Somewhere last night Rudy Tomjanovich was smiling while watching the Boston Celtics celebrate their Game five win.
"Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion!"
At that time, truer words were never spoken. The Rockets had just repeated as NBA Champions. They did it while beating the top four teams in the NBA record wise, the only time that has occurred.
Last night in Boston, the Celtics showed exactly what "heart" can do for a team.
Quite simply, they refused to lose. Their will to not lose, was so much stronger than the Magic's will to win. It was not even close.
The last five minutes of the game was an execution clinic. The Celtics were just fabulous. They got the shots they wanted, from the players they wanted them to come from. Where the Magic were just helpless in their own execution.
Something as simple as getting the ball to your best free throw shooters was the difference in this game. While the Celtics executed time and time again, by getting the ball to Eddie House and Ray Allen, the Magic failed. They got the ball to Dwight Howard, a 64% free throw shooter.
Yeah, he hit the first one. However, no Magic fan was happy that he was the one stepping to the line.
With 8:49 left in the fourth quarter and the Celtics trailing by 14, I was furious. I would be lying right now if I told you I thought they were coming back to win the game. There was no a doubt in my mind that we were going to Orlando, down three games to two.
I guess I should have listened to Rudy T, huh?
That is when the Celtics turned up the heat. The Magic should of got out of the kitchen.
Stephon Marbury took the team on his back and became a one man scoring machine, which gave me flash backs to his days in Minnesota. Burying two 16 foot jumpers in a row, stepping to the top of the key for a three ball, he was simply brilliant. He saved his best for last though, when he attacked Dwight Howard, drew the foul and made an amazing, acrobatic finish, for the old fashioned three point play.
You see, that is where heart comes into play.
No one in their right mind saw Marbury as the one who would save the day. Not me. Not you. Not the 18,624 fans at the Garden last night. Hell, not even the Magic.
You know who did though? Steph. His teammates. Doc Rivers. He never got down on himself. Not once. Sure he missed his first four shots badly. So what. He said I will make my next one. That is what great players do. Only he was wrong. He made his next four shots.
Doc Rivers said it best after the game, "great players have the ability to forget. All of us average players can't forget that stuff."
Forget? We did. We forgot that Marbury is a great player. Say what you want about his persona, but the guy can ball. You do not average 20 ppg and 7 apg in the NBA over your career by accident.
How about Ray Allen?
Like I said in my preview article, Ray has been on the side of a milk carton for this whole series. He was still M.I.A last night through three and a half quarters. Then, when the lights were the brightest, he came through for his team.
After he missed eight of his previous ten shots, Allen came off a screen, on the right arc and buried the biggest shot of the game, a three pointer with 1:20 remaining. That shot gave the C's an 86-85 lead. Their first lead of the game since they lead 8-6 in the first period.
The vaunted Celtics defense we always hear about, was not all that vaunted for three plus quarters. It was however, when the season was on the line.
The Celtics held the Magic to zero field goals in final 5:29 of the game. That is what makes championship teams. Offense comes and goes, but defense should always be your constant.
You cannot teach heart. You either have it or you do not. It comes from being in "the moment" time and time again. It is having no fear of failure. It is exceeding all expectations. It is believing in yourself and your teammates, when no one else does.
The Boston Celtics have heart. We should never underestimate them!