to a hot start and builds an early lead, you pull one of these
This is by far the hardest part. You cannot blow your load early if your team starts off strong. After waiting all day the first quarter will go by in a blink of an eye, but don't do this to yourself. Try and remain as calm as possible even though every fiber of your being will be trying to tell your brain you got this game.
At the half, if your team is up you breath a sigh of relief. You're just trying to survive the next 24 minutes. If you're trailing, you are doing your best to ignore the reality that this may not end well for you. This is where you're spinzoning left and right. You tell yourself they just need to not miss open shots, or that there's no way the other team will shoot that well in the second half. You're desperate for anything.
If the game is close in the fourth quarter, well all bets are off. This is where I would advise anyone who might be living with a significant other who isn't interested in sports to make sure you are left alone. Things can be said in a stressful fourth quarter of a Game 7 that you will never recover from. You have to be mindful of that when you get asked to take the trash out or something when there's like 4 minutes left and the game is close. Take a deep breath. You certainly aren't about to get up, but don't be a dick. You'll be paying for that later and that's not what you need if you also have to deal with a Game 7 loss. Trust me on that.
Once the final buzzer sounds this is pretty much what you can expect to feel. If your team won, you're destined for the Finals. If you lose it, be prepared for a level of depression you didn't know you could experience. I once left my buddies birthday party at a bar without telling a soul only to sit in my apartment in the dark for hours after the Celts lost to the Heat in Game 7 of the ECF. The pain you will feel in your heart and your stomach will be soul crushing. You'll replay where things went wrong 10000 times. You won't want to accept what just happened and it will take a long time to recover from.
That's what makes Game 7s so incredible. When you win a Game 7 there are few better feelings in the world as a sports fan. But a Game 7 loss will stick with you for years. I'm still clinically depressed about the 2010 Finals and it's been a legit decade. That's not changing anytime soon.
So good luck to both Nuggets/Jazz fans and then Rockets/Thunder fans tomorrow. This is just the first round but it will feel like the NBA Finals. It's not hyperbole when people say a Game 7 is the best theatre in sports and I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds.