It has been quite an odd end to this NBA season. Everyone back in February or March had to assume the Boston Celtics were just too darn old and didn’t have the legs to last against the younger Orlando, Cleveland and Atlanta squads. Although, here they are in the Eastern Conference Finals, as well as three wins away from possibly punching their ticket to another NBA Final appearance, which would be their second trip in three years. Yet, do they even stand a chance against the Magic? I say, yes they do.
Before predicting a score or a possible series sweep, lets consider this entire playoff run, as well as understand the question, what has been the key to making the Green and White so successful.
Miami vs. Boston: This was the perfect matchup that the Celtics needed to boost their crowd’s confidence, as well as the teams too. Yes, the Celtics looked tired and not the squad that had won an NBA Championship in 2008 over rival Los Angles Lakers, but seriously, playing against Miami was the perfect opponent in the opening round.
Having a healthy Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen’s shooting and leadership of Paul Pierce still in place, the Celtics rolled over the Heat in Games 1 and 2 at the Garden.
In Miami, the Celtics resorted back to their old ways of playing sloppy basketball and not showing any sign of true teamwork. Clearly they were fortunate enough to have “The Truth,” Paul Pierce, notch a game winner at the buzzer to make the series, 3 games to none (3-0). If Pierce hadn’t sunk the final shot, Miami would have figured out a way to win this 2-game home stand easily and force the series to a 2-2 tie.
In Game 4, it was again an aging Celtics team that looked tired and restless. Garnett was the only player that brought back images of an aging Bill Russell from the 1969 NBA playoffs. His fight and swagger kept the game close, but it was D-Wade and his “magical hand” that kept the Heat alive for only a day and a half. It was clearly a monumental day for Wade, but also just one of those games that hurt every member of Celtics Nation. Clearly Garnett was the reason behind leading this squad to victory in Game 5, which is why they had defeated the Heat, 4 games to 1 and was ready to take on the best team, Cleveland.
Cleveland vs. Boston: The Cleveland Cavaliers on paper are scary, horrifying and cause nightmares for opposing teams and coaches. Excluding the “King,” (LeBron James), the roster consists of key guys, such as Mo Williams, Shaq, Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, Anderson Varejao, and Delonte West. This team seemed over powering and possibly a squad that could challenge any country or the entire NBA Western Conference, but before booking hotel reservations for a Kobe-LeBron Championship, they had to keep their attention locked on round 2 against Boston.
Simply, two players emerged from this series as key players. One was Rajon Rondo, a Boston Celtics guard that received a great deal of criticism last year for showing up late or acting immature toward his teammates and coaches. Rondo’s play had to have caused chaotic excitement on Causeway Street, (street outside the Garden) following Game 6, but overall, his leadership surely wasn’t questioned throughout this entire series.
The other player was Mo Williams. His leadership and energy were clearly what kept Cleveland and Boston in a dogfight during the first four games. Williams would be an important asset in Games 5 and 6 too, especially since LeBron seemed bothered by his elbow or lack of headline news surrounding trade rumors.
Forget LeBron, this entire series belonged to Mo Williams and Rajon Rondo. The play of both guards were highlighted greatly throughout this match-up, but in the end, the Celtics prevailed as the better team. Were they lucky to win? Who knows! It just seemed after four interesting games, (1-4); the Celtics had an easy path to victory during Games 5 & 6.
Orlando vs. Boston: Orlando is probably the best team remaining, but not that good of a squad compared the Celtics.
Following Game 1 this past Sunday, the Celtics just seem to be the better team. They have more veteran leadership and experience compared to Dwight Howard and Vince Carter. The Celtics know what it takes to win, which is stopping Dwight Howard in the paint, slowing down Vince Carter and containing every three-point attempt. Also, from re-examining Game 1, it just seemed the Celtics played better defense too, which needs to continue tonight, as well as throughout the rest of the entire series.
Defense wins championships, which we learned two years ago when the Celtics de-railed the Detroit Piston, which were far more a better team than the 2010 Orlando Magic.
If the Celtics are to win this evening, which I believe they will, then how can you not think the Celtics could possibly close this out in Boston on Saturday and Monday? I like the Celtics to win this series in 5 or 6 games, but I am thinking 6 is the better number.
The Success: All in all, the reason the Celtics have been so successful is because of their defense and leadership. Garnett has been an incredibly important asset, but also Rondo and Tony Allen too. Don’t forget about Sheed, which varies at time, but also Pierce and Ray Allen. If Kendrick and Big Baby Davis can keep themselves from losing their emotions, they too can contribute in the appropriate way to add to this success.
The Celtics are clearly bound for possibly the 18th NBA Title in Franchise history, but need to continue playing defense, team-basketball, as well as working together. If all three of these things occur tonight and the remainder of this series, then the Celtics will once again be crowned the 2010 Eastern Conference Champions.