These days, the masses gossip about LeBron James’ future, whether he’ll re-sign with Cleveland or depart emotionally to Chicago or even New York or wherever he decides to land come July 1, we are forced to neglect the undervalued franchise of the Eastern Conference.
It’s fascinating that basketball lords deems the Boston Celtics as an aging, old, unhealthy and washed-up franchise, without enough in the tank to win its second championship in three seasons and deepen mystique, a tradition symbolizing the Celtics' winningest brand for nearly 50 years.
Based on shakiness and health issues in the regular season, the Celtics, once discredited as the oldest and most broken-down team both mentally and physically in the NBA, withstood anguish and despair between Kevin Garnett’s wobbly knees and Paul Pierce strained foot.
For that matter, any team would be doubted when it gradually begins to recede and age, lacking physical toughness and starts off sluggish nightly.
But this is not the case for the reviving Celtics, simply exposing the Orlando Magic's weaknesses with a physical defense that has been unstoppable in the postseason.
All praise to the Celtics, an older team with a wise state of mind, showcasing their wisdom and experience in the Eastern Conference Finals to prove a dominant force. And we underestimated Boston.
It truly was an understatement to eclipse a tradition of shamrocks and victory cigars, a team that owned the limelight in the 80's era when Larry Bird anchored an irresistible dynasty.
We all know this team is old and sometimes debilitated with injuries, but coveted in adding an NBA-leading 18 banners in the rafters and smoke victory cigars, a ritual fulfilled when the Celtics rejoices after an accomplished conquest.
This, of course, is not the fully robust team we witnessed two years ago win on the grandest stage, but a team that knows how to survive and outlast a possible meltdown.
More than ever, the Celtics have neutralized every opponent they have faced in the postseason, bringing a similar counterattack to frustrate and pester Dwight Howard, the Magic’s seven-foot center who isn’t Kryptonite in a series he’s held to very little productivity.
Then, as usual, he cries and whines over cheap fouls handed to him, irritable of the refs' whistles sounding to charge the big man with a foul.
At 24, he lacks maturity and hasn’t fully developed into an elite center, unable to stay out of foul trouble and overpower the middle with his wingspan and height advantage.
But the Celtics were supposed to be too old to take away his energy and self-composure in a series much physicality wasn’t expected from the senior citizens of the postseason.
Even if this seems like a stunner, it really isn’t staggering, considering the Celtics' monstrous defense, which is emphasized by coach Doc Rivers, who never sits down and shouts from the sideline for his team to tighten up defensively.
As it appears, the overmatched Celtics are favored to win an unchallenged series with a 2-0 commanding lead in the Eastern Conference Finals and forced the Magic to lose home-court advantage in a 95-92 win, stunning all Orlando fans in attendance.
Now, in the series, the Celtics won their fourth straight postseason road game, and never lost a playoff series after advancing to a 2-0 lead. So fortunately, history is on their sides, traveling home to try and close out the series in a sweep on their home floor.
It’s possible to believe the Celtics won’t force a sixth game or allow the Magic to take it back home for a chance to regain momentum and slowly maneuver its way back in the series, unless the NBA seniors' legs give out and suddenly becomes fallen stars in a disastrous collapse.
But recently, the Celtics are dynamic in bombarding and clogging the inside by adding pressure on Howard. Despite the defenders he has drawn, he had 30 points on just 13 shots from the floor. He was even solid from the charity strike, and converted on 12-of-17 free throws.
Without a doubt, he could have finished the night with a double-double, but the Celtics sent the center to the line instead of allowing him to grab an offensive rebound. In a game, he had eight rebounds and made the C’s deliberate before sending him to the line.
Nonetheless, the Celtics still managed to escape Orlando with two wins and leads the series, capable of returning to the NBA Finals and convincing the world that they’ll be crowned the champions in basketball, a familiar achievement for the Celtics.
It has become an alarming team, finally reviving and having all the instrumental pieces every team needs to win, such as defense, willpower, balance and firepower, good enough to slow down the invincible Magic.
Simply, the Magic have the younger and faster team, but cannot endure the physical balance of the well-experienced and well-rounded Celtics.
The difference clearly in the series and postseason is the strong effort of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, a pair of star players known as the Big Three alongside Garnett. In such a turnaround at a crucial point of the season, Pierce had 22 points in the Game Two, getting off to a fast start with 22 points in the first half.
He’s deeply reestablishing into a primary star, dating back to the days he carried the team with a chip on his shoulder as a lone superstar. And normally when he compiles huge numbers on the scoreboard, it results in a win.
But nowadays, the Celtics survives on the flourishing of Rajon Rondo, a floor general and versatile point guard with the ability to score and make pocket passes to teammates, credited for an assist on designing well-executed play inside.
He’s agile and explosive, respectively, becoming the top scorer and second leader behind Garnett. Before he even arrived at the pro level, he was criticized for his porous shooting and was doubted after departing his collegiate career prematurely, and wasn’t fully developed.
He silenced all skeptics by becoming a top-notch player and true point guard. There he was again on a night when his presence made it easier for the Celtics. He scored 25 points, had eight assists and five rebounds, all while dominating the second half and drove Boston to an insurance win.
In this particular game, Garnett had 10 points and Ray Allen posted four points in 39 minutes.
The Celtics, meanwhile, still managed to survive and beat the Magic to move inches closer to the NBA Finals for a potential rematch against the Los Angeles Lakers, archenemies who dismantled the Phoenix Suns in Game One of the Western Conference Finals.
In many ways, Orlando’s coach Stan Van Gundy understands it takes a team effort, but also knows his team is struggling to make adjustments, suddenly seeing his team lose twice at home in the quarterfinals to the Celtics, the same team the Magic knocked off a year ago.
Even the fans are frustrated, provoking an altercation with officials during games. Joe DeRosa was harassed by fans before leaving the court at halftime and snapped during the game.
He tossed the ball uncharacteristically across the scorer’s table at a petulant fan, who tossed it back and was thrown out of the game.
That says a lot about the series, a best-of-seven series suddenly unraveling for the Magic, who believed getting back to the NBA Finals was likely, but are faced with trouble having to capture a win on Boston’s home floor to stay alive.
For now, the Celtics are the best team in the playoffs, even though they're the oldest team standing on wobbly knees and ailing feet, but have just enough to slow down any team crossing their path.
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