In case you forgot by now, and most people probably have, that was the Celtics' record to start the year. Almost everyone—analysts, fans, opposing coaches—felt the Celtics would repeat, and the only question was supposed to be whether they wound up with 70 wins.
The Celtics were chugging along, pulverizing everybody, leaving teams in their wake. They had the best starting five in the league, and their bench, with Eddie House's improvements, was playing better than expected.
Rajon Rondo had taken the next step as a player and Kendrick Perkins had gotten substantially better, too. The title was ripe for the taking, and the record for most wins in a single season? They had a shot at that, too.
On the night of February 19th, the Celtics lost to fall to 44-12. Despite the loss that night, they had battled through their season's worst play, a nine-game stretch during which they lost seven, to right the ship and get back on the path to a repeat.
But it wasn't the loss that marks that night's importance; it was the injury of KG, who went down to whatever injury it really was that caused him to miss all but four games the last three months of the season (they said the surgery "cleaned out some wear and tear and got rid of the spur in the back of the leg"; whatever that means).
But what would have happened if Garnett never went down? What would have happened if the Celtics got to defend their title at full strength?
I'm going to take a look into my crystal ball and tell you what would have happened to the certain Celtics and the Celtics as a whole if Garnett had never been injured.
The Celtics, with a big man rotation of Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, Leon Powe, and a healthy Kevin Garnett, choose to wait to see if Joe Smith gets bought out rather than sign Mikki.
The Spurs go ahead and sign Drew Gooden, and the Cavs, not wanting to lose out on Smith to the Celtics and wind up with nobody, decide to sign Mikki.
On March 17, 2009 Leon bangs his knee with Ben Gordon, suffering what, at the time, was diagnosed as just a bruise.
When the "bruise" doesn't get better, the team decides to rest Powe for the rest of the season, including the playoffs. With a frontcourt rotation of Garnett, Perkins, Smith, and Davis, there is no need to rush Powe back onto the court.
Powe regains his health and, in the offseason, re-signs with the Celtics for a home-town discount.
Marbury gets his contract bought out by the Knicks, and, for the first couple weeks, looks very rusty on the court. After five games in Celtics green, though, he settles perfectly into his role as backup point guard.
Being reunited with Garnett unleashes Marbury and he once again becomes the player everyone thought he'd be after the beginning of his career.
It becomes clear to the world that Rondo has improved over the offseason. During the regular season, it seems that as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. He takes the reigns of the team as a playmaker, and displays his maturity.
In the playoffs, though, Rajon takes a backseat to the Big Three. He lets the offense run through Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce instead of being aggressive and looking to make plays. The fans call for Starbury to replace him as his struggles become more obvious.
Ainge finishes the season in perfect health as the Celtics make their run to the playoffs. In a routine checkup after the playoffs, Ainge's doctor finds that he has a clogged artery.
Ainge changes his eating and exercise habits and sets about finding free agents to help the Celtics.
Glen "Big Baby" Davis
Stuck behind Garnett, Perkins and Smith, Davis plays nothing more than spot minutes. He performs admirably while he's in there, and shows the potential to score some points, but never distinguishes himself as an NBA starter. In the offseason, he mulls a couple options over before re-signing with the Celtics for $2 million per year, his highest offer.
The Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics win on February 19th against the Jazz on a Kevin Garnett buzzer-beating fadeaway, extending their winning streak to three games. The Garnett buzzer-beater propels them on the best winning streak in franchise history, and they end the regular season on a 29-game winning streak.
They don't break the NBA record for most wins, but they reach the astounding 70-win plateau, finishing 70-12.
The Celtics earn the Eastern Conference's first seed, and easily dispatch the Pistons and the Hawks in the first two rounds, sweeping all eight games.
In the Conference Finals, the Celtics face a Cleveland Cavaliers team coming off an incredible comeback from a 3-1 series deficit against the Orlando Magic.
The Celtics split the first six games with the Cavaliers, and return to the Garden for the 7th game. The Celtics game 7 mystique continues, as Ray Allen erupts for 43 points and the Celtics, thanks in large part to Joe Smith's shot-clock beating 15-footer, fend off a Cavaliers team led by Lebron James' 52 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists.
In the finals, the Celtics play a Lakers team coming off a tough 7-game series with the Denver Nuggets. For the second year in a row, the Celtics prove to be too tough for the Lakers, both mentally and physically. This time, the series only lasts the minimum four games, and the Celtics, in the words of Ron Artest, take the Lakers' manhood.
After the season, the Celtics re-sign Leon Powe and Glen Davis, and Eddie House decides to stay a Celtic and accepts his player option to play one more year. Stephon Marbury loves winning a championship so much that he opts to re-sign for the veteran minimum.
Joe Smith retires, and the Celtics use his roster spot, and the money they saved from the cheap Powe and Davis signings, to sign Rasheed Wallace.
Meanwhile, Tony Allen decides to retire because he doesn't play a single second during the playoffs, and the Celtics sign Grant Hill, also looking for a ring, to another veteran minimum contract. The Celtics begin training camp looking to three-peat with a roster of:
First Team Second Team
Rajon Rondo PG Stephon Marbury (Minnesota version)
Ray Allen SG Eddie House
Paul Pierce SF Grant Hill
Kevin Garnett PF Glen Davis, Leon Powe
Kendrick Perkins C Rasheed Wallace
Man, if only my crystal ball was real.