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After a jubilant night of celebratory rhetoric, I have no doubt that I fell asleep with a sneaky little grin on my face. I escaped to a REM cycle feeling like I got away with something; like WE, as fans, got away with something.
I mean, we did get away with something: so many had given up championship hopes, but there were some that were holding out for that small glimmer of hope. Back on March 2, I had written the following:
We just aren’t a top five team, and that’s difficult for many of you (including me) to get over. Our record against top 10 teams in the league have been atrocious. We have given up the most second half double-digit leads in the association this season. We have been three games under .500 in the last two months. Nothing in this paragraph should make anyone excited about the playoffs.
But, therein lies the key: this team can’t be looked at as a legitimate, viable contender for the title. Critics, writers, players, coaches, and most importantly non-Celtics fans have all ready moved on. Anyone who is anyone that follows basketball realizes that the Celtics have a lot of wrinkles that need ironing out, yet the iron itself isn’t even plugged in. Only the stubborn fans remain cemented in a block of naiveté… This is just as likely to happen as the optimistic side of me that thinks this team has two more deadly gears in them that they’ve shown flashes of so far this season.
Yeah. They had the gears. They showed ‘em. We got away with something: making people think that the Celtics weren’t going to do it; and then just like that, did it.
Two ways to be really happy about last night’s win: watching the team play you knew things were clicking, and seeing their numbers on paper you knew things were clicking. When you can both feel and see that a team is playing well, it makes you feel all warm and cuddly inside. On paper:
- Every single Celtic player that saw minutes finished with a positive +/- rating. All the way from Glen Davis with a +2 to Pierce with a +13, there was no outrageously large gap between players. This meant that every single mixed lineup on the floor last night worked in favor the Celts; what a feeling.
- Pierce was an efficient 9-15 from the floor, finishing with 31 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals. What a game for him to carry into Game 1 of the Finals. As much as I want Rondo to play at the level where we could be a Finals MVP, I desperately want Pierce to lead the way to further help cement his legacy into Celtic lore forever.
- The Celtics out-rebounded the Magicians 45-35: whoa.
- The Celtics once again outscored the Magic 20-12 on fast break points (transition, transition, transition)
- The Celtics shot 81 percent from the stripe (22-27), whereas ORL was 59 percent from the same location (16-27)
- Despite 40 points in the paint for ORL (compared to 26 for the C’s), the Magic couldn’t get clean looks in the paint and were scoring on such terrible looks (still managed to finish at 43% FG, but really had to work for it)
While watching, you couldn’t help but notice the clean rotations on defense; they were crisp. While Dwight got his looks either by post or by air-mail lobs, the Celtics did such a great job staying home with the ORL shooters on the wings. This caused so many of the Magic’s jumpers to be jumpers on the run and moving away from the hoop. You have to mainly credit Rondo, Ray, and Pierce for forcing the Magic to shoot on the run THEN getting back into the middle to snatch a rebound (while the bigs boxed out Dwight high-school-style).
What’s even more impressive is how willing everyone on the floor wearing white was willing to RUN in transition. For an old beat up team, they knew they had to push the ball to fluster Orlando when getting back on defense and forcing mismatches wherever and whenever possible.
Why were we so nervous after being up 3-0 only to see our team lose two straight and be a game away from being on the verge of an almost historical collapse of epic proportions? I mean, really, is it even necessary to run through all of the very-very-berry-bad thoughts about dropping a series when you were up three to zip?
Part of the reason that the amped up anxiety before Game 6 rest in one simple case: in a sense, the Celtics were unexpectedly on the doorstep of reaching the Finals for the second time in three seasons. And then all of the sudden, the Celtics couldn’t close the door… They couldn’t close out the series. So in a sense, the pain of seeing a team that no one thought could make it past the Eastern Conference Semis lose in the Conference Finals after being up 3-0 seemed like it was almost too much of an impossibility even for a fictionalized story. Could this have put the Buckner experience to rest as one of the biggest disappointments in Boston fan history?
You know what? Who cares? You know why? It didn’t happen.
The Celtics won. The Celtics won. The Celtics are returning to the NBA Finals where they will compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy with the best team in the West: it better be the Lakers. I don’t want the Suns. I want the Lakers. We all want the Lakers. Bring on LA so the Celtics can Beat LA.
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