If the Boston Celtics fail to reach their third NBA Finals in the past five seasons, they certainly won’t be able to blame the basketball gods.
Head coach Doc Rivers chose to concede home-court advantage to the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round playoff matchup, choosing instead to make the health of Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce a priority. Boston has since been rewarded with a number of small miracles that may ease its path to the Eastern Conference title.
First, there was the unfortunate ACL injury suffered by Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose in the final minutes of Game 1 of a first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. That paved the way for Philadelphia to eliminate Chicago—the Eastern Conference’s top seed—in six games, giving Boston both home-court advantage in the second round and presumably a less difficult route to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics tried their best to squander that gift, heading to Philadelphia for Game 3 with the series tied at one game apiece, a result that many considered lucky given their poor play in Games 1 and 2.
The Game 2 loss seemed to serve as a wake-up call for Boston, reminding the Celtics to get back to the team-oriented style of play that propelled their 2008 title run. That resulted in a 107-91 victory in Philadelphia that has the Celtics smelling blood in the water and poised to end this series in five games, provided that killer instinct carries over into tonight’s game in Philadelphia and a potential closeout game back in Boston on Monday.
In addition to the humbling home loss, Boston’s renewed vigor could also be traced to a second potential gift, one that Sixers' head coach Doug Collins pointed out during his post-game press conference on Wednesday night.
The Miami Heat are without starting power forward Chris Bosh for the remainder of their second-round series against the Indiana Pacers, leaving the presumed favorite to return to the NBA finals suddenly very vulnerable.
Whether or not you believe that Bosh deserves equal billing with Miami’s other two stars—Dwyane Wade and LeBron James—the results of Games 2 and 3 speak volumes about his importance to the team’s success.
Following a surprising three-point victory in Miami on Tuesday night, the Pacers took full advantage of their home court last night, throttling the Heat 94-75.
Even if Miami manages to win this series, Indiana will make it earn it; and there’s no guarantee Bosh would be back for the start of a potential Eastern Conference Final’s showdown with Boston, anyway.
The Pacers would make a formidable foe themselves and would also have home-court advantage over the Celtics should that matchup materialize. However, Boston would probably prefer to take its chances against a still young and improving Indiana team with no clear, go-to star.
Boston’s road to the NBA Finals is by no means paved in gold. However, the Celtics, at least privately, have to feel like Irish eyes are indeed smiling upon them.