Celtics and Cavs: The New Age Rivals

Joe RoweContributor IMay 2, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 18:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs at the TD Banknorth Garden May 18, 2008 in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston won 97-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Back in the old days the NBA used to have huge rivalries.

Probably the most epic one in people’s mind is the CelticsLakers rivalry. Other out there were the Detroit v. Boston, Miami v. Knicks, and Philly v. Boston. Everywhere you turned there was a rivalry, fueled by hard fouls, harsh words, and pride.

These day’s there really hasn’t been a promenade rivalry. The Celtics Lakers rivalry was revived but only because of a finals matchup. Also, with constant trades and un-loyal players, there really is never enough hate between the teams.

The most heated rivalry these days is between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When LeBron James was drafted,   the face of the game was starting to change. Everyone saw the potential and soon enough the King had his audience. In a 2004 preseason game Pierce and James nearly got into a fight. The word speculated that Pierce used was “overrated”. Both played physical and talked smack with one another. Paul and LeBron would go out and basically carry their teams scoring and putting up huge numbers while guarding one another.

Some called it a friendly rivalry; others called it a mean one. But I call it a healthy rivalry.

Now I don’t think it’s going to be an old day’s rivalry when there was a lot more fouls and hatred. That stuff just can’t happen with the way the games are officiated today. But this one is physical and will always prove to be.  

The rivalry became a true battle during the 2008 conference semi finals.

The Celtics had just escaped a Hawks upset while the Cavs shut the Wizards jarring mouths to move on to the next round. Not many speculated it would be the series it turned out to be.

We had the go ahead bucket from Garnett with time expiring in Game One. We saw the dunk “with no regard for human life” over the defensive man of the year in KG in Game Four. Both team was able to draw blood on the other’s home turf and the series was dragged out to seven games.

In Game Seven, the captains of both teams squared off. James and Paul engaged in a dual that would decide each franchise’s future. LeBron would slice the defense and get an and-one. Pierce would then go do and hit a deep three pointer. It reminded many fans of the dual between Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins about 20 years ago.  Paul ended up with 41 points while James had the game high of 45. With a couple of clutch shots by the veteran P.J. Brown, the Celtics were moving on to the next round leaving the Cavilers behind. It was a hard one to swallow for a team who was swept in the finals a year ago. The Celtic’s then went on that year to become the 2008 NBA Champions.

The next year the Cav’s bulked up added point guard Mo Williams. Both teams won on their home floors including a blowout of the KG-less Celtics. In this game Anderson Varejao threw Ray Allen to the floor but received a shot at his baby makers. 

The Celtic’s though fell in Game Seven against the Orlando Magic and missed a conference finals date with the Cavilers.

This year the Celtic’s stuck the first blow with a win over Cleveland on opening day. Each team improved even more. The Celtic’s picked up Wallace and Daniels (they were good at the start) but saw the Rajon Rondo elevate to a new status after averaging almost averaging a triple double in last year’s playoffs.

The Cav’s picked up Shaq, Jamario Moon, and Anthony Parker. Both team one on each other’s courts this year’s including a Cavilers comeback/blowout on Boston’s turf. There have been hard fouls and harsh words between these players this year. In the last game the whistle seemed to blow all the time.

These two teams do not like each other at all. LeBron came out and publicly stated they do not like them. When asked about the rivalry, James said this, "It comes from a tough, seven-game series. It comes from them wanting to be really great, them winning a championship, us wanting to win a championship. It comes from us knowing that we have to go through them and them knowing that they have to go through us.'' But James also knows its part of the game, the part that needs to appear again. “[It comes from] the regular-season battles we have had between me and Paul. [It comes from] the competition and that's what's good about this game. I think the game has lost a little bit of that over the years, the talking, teams not liking each other. That's the same thing I figured out last year when I walked off the court in Orlando [after losing Game Six and the conference finals to the Magic]. People were mad I didn't shake hands. Why should I be happy? I'm not happy. I'm disgusted that we lost. I move onto the next season. That's what this game has lost. It's lost what it had in the '80s and '90s, when teams just didn't like each other."

Well if we lost it before we’re gaining it again. There last regular season game was a huge show of dislike on both sides including technical fouls and Mike Brown being thrown out of the game.

But deep down I think they felt it.

They knew they were going to see each other again and now they are. The Cavs are up one game as of now, but it was a game the Celtic’s should have won. I think if anything this gives them confidence. It’s always hard to win away, especial at a building like Quicken Loan’s Arena. But each round has a full amount of seven games, and for some reason I feel these rivals will need all of them to settle things once again.