The Boston Celtics continue to defy just about everyone and everything….the top NBA teams, referees, old age, each other, their fans, gravity, injuries and logic.
What are they against? ‘What have you got?’ asks a defiant Marlon bRondo. ‘Us against them’ fuels their drive.
A more eclectic cast of characters on a single team I have never seen. The leather jacketed tough guy, battered but unphased collection of ballers is cutting a swath of destruction through the NBA’s elite teams. The all-but-dead Orlando Magic got up off the canvas and delivered a few haymakers, courtesy of Dwight Howard, of their own. The cussing and double concussed Boston Celtics controlled their own verbalocity and let their games do the talking for them to end the Eastern Conference Title series.
The Celtics just defeated the Orlando Magic 96-84 and 4 games to 2 in a surprise playoff run that no one could have predicted, and the Celtics players will tell you they never doubted.
Those who win the wars get to write the history. So the Men in Green will write the latest chapter and the penultimate chapter to this amazing year. If it were a comic book it would be called ‘Tales of the Unexpected.’
After a ‘beyond startling’ 3-0 jump out to what was an undefeated Magic team in the playoffs, the Magic looked cooked and ready to serve up as the latest victim to the regenerated Green Machine. Like a lizard that grew it’s tale back, the Green Goblins have been eating up opponents north and south.
Then momentum changed in game 4 as the Magic won in overtime. They fought back to win again in game 5, sending the Celtics back home with some trepidation and work to do.
It is fitting that in the Magic’s final game of the season, the Celtics used green Krypto-Nate to weaken Orlando’s superman-led team. Nate’s first half appearance was spurred by a hurting Rajon Rondo (Mr. Fantastic) who fell on his back hard on a drive. Nate got Doc’s prophetic chance and made good.
First Quarters Were Key
The Celtics started fast in what has been a very critical first quarter fast and held the lead when Nate came in. But Robinson drilled the Magic for 13 points in 8 minutes and broke things open. Doc Rivers’ April prediction about Nate winning a playoff game for the Celtics came true on this night. Little Nate was…huge.
After Orlando closed a 20 point lead to 13 at the half, ever dangerous Ray Allen started the second half by drilling 2 straight three pointers to open up a 19 point lead that would take the steam out of a never-say-die Orlando team. You could hear their backs slowly breaking. Only a collapse by the Celtics would change the outcome of the game that would send the Magic home for the summer.
This was the same Ray Allen that many thought was through and merely useful trade bait….say for…Antawn Jamison or Caron Butler. Ray’s own play seemed to be in a funk as the possibility that he might end up the season in a different town wearing a different jersey must have been running through his mind. Once the trading date passed, Ray revived, and once again was a consistent and lethal shooter.
Those ‘other’ two players did eventually get traded to teams that many considered strong playoff contenders. They are home now. Ray plays on, in large part due to his own efforts with this aging Celtic team. He finished with 20 points on 6 of 13 shooting with 3 very big three pointers.
The Magic would not give up as they did in game three, when they looked ready to be covered with dirt, but they would not be able get the lead below 14 despite repeated attempts to whittle down the Celtics.
Paul Pierce played yet another inspired big game when the Celtics needed it most. He had 19 second half points with multiple big shots from all over the floor and 31 for the game. If that wasn’t enough, Pierce led both teams with 13 rebounds while adding 5 assists. Pierce’s big game will add to his growing Celtic legend.
He and Ray Allen held off any attempts at momentum breaking runs by Orlando with big shot after big shot.
A well used and worn Rajon Rondo answered the bell with yet another gutsy performance. His play may be the most critical of all on a team of impact players. He finished with 6 assist, and 14 points and a tremendous floor game.
The Celtics’ heart and soul of their defense, Kevin Garnett, helped hold Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard down and added 10 points and a block and 5 rebounds.
A much quieter Kendrick Perkins played an enormous 33 minutes, finishing with 7 rebounds and just 2 points as he was occupied with keeping Clark Kent in civilian clothes. One of his previous 2 technical fouls was rescinded by the league office, thus removing his one game suspension
The Celtic bench of Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Nate Robinson, and Tony Allen out played the Magic bench and helped create the difference in this win.
Glen played after suffering a concussion and some missing dental work courtesy of Dwight Howard’s elbow in the last game. He finished with 7 rebounds, sold defense, and 6 points.
So the Celtics will meet the winner of the Lakers/Suns series next Thursday. Chants of Beat L.A. were ringing through the TD Garden as the game wore on and the lead hovered around 20 points.
In a year that has not gone according to plan, the Cs are getting things together at the exact right time.
On a team that has the league’s best starting five, they have reached what was their goal from the start, the NBA Finals.
The only thing left to prove is that they are the World’s Finest. With a week before the Finals start, they could use the rest.
They are just 4 wins away from Celtic NBA title #18. It seems like another story book ending in that it looks like the Lakers may be their opponent.
If the Lakers hold true and beat the Suns, it should be an explosive and well matched battle between two worthy contenders. NBA basketball will again hold the nation’s attention as the league’s most storied franchises will meet in an epic series.