Sunday, June 22, 2008

Celtics Win #17: The World Bleeds Green Once Again

For the unprecedented 17th time.

The Boston Celtics are the NBA (National Basketball Association) Champions.

And they made it look easy this past week with a resounding 131-92 drubbing of their rivals—The Los Angeles Lakers—in game six of the 2007-2008 NBA Finals.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Longtime Boston Celtics beat writer Peter May shared that at the start of the 2007-2008 NBA season, Celtics’ Head Coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers urged his stalwarts—specifically team captain Paul Pierce and newly acquired NBA All-Stars Walter Ray Allen, Jr. and Kevin “KG” Garnett—of the importance of “seizing the moment” as “the can’t afford to wait” (since they are getting up their in age and opportunities to win a championship are few and far between). Rivers added that the talented trio need to play with a sense of urgency and liken their situation to being their “one and only chance to win.”

Rivers, 46, sold them on the concept of defense and Garnett was the first one to follow his lead—eventually ending the season as the league’s top defensive player—the first of his decorated career.

And that wasn’t all.

An exodus of more than half their players from the 2006-2007 NBA season in order to acquire Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Allen from the Seattle Supersonics posed to be yet another challenged to the 24-win club.

By the time the season started, the green and white has nine new faces on board—the aforementioned Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, free agents James Posey, Eddie House, Scot Pollard, rookies Glenn “Big Baby” Davis, Gabe Pruitt, and returnees Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe, Brian Scalabrine (whom some sources have said, has the same basketball IQ as the legendary Michael Jordan), Rajon Rondo, and the Captain Paul Pierce. Before the close of the regular season, The “C’s” added two more faces, 15-year veteran P.J. Brown and guard Sam Cassell.

Cohesion and lack of bench strength were points brought up by critics all season long and despite a 66-16 season—successfully securing home court advantage throughout the playoffs and the NBA Finals. It was the largest single season turnaround in NBA history, yet the critics still kept on talking.

It didn’t help that their journey to the NBA Finals was a rocky one.

The young 8th seed Atlanta Hawks (37-45) brought the Celtics to 7 games in the first round. LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers (45-37) also pushed the Celtics to the distance in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals (and if it were not for Paul Pierce’s 41 points—who knows how that may have turned out). As for the Eastern Conference Finals, well, that series went six grueling games against the cohesive Detroit Pistons (59-23).

The Celtics went 10-1 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts and 2-8 on the road for the duration of the playoffs. Doc Rivers put it best when he said, “that's why the regular season is so important. We fought for it all year” (Pertaining to home court advantage).

Onward to the NBA Finals.

After winning the first two games at home and stealing one of the next three at the Staples Center—The Boston Celtics were on the cusp of greatness—an unprecedented 17th World Championship.

By halftime of Game 6, the outcome had already been decided as the Lakers seemingly lost the fight in them.

58-35 at the end of two—A twenty three-point deficit.

The Celtics were running on all cylinders, led by their injured point guard Rajon Rondo, who finished with a stat line that Jason Kidd would be envious off (21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, six steals, and only a single turnover in just under 32 minutes of action).

Ray Allen also recovered from a first-half eye injury to finish with 26 points (7-9 from downtown). Associated Press Sports Writer Howard Ulman added that Allen also set a record “for most 3-pointers made in a finals series with 22. The previous mark of 17 was set by Dan Majerle with Phoenix in 1993 and matched by Derek Harper with New York in 1994. Allen’s seven 3-pointers also tied the finals record shared by Houston’s Kenny Smith and Chicago’s Scottie Pippen.”

The Celtics juggernaut didn’t end there as Kevin Garnett tied Allen for game high honors with 26 points and 14 rebounds. James Posey (whom Pierce considers “invaluable”) finished with 11 points (perfect from the field, including 3-3 from downtown) three steals, and a block. And who can forget the performance of Paul Pierce (17 points and 10 assists) thought the series.

In the end, it was only fitting that the Celtics Captain be named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Finals as he had certainly endured a lot of heartaches over the last 10 years in a Celtics uniform.

With a title now safely under his belt, those days are certainly over.

17 banners. Jersey Numbers #1, #2, #3, #6, #10, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #31, #32, #33, #35 and #00 also hang from the rafters.

Could #34 be that far behind?


- The Celtics played an NBA record 26th post-season game when they stepped on the Red Auerbach Parquet Floor for Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Associated Press Sports Writer Howard Ulman wrote:

- The Celtics’ 39-point margin in Tuesday night’s championship clinching win is the largest in a decisive NBA finals game.

- In fact, Boston now has four of the six biggest margins in games that clinched titles. The Lakers have the other two in championships won while they were in Minneapolis. The previous biggest winning margin in such games was 33 points by Boston on April 25, 1965, when it beat the Los Angeles Lakers 129-96.

- Boston’s 52 baskets from 3-point range erased the finals mark of 51 set by San Antonio in 2005.

- The Celtics also put on a record-setting defensive performance Tuesday with 18 steals, eclipsing the single-game finals mark set by Golden State against Washington in 1975.

- The Lakers put their own stamp on the record book, despite being crushed in the decisive game. League MVP Kobe Bryant’s 16 steals in the series tied the mark held by some pretty special players—Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Dwyane Wade.

- And Boston broke its own NBA record for most championships with 17. The Lakers are second with 14.

Associated Press Sports Writer Jimmy Golen added:

- The Celtics joined the 1975 Golden State Warriors and the ‘77 Trail Blazers as the only teams to win it all a year after missing the playoffs.

The Champs on Letterman

The next night on The David Letterman Show, guests Walter Ray Allen, Jr. and Kevin Garnett shared:

“How you feeling, champ?” Ray Allen asked KG.

“I feel good,” Garnett replied. “How you feeling, champ?”

Said Allen, “Oh, I’m doing good.”

And with that, the world is right again…

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