Celtics pride is back
Watch numerous videos covering the series
First take a look at the levees failing on the Mississippi, this is getting Horrific!
Now: Celtics return to glory with championship effort by Mark Kriegel
The Boston Celtics' 17th championship was accorded the familiar rituals: the spray of confetti followed by a televised trophy presentation. Still, however loud it remained inside the TD Banknorth Garden, by then the festivities had already begun to take on an anti-climactic air.
As celebrations go, this one was particularly exhausting, having begun midway through the fourth quarter. Finally, with 4:01 remaining and the Celtics up by a mere 35, Doc Rivers removed his triumvirate of stars known as the Big Three.
"They came in as a group," Rivers said. "I thought we should take them out as a group."
They each thanked their coach, the most effusively grateful being Paul Pierce, now concluding his 10th season with the Celtics in a manner he could not have envisioned a year ago.
"He just kept saying, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you for sticking with me again,'" recalled Rivers.
This time last year, Pierce was a malcontent on a 24-win team — "the classic case of a great player on a bad team," as he famously described himself — waiting to be traded. "Rock bottom a year ago today," Pierce said.
Now he was the best player on the best team in basketball, a clear choice for the Finals MVP, an award widely forecast to be won by Kobe Bryant.
As it happened, in yet another example of just how strong this Boston team is, Pierce was outscored by three teammates: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and, of all people, Rajon Rondo. Rondo had 21 points to Pierce's 17. Pierce, who's bigger and tougher than anyone really knew, also had 10 assists, one fewer than all the Lakers starters combined.
"Paul was only viewed upon as a scorer," Rivers said. "Now I think people see him as a complete basketball player."
By now there has been plenty of talk about the Big Three doing together — late in their careers — what they could not do alone. "The guys dropping their egos for the good of the team," said Pierce, who grew up an ardent Lakers fan near the old Forum in Inglewood.
But the Celtics were more than their three stars. They were also an amalgam of bit players, castoffs thought to be too young, too old, too limited or perennially dissatisfied. "As important as it was that they trusted each other, I thought it was far more important that they trusted the other guys," Rivers said.
The other guys, in no particular order, included Eddie House, Sam Cassell, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, James Posey and 38-year-old P.J. Brown, who was talked out of retirement. In trusting the other guys, the Big Three set an agenda and a level of expectation for the non-stars. The Celtics, as reconstituted in the off-season by Danny Ainge, would not suffer from foolishness or selfishness or lack of defense. They would rebound. They would fight for loose balls.
Theirs was a virtuous way to play basketball, and it showed in the way they beat the Lakers Tuesday night. The Celtics survived an assortment of maladies in this series, including Perkins' shoulder, Rondo's ankle and Pierce's knee. Still, the absurd final score, 131-92, turned out to be more lopsided than any elimination game in the history of the NBA championship.
But there are yet other ways to quantify the Celtics' glory, and by extension, the Lakers' ignominy:
Looking back on this game, you should recall a single possession in the second quarter that saw Boston grab three offensive rebounds before Posey sank a 3. That put the Celtics up by six, 35-29. But it also made you wonder about Los Angeles.
The Lakers were about to break, and the arena was about to get loud. It was the kind of loud you just don't hear in L.A.** I expected a blow it for a lot of reasons but you never know. I assumed the series was purposely brought to that point for the financial benefit and so the Celts could win it at home.
The two steals by Kobe to seal game 5 that would never happen sealed the set up to me. At any rate bring on the parade tomorrow at 11:AM!