The Boston Celtics weren’t supposed to compete in this series. Now, they’re a game away from winning the Eastern Conference and advancing to their third NBA Finals appearance in five years. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
This Celtics team will go down as one of the most underrated teams in NBA history. Since they were brought together, they’ve won an NBA title, lost another in 7 games, and reached the conference finals in four of their five seasons together. What’s even crazier; they’ve only be fully healthy for one of those five playoff runs – 2008 when they won the title.
In 2009, they almost knocked off the Magic in the conference finals without Kevin Garnett. In 2010, they nearly stole Game 7 in LA with RASHEED WALLACE playing 36 minutes in place of the injured Kendrick Perkins. In 2011, just when the Celtics were showing life against the Heat, Rondo’s elbow broke in half and the Celtics and a hobbled Rondo were finished. This year, with nearly their entire front court (Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Wilcox, Jeff Green) out, plus an injured Ray Allen and a hobbled Paul Pierce, the Celtics are within a game of the NBA Finals. The toughness and determination of this core group of Celtics is admirable and perhaps even legendary.
I love it when teams boast about being fearless. They’re usually full of crap. But I believe the Celtics when they say it. They never flinch. After Brandon Bass got rocked at the rim by Dwyane Wade, the arena, Wade, the Heat’s bench and even Mike Breen all lost their marbles. The Celtics weren’t impressed. Rajon Rondo darted for the loose ball and tapped – yes, tapped – it to a wide open Mickael Pietrus for a killer 3. The crowd couldn’t believe it and neither could the Heat. The game wasn’t won on that single play, but the message was delivered loud and clear; we’ve seen it all before, you won’t rattle us.
And that attitude is what makes the Celtics so dangerous. Talent is important in the NBA, but toughness and tenacity is perhaps even more deadly in the postseason. I would love a Celtics Spurs Finals just to watch two teams that play old school ball go head to head. Unfortunately, the Spurs lack the grit and fearlessness that drives the Celtics.
[I received an email from a friend this morning and his take on the game was worth sharing, so I’ll let him take over:]
After watching last night’s game it’s apparent Boston may actually be the better team. Several comments were made in the post-game show that I thought ring so true:
1. The Heat always leans on two players; Boston relies on the whole team (including guys like Pietrus to play defense and Brandon Bass).
2. The Heat has bad coaching, evidenced by the way the Heat gets beat on almost EVERY out of bounds play. On the other hand, Doc Rivers runs circles around Eric Spoelstra with his shifting defenses.
3. The Heat does not know how to close, they simply think they can show up with the necessary talent and win. Boston has guts – they reach deep down and know how to win because their players are winners, especially Garnett and Pierce. They show up when it matters the most. I’ve grown to enjoy Garnett’s game more and more over the course of these playoffs. He is so unselfish on the court and even takes assignments he’d rather not take (i.e. playing down low when he’s more of a perimeter big man) in order to help his team win. Both he and Pierce have conceded to Rondo as the main star, yet still do their jobs. That’s what the NBA is all about, doing your job. The Celtics do this so well.
I know the Heat could easily win the next two games and send Boston packing. However, it’s fun to watch this Boston team because they actually play as a “team.” I’d love to watch them in the Finals and now think they may have a chance to win it all. In general, these playoffs have reignited my enjoyment of the NBA even if David Stern tries to screw things up.