This was for everyone saying they were too old, too tired, too banged up.
This was for everyone comparing them to the Bruins.
No, there would be no collapse for the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, even after the Orlando Magic stormed back from a 3-0 deficit with two wins to make things interesting.
Even with Glen Davis 48 hours removed from a concussion, Kendrick Perkins' eligibility hanging by a thread and Rasheed Wallace nursing a back injury that refused to heal, the Celtics powered through. Their will to persevere has taken them all the way to the NBA Finals.
"I thought everything that we went through in Game 5 down in Orlando made us stronger," Ray Allen said after the Celtics' 96-84 Game 6 win on their home floor. "What Glen went through, what Perk went through, Rasheed going through what he went through. We went through so much [Thursday], and going into [Friday], everybody had a fresher perspective on what we didn't want to do and what we needed to do to win this game."
The Celtics put their right foot forward in the first quarter — running the floor, pacing the game, moving the ball and getting good shots. They played efficient offense on one end and stifling defense on the other. They went up 30-19 at the end of the first quarter, and they simply never looked back.
Two days ago, it looked as though this night wouldn't come for the Celtics. They were battered, bruised and emotionally deflated. They looked dead. They felt it, too. But over the course of 48 hours, they turned a corner.
"We didn’t really talk," Davis said. "We couldn’t sleep. Everybody came in [Friday], you know, ‘Man, I couldn’t sleep.’ We were just anxious, ready to play. But I knew when we came in and I saw the spirit that everybody had, I knew we were going to get it done."
People were already talking about the Celtics collapsing. The Bruins, 2004 Yankees, 1975 Penguins, 1942 Red Wings, and then the C's. Everyone could see it coming.
Everyone except the Celtics themselves.
"I never really think anything negative about losing or being up 3‑0 and something tragic happening," Paul Pierce said. "My whole mindset is coming in here thinking we're going to win this game no matter what. This team's going to walk out of this building with a win. That is my whole mindset."
The Celtics were fighting against a lot of demons. There was the curse of the Bruins, the hype surrounding the surging Magic, and all the doubts about their own team, old and tired and injured, being able to close things out.
There was also the fact that this Magic team, the defending East champion, was the same team that knocked the Celtics out a year ago. Last year's Eastern Conference semifinals series, in which the Celtics blew a 3-2 lead and lost Game 7 on their home floor, was still fresh in their minds.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," Allen said. "I remember once zero hit the clock, going over to Rashard [Lewis] and telling him congratulations, good luck. Go win the whole thing. Talking to Dwight [Howard] about it, saying the same thing. The difference a year makes. We retooled. The team, the coaching staff has done a great job. Coming into this game, everybody was tremendously focused, and we didn't want to let this one slip away. So we did everything we could."
This season has been packed with more ups and downs than a Disney World roller coaster. The Celtics started off 23-5, they went flat the second half of the season, they limped into the playoffs, and now they're back on top. They're now four wins, over a Western Conference opponent to be announced, away from hanging an 18th championship banner from the rafters at the TD Garden.
After a year like this, it's hard to say that everything went according to plan. But the end result is what matters, and the Celtics are now in the NBA Finals, which is exactly how they drew it up.
"The first thing we said when we got in the locker room is this is where we thought we would be," coach Doc Rivers said. "So don't be surprised. This is what we talked about before the season started. We did go through tough times. But as a coach, I just believed that I saw what they did and what they had. And we kept saying as a staff, 'It's in us. We've got to try to get it back out.' "
Now they've gotten it.
For the 21st time, the Boston Celtics are in the NBA Finals. This is for everyone that doubted them.
Powered by WordPress.com VIP