The Boston Celtics managed to finish the NBA season with a 62-20 despite the fact that they were without starters and defensive anchors Kevin Garnett (25 games) and Kendrick Perkins (6 games) for significant times during which the Celtics had two winning streaks of 18 and 12 games. They were also without key reserves Tony Allen (36 games), Brian Scalabrine (30 games), Leon Powe (12 games) and Glen Davis (6 games) for significant stretches. The Celtics played much of both winning streaks shorthanded as they didn't even add Mikki Moore and Stephon Marbury until the end of February. Brian Scalabrine and Glen Davis both had to fill in as starters...the Celtics still won regardless.
The sad fact is that Doc Rivers came in 9th in Coach Of The Year voting...that's absolute bullshit. You can't tell me that a team that was without it's biggest reserve from last season (James Posey) and missed significant time from starters and key reserves would end up with only 4 fewer wins than the previous season. Keep in mind that this same team managed two month long wins streaks with key players missing! They did have a rough patch after the All Star Game but they finished the season with a 17-8 record in their last 25 games. The Celtics also had horrible showing during national games with all eyes on them so only Bostonians/New Englanders really knew what they were capable of.
They Celtics have said all season long that the only thing that matters is the playoffs and defending the championship. They maintain that they'll show up to play when it's all on the line but often during the season they'll refrain from attacking and playing aggressively, instead settling for playing halfcourt basketball instead of moving the ball. This is when they get in trouble. It's bad enough that every opponent they play gets up for the game since they're the defending NBA champions and a win against them can make your entire season. When you have the bullseye on your chest, you can't afford to not show up. Game 1 of the NBA playoffs the Celtics did just that. The end result? They suffered an embarassing overtime loss on their home court.
The Celtics were officially dead according to every NBA expert or analyst. Sure Rajon Rondo had a great game but he couldn't stop Derrick Rose (36 points, 10 assists in Game 1) from penetrating. Kendrick "The Hulk" Perkins stepped his game up significantly but he allowed Joakim Noah to grab 17 rebounds on him. Sure Glen "Big Baby" Davis filled in admirably for Kevin Garnett but way too many defensive lapses happened and the Bulls got to the hole way too easily. Paul Pierce had a sub par game and Ray Allen was the Invisible Man. The Celtics learned that if they wanted to win this series it wouldn't be had to them...they had to play well on both sides of the ball and dictate the tempo rather than the other way around.
Kevin Garnett isn't playing. Throw it out of your minds. The Celtics have won without Kevin Garnett before. They have a pretty good record with out him over the past 2 seasons. The question is whether or not they can win an NBA championship without a healthy Kevin Garnett. As we all know, the answer is no. The Celtics have to just go ahead and play their asses off every time they step on the court to have a legitimate shot at winning basketball games. They need to push the ball up the court, they need to play defense, they need to rebound and then move the ball on offense. When the Boston Celtics do these things they become Super Saiyans. When they don't, they become Super Sonics (non existant).
The Boston Celtics showed up to play for many more stretches than they did in Game 1 in the following contest. Rajon Rondo came out firing like he did in the previous game and Kendrick "The Hulk" Perkins and Glen "Big Baby" Davis dominated the paint early. Boston jumped out to a 15 -2 rebounding edge before Hulk sat with his second foul. The game went back and forth and Chicago went up 61-58 at the half. Ray Allen transformed to Jesus Shuttlesworth in the second half and scored 28 points on 6 3 pointers. Ben Gordon was unstoppable that same night, scoring 42 points of his own and tying the game. Ray Allen's final three of the night was the game winner as the Celtics won 118-115 and tied the series, 1-1.
Game 3 happened in Chicago's United Center and it was truly a tale of two cities. The Boston Celtics jumped out to a lead behind Paul Pierce's 13 first quarter points. Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Glen Davis helped to double the lead from 11 at the end of one to 22 at the half. The game was never in doubt as the Celtics dominated at both ends of the court and won going away 107-86, took a 2-1 series lead and regained home court advantage. Paul Pierce dropped in 24, Rajon Rondo scored 20 and Ray Allen had 18 points. Stephon Marbury contributed 13 points and 5 assists off the bench and Eddie House scored 8. Things were clicking on all cyclinders and the rumors of the Boston Celtics' demise were greatly exaggerated.
Kendrick "The Hulk" Perkins has certainly stepped up his game in the playoffs. He's looking for his shots, sealing off his man, grabbing offensive rebounds, blocking shots and scoring in the paint. He's averaging 12 ppg 9 rpg and 2 bpg while shooting 64% from the field. Fellow big man Glen "Big Baby" Davis has exploded for 19 ppg 7 rpg 2 bpg and 2 spg while shooting 48% from the field. Rajon Rondo has absolutely dominated the series by averaging a triple double (23 ppg 11 rpg 10 apg and 4 spg) and shooting 50% from the field. While these players are the catalysts for the Celtics' success, the vets are ones that knock down the clutch shots and free throws at the end of the games (except for Game 1).
Paul Pierce (22 ppg 5 rpg) is shooting 45% from the field and 45% on 3 pointers. Had he hit that free throw at the end of Game 1, we might be watching the possible close out game in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. Ray Allen had an atrocious Game 1 but scored 30 and 18 in the following games to raise his playoff averages (17 ppg 1.7 spg), he's also shooting 45% from behind the arc and 11-11 from the charity stripe. After Derrick Rose scored 36 he's only managed to average 10 ppg in the next two games and after Ben Gordon dropped 42 in Game 2 he could only manage 15 the following contest. Game 4 is huge and it'll be a hard fought match. Either way: Never underestimate the heart of a champion! © Rudy Tomjanovich