The Boston Celtics shocked the world by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 4 games to 2.
But Paul Pierce is unimpressed.
Unpredictable is an understatement. Impressive and stunning are good attempts at describing what they just accomplished.
When Bob Ryan asked him about the upset series victory and what it meant to him and the team, Pierce was silent and puzzled for a moment, before answering.
Few…make that none…of the pundits picked Boston to win this series. Many Celtic fans had also written their own team off.
Paul Pierce calmly regained composure and espousing genuine confidence, reiterated the set goal that all but the members of the Celtic team thought unattainable. Another NBA title is the only thing that will get this team excited, said the Celtic captain. That is the goal.
All of a sudden, Boston doesn’t look so old. They look dangerous. Damned dangerous. ‘Don’t walk down the alley near them’ kind of dangerous. They looked as locked in as they did 2 years ago.
They played gang tackling defense again. They stripped LeBron James of the ball so many times, it was simply eye opening and incredibly perplexing to see. ‘The king’ was more than dethroned. He was shown to be the man behind that curtain, instead of the great and powerful Oz.
James simply does not play great ball when he gets to the playoffs. And, in the end, the Cavs were still a one man team.
James had a great game numbers-wise. But to put it in perspective, his ‘monster’ 19 rebound game was one more than Rajon Rondo, the Celtics 6’ 1” point guard had in his monster game. It is enough to make you re-think LeBron James and to wonder if maybe he’s just not quite as great as you thought. A change in perception, if not in environment will certainly be in order.
Certainly, the Cavs’ coach Mike Brown will be hearing the ice crack beneath him, as Doc Rivers and the Celtics out coached and out played his team. Wild (and not so wild) hypotheses are all ready being formed about where LeBron James will take his uniquely singular game next season.
Celtic fans (and myself) worried about who would guard Lebron James when this inevitable match up came to pass. While many Celtics stepped up and it was a team effort, Paul Pierce sacrificed his offense to be the player they couldn’t find in a trade.
That was best exemplified in a late game moment when Pierce was glued to James like a 6′ 7″ neck tie on a drive to the hoop, simply mirroring LeBron’s movement, as James bounced the ball off the back board. LeBron looked for a foul. But even Jeff Van Gundy said it superb defense by Paul.
Who can figure this team out? They are doing what they said they would do. The regular season meant nothing. They are playing their best basketball when it counts the most…now.
They just knocked off the team many expected to be playing the Lakers in the finals this year. And now they face the team the rest of the NBA observers feel will be the Lakers’ opponent, the streaking Orlando Magic.
The Magic are undefeated in the playoffs and have won 8 straight games, including a carving up of the young and talented Atlanta Hawks. Speaking of good byes…Good bye Mike Woodson. Good bye Joe Johnson. Forget my article on giving Mike Woodson a new contract. The 0-4 showing closed that door, a rational observer would think.
Rasheed Wallace has awoken from a year long slumber. He said he would. The Celtics need him. He brings some very valuable skills to this Celtic team in areas where they are weak. They need him to play well to win it all. He can…and they can. Wallace is great to watch play when he is motivated like that. What a talent.
And let me be among the first to suggest that next year Kevin Garnett could be even better next year than this year. He’ll be healthier, contrary to previous utterings from KG. I’ve always felt that most players return from most injuries before they are fully healed. Tony Allen did it. It is my belief that Garnett did as well. Both are playing their best ball of the year right now. Both players got better as the season wore on.
So, this season the Celtics paced themselves after all. Maybe not entirely by plan, but by necessity. They had injuries to deal with. They had age to deal with. They played .500 ball since December and said, “Don’t worry about it.”
Kevin Garnett, post game, alluded to chemistry issues and the emergence of Rajon Rondo in much the same sentence. Accepting that emergence apparently required some internal challenges to the team.
The emphasis on Garnett’s offense was a direct result of him being guarded by Antawn Jamison. The match up was a great one for the Celtics and solid strategy by Doc Rivers. I’ve wanted KG to be more involved offensively all along.
But the Celtics thrive on defense. The Celtics’ Big Green Wall is back.
It was said before the playoffs began that the Cs had a puncher’s chance of getting to the title series. They no longer look like a puncher. They are regaining the tactical fortitude to endure and parlay any attack by their opponents.
Make no mistake, Orlando will offer a more difficult attack to defend and, as a team, will challenge the Celtics in ways the Cavaliers could not.
But no team in the NBA has a more seriousness of purpose than the Boston Celtics. In their minds, Orlando is just the next challenge to overcome on the way to another NBA title.
As Paul Pierce says…the only thing Celtic teams get excited about is hanging banners.
Most incredibly, when viewed from just the season’s end, they are 8 wins away from achieving that goal.
It is time people started to take that quest seriously. Quite Seriously.