The infamous trade of Kendrick Perkins has been both well documented and debated. Since that deal went down, the Celtics have not been consistently playing as a team. For the remainder of 2011's season, they struggled to find the "Ubuntu" mentality that prior years' teams possessed. In addition, the Celtics were not sharing the basketball as they did earlier this season. Instead, Boston resorted at times to playing a more selfish style of basketball in an attempt to win basketball games.
After sweeping the New York Knicks in the Round 1 of the playoffs, excitement was in the air in Boston. The Celtics showed heart and a knack for winning close games against a tough competitor in that series.
Boston would advance to play the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. After going down in that very series two games to none. The Celtics and their captain Paul Pierce were saying all the right things. When speaking on the series versus the Heat after Game 2's loss in Miami, Pierce said, "We still feel like it's going to be a seven-game series. I like our chances, especially with our backs against the wall."
Paul Pierce's comment was admirable. Furthermore, it seemed as if the C's may actually follow through on Pierce's aspiration/prediction after winning Game 3 and doing so in an impressive fashion. Kevin Garnett turned back the clocks by contributing with a 28 point, 18 rebound performance and it looked like Boston had finally found an answer for the Miami Heat. Things were looking up for the Celtics once again but looks can be deceiving.
To consistently play at a high level, players must be healthy. Shaquille O'Neal returned from an Achilles injury for Game 3 and though he provided a lift to the team, he was obviously not playing at 100 percent. Furthermore, Paul Pierce himself was ailing from an Achilles injury of his own suffered in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
To complicate matters further, Rajon Rondo went down with injury in the third quarter of Game 3 dislocating his left elbow. Rondo had his elbow popped back into socket and returned in vintage Celtic fashion to play through his injury and help the Celtics win their first game and only game of the series.
Although Rondo played well upon his return, it was clear that he was still favoring his left elbow as his arm was dangling by his side and he was barely using it to play.
According to ESPN.com, when asked about Rajon Rondo's injury, head coach of the Boston Celtics Doc Rivers said that he told Rondo with a laugh, "Listen, I played with one hand my entire career. So you can do it. And he [Rondo] did it!"
Rivers went on to say, "Players play. We can all tell our war stories. But very few could do that -- especially in this situation. They try, but very few could succeed. Yesterday was just another example of an NBA player not caring about his health and trying to help the team."
Heading into Game 4 the Celtics were feeling confident. The only chance Boston had of coming back to win the series would be if their leader Kevin Garnett were to step up his game once again as he did in Game 3. If the Celtics were going to win the NBA championship, then they would have to kick their game into a higher gear...the same one they were in for all of Game 3. In that game, the Celtics played focused, hard-nosed basketball. They were under control and illustrated intensity on both ends of the court.
To the dismay of Celtic's fans everywhere, Kevin Garnett followed up his stellar Game 3 performance with a mediocre performance at best in Game 4 registering 7 points and 10 rebounds on 1 of 10 shooting on the way to a Celtics loss. The C's found themselves down three games to one to the young, energetic Miami Heat.
Losing Game 4 was a crucial, heartbreaking loss for the Boston Celtics and their fans. The Celtics were down but not out. According to ESPN.com, when asked about his feelings heading into Game 5 versus the Celtics, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "By no means do we feel the series is done, not against a champion like they are. We have tremendous respect for Boston. They've inflicted so much pain on us the last three or four years that it's hard not to have that respect."
Boston had won three games in a row on numerous occasions throughout the 2011 season and the Heat and Celtics both realized that. They also knew it could possibly happen again to complete a monumental comeback in the 2011 Eastern Conference Semi-finals. True Celtics fans believed and kept the faith. It is those fans that the Celtics showed up for in Game 3 and needed to continue showing up for down the stretch if they were going to stand a chance of putting the Heat on ice.
If you are a diehard Celtics fan, then here are 18 reasons you may have had that made you confident that Boston would raise Banner eighteen in 2011.
For those NBA fans who didn't think the Celtics have what it takes to win in '11, you are not alone and were part of a large group of people that felt the veteran Celtics never meshed with their new teammates enough to develop into the team they were/are capable of becoming. That same group of people are also concerned they never will.
These concerns were vocalized to back up the notion that the Celtics wouldn't be returning to the NBA Finals in 2011. Their concerns were validated when the Celtics lost the Eastern Conference Semi-finals and were eliminated from post-season contention. The copycat Miami Heatles and their "Big Three" wanted no part of a Celtic comeback and proceeded to finish off the Celtics in Game 5 with a 97-87 victory. The Heat gave the Celtics a first degree burn of which they are still recovering from as you read this article.
Undoubtedly, Boston needs more size and youth for the future if they hope to contend in it. In fact, they need that right now. However, the Celtics are not all washed up and are still an extremely talented bunch. This year, they could not overcome their lack of size and constant injuries with heart and hustle. Now, Celtics nation has nothing more to look forward to than next year.