Goodnight Cleveland, Good Luck Orlando

Matt ChapralesCorrespondent IMay 14, 2010

CLEVELAND - MAY 11:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on while playing the Boston Celtics in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 11, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. Boston won the game 120-88 to take a 3-2 series lead. 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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Kevin Garnett, dapper and introspective as usual, fielded questions at the podium approximately 30 minutes after the Celtics had unceremoniously ended the Cavaliers’ season.

Just as a reporter from the New York Times identified himself, Garnett cut the journalist off.

“There’s a lot of people in this room, boy,” he said, surveying the landscape from corner to corner. “Man! Lot of people in this room.

“I haven’t seen this many people since, uh, '08. Mmm. It’s aight.”

Garnett then turned his head down for a moment, but couldn't hide the smirk that formed on his face. He was, after all, alluding to the horde of reporters from New York, and elsewhere, that clearly hadn’t been dispatched during the Celtics’ dismantling of the Heat. They hadn't been present during the first five games of the Cavs series, either.

The reason was simple. Outside of Boston, no one had given the Celtics a chance in this series. Why would rags from around the country dip into already strained budgets to merely cover the second speed bump in King James' coronation?

Even when the Celtics tied the series at 2-2, the national sentiment was fairly universal: Lebron would take back control in Cleveland. Then he'd finish of the aging ex-champs in Beantown.


Suddenly “The Summer of Lebron” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. But let’s leave all the (ahem) Spring of Lebron dissection to the scribes. They'll surely be concerned with The King for some time.

The Celtics, meanwhile, still have unfinished business. The handful of talking heads who actually care about the remainder of the NBA tournament are writing the Celtics off, once again. Eight of the 10 ESPN Experts , all of whom picked Cleveland by the way, are siding with Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals.

On the one hand, it’s hard to fault them. The Magic have been a force this postseason, winning all eight of their games by an average of 17 plus points. Throw in a six-game winning streak to end the regular season, and the Magic haven’t lost since their road date with San Antonio back on April 2nd

Impressive would be an understatement.

On the other hand, the media's short term memory borders on ludicrous.

After posting a 27-27 record over two-thirds of the regular season, the Celtics are 8-3 in the playoffs. Boston throttled the Heat, holding Miami to 87.6 points per game while winning the series 4-1. The only game they dropped required an otherworldly performance from Dwyane Wade (46 points, 30 in the second half).

Then there was the Cleveland series. The Celtics led Game One for 35 1/2 of the first 36 minutes — until a Lebron bucket gave the Cavs the lead at the end of the third quarter — and trailed by no more than four points throughout the final frame before failing to execute down the stretch. The C's went wire-to-wire in Game Two, snatching back home-court advantage before submitting a no-show in Game Three.

Boston trailed for the first six minutes of Game Four, and 17 of the first 18 minutes of Game Five.

After that? 137 seconds.

For those who hate math, the Celtics held the lead for 85 percent of Games Four through Six. Dominant? I'll say.

And these weren’t the Hawks, folks.

On to the Magic. The same folks who fail to appreciate the C's performance against the NBA’s best team also appear to have forgotten that Boston and Orlando played a postseason series last year.

The Celtics led three games to two, and were up in the fourth quarter of Game Six, before succumbing to a deeper, better Orlando team. Orlando eventually disposed of Cleveland and pushed the Lakers to six in the Finals.

Kevin Garnett was in a suit for that Orlando series, and Brian Scalabrine was relied upon to play big minutes and hit big shots.

Now consider this: Dwight Howard discovered, during that grueling seven-game affair in ‘09, that Kendrick Perkins was his kryptonite. Perkins muscled the big man out of the paint and, with his agility, cut off Howard's driving lanes.

For seven games, Perk held Howard in check on the offensive end. Superman averaged a mere 16.4 points per game (he averaged 25.8 vs. Cleveland), producing only when Perkins was on the bench with foul trouble.

Above all, the Magic gained an edge in that series, particularly late in close games, by allowing 6-10 Hedo Turkoglu to run the point. 6-10 Rashard Lewis and 6-6 Mikael Pietrus occupied the corners while Howard roamed in the paint.

The Celtics couldn’t sag off any of the latter three to double Howard. Lewis, Pietrus and Turkoglu were all dead-eye three-point shooters. It was a match-up nightmare.

That was with Turkoglu, and without Garnett, mind you. The Magic might be better with Vince Carter this postseason than they were with Turkoglu last spring. It’s close, but debatable.

The Celtics are night-and-day different from last year with Garnett back and playing the way he is. It’s simply not debatable.

Let those talking heads use their big platforms to once again dismiss a team that is now 6-0 in playoff series’ with its core intact.

I’ll use a much smaller platform to say poof! The Celtics will make the Magic disappear in six.