The Boston Celtics have been dis-regarded, cast aside, and surpassed as the favorites in the Eastern Conference, but like an animal trapped in a corner, they have began to show the world there is plenty of bite left in their bark.
Whether or not they have enough gas in the tank to make a legitimate charge to the NBA Finals is up for debate, but it would be very unwise to discount the heart of a champion.
Boston was roundly criticized when they let the trade deadline pass without making a major deal. Sure, they picked up Nate Robinson from the New York Knicks, but he is not seen as the type of player to have a major impact on their season.
General perception was the Celtics would look to move Ray Allen for a player or two to revive their weary roster and when that failed to happen, the majority of observers all but closed the window on the Celtics' season.
But just as the days seemed the darkest for the Celtics, a strange thing happened. Boston started what Kevin Garnett described as the most important road trip of the season. It was in that stretch where a valuable lesson was learned.
Playing with a new sense of urgency and seemingly rejuvenated by Garnett's words, the Celtics proceeded to go 3-1 on that trip out West, and returned home to beat the New York Knicks.
Four wins in five games later, Boston is beginning to re-discover the attitude which defined the team for the past two seasons, and just in time for a visit from LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers.
As everyone knows, Cleveland is the new favorite to win the Eastern Conference, and perhaps the NBA title, while relegating the proud Boston franchise to the role of spoiler.
It's not a position this incarnation of the Celtics are familiar with, and they will say it's one they don't deserve. After all, they are the last team from the East to experience the joy of a championship.
Forward Paul Pierce feels strongly his team is still the one to beat, and he is quick to offer reminders they have beaten the Cavaliers once this year, granted it was the first game of the season.
Boston has always been a cocky bunch, but they seem to understand the cards are stacked against them and playing the role of underdog will undoubtedly provide motivation for what lies ahead.
That future includes three contenders whose rosters are noticeably younger than Boston's. Two of those teams, the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks, have already won the season series versus the Celtics.
Which means if the Celtics are able to hold on to the four seed in the face of a surge from the Toronto Raptors, their second round playoff series will begin on the road instead of the friendly confines of TD Banknorth Garden.
In the past, little concern would be paid to those prospects, but this is not the same defensive team which ruled opposing arenas, and the Celtics have lost the aura of a great road team.
But as their recent road trip proved, they are still capable of being a defensive force in spurts; and if they could ever solve their agonizing rebounding problem, they may be able to put together a strong postseason run.
The positives ultimately out-weigh the negatives when you consider Boston has arguably the best point guard in the East in Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen has rediscovered his shooting touch, and Garnett seems to be getting his legs back.
The two most important things however, are that the Celtics are beginning to regain their prior confidence, and the pride of the team is a subject which is frequently discussed and relied on.
Boston simply refuses to believe their time has passed, and although the soul may be tired and the legs may be weary, the Celtics are counting on their experience and their fierce sense of pride to see them through.