Kevin Garnett won't be posting any comments from the 76ers owners on his mental bulletin board. The Philadelphia fans won't be getting all riled up over comments deriding their loyalty.
"It's Game Seven. There's no tomorrow," Celtics captain Paul Pierce said before practice on Friday. "If this is not the most important thing to you right now, there is no way to motivate you as a basketball player."
The Celtics and Sixers will play tonight (8 p.m., Ch. 7) for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals, where one of them will face the Miami Heat for the right to play for the NBA title. The 76ers forced the series to a decisive game by beating Boston, 82-75, on Wednesday, keeping alive a surprising run that started when they knocked out top-seeded Chicago in the first round.
"I think they're excited about the chance to go in there and have this Game Seven and see what we can do," Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. "I don't think we have any fear. I haven't felt that in our guys at all. When we have played poorly, it's not out of being fearful. I think sometimes we don't execute well. That to me has nothing to do with whether or not the guys believe they can do it."
The Sixers have not been to a Game Seven since 2001, and Collins said he was relying on the energy of a young team that has just one 30-year-old, Elton Brand, getting significant playing time. The Celtics, who have three in the starting lineup alone, are 3-2 in seventh games since the new Big Three was assembled in 2007.
Brand said his younger teammates are ready. Philadelphia point guard Jrue Holiday, who called Game Six the "end of the world," said this would be "The End of the World II."
"They're not scared of the moment at all, which is really good for our team," Brand said. "Some of the older guys are saying, 'Hey, we don't get this opportunity too many times. So let's try to win this game.' "
That's also the mood in Boston, where they are gearing up for the last run of the new Big Three. Pierce is under contract, but Garnett and Ray Allen are free agents at the end of the season.
Still, Garnett wasn't manufacturing anything to motivate himself for the game, like he did for the finale against Atlanta when he fixated on comments by a Hawks owner calling him a dirty player. (He then fed the Sixers bulletin board material this week when he said they had fair-weather fans.)
Allen said he wasn't thinking -- yet -- about the possibility it could be his last game in a Boston uniform.
"We've been so fortunate to do what we've done here," he said. "It seems like we've been ruled out so many times before, so many years before. It's just another opportunity to go out and be who we are, so we're not worried about what's beyond tomorrow. We're worried about more about what we have in the present day."
Woodson hired by Knicks
NEW YORK -- One playoff victory was good enough for Mike Woodson to return as New York Knicks coach -- even with Phil Jackson lurking as a potential candidate.
Woodson knows more will be asked of him now.
"I know expectations are high and they should be high," Woodson said during a conference call, "and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
The Knicks removed the interim tag Friday and announced they had given Woodson a multiyear contract extension, rewarding him for a terrific finish to what had been a turbulent season.
Woodson led the Knicks to an 18-6 record after replacing Mike D'Antoni on March 14.