Posted by Sekou Smith
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it 1,000 times the past few days.
“Don’t sleep on the Celtics!”
We’re done estimating the old men in the NBA’s Final Four, and yes the aged Celtics remain the most seasoned group in the conference finals on either side.
That seasoning, however, provides mettle and toughness that only the Los Angeles Lakers can begin to approach. And as we all know, it was this same Celtics team two years ago that took these Lakers to the woodshed.
But the Celtics we will see today are a much improved bunch from what we saw earlier this season, as the venerable Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe points out here:
Even so, that LeBron [James] still might have been good enough to defeat another playoff foe, and he definitely would have been good enough to defeat those 27-27 Celtics of January, February, March, and April. The ultimate issue in the Boston-Cleveland series was Boston, not Cleveland. The LeBron sideshow dominated all local and national attention. Had the opponent been the Rochester Royals, no one would have noticed. It was a LeBron Festival, 24/7.
Should anyone stop talking about where LeBron is heading for five seconds and decide to turn on his or her TV set at 3:30 EDT this afternoon, he or she will see a team wearing green uniforms that is playing high-level NBA basketball, a team that has renewed commitment to both defense and sharing the basketball, a team whose eight primary rotation players all have championship rings, and a team that has the extra motivation that comes when you are trying to prove millions of people wrong. No one picked them to go this far, and they know it.
The current Celtics team did not really exist all season. True, they had that 23-5 start, but that was without Glen Davis. Only now does Doc Rivers have the unit he needs to compete with the Cavs, Magic, Lakers, and Suns of the world.
The basic story line now centers on health. The situation is exactly what Rivers said all along it would be. If, he kept saying before and during many a lost evening this past winter, we ever get healthy, we will be OK.
There was also this gem from Ryan, summing up the playoffs and this series perfectly:
A regular-season record is the product of talent, yes, but it also reflects whom you play, when you play them (i.e. are you in the fourth game in six nights of a killer road trip?), who’s healthy, how difficult the team is to prepare for, and, without question, motivation. In the playoffs, motivation is self-evident.
Coaching and preparation can decide series. Teams can zero in on opponents’ vulnerabilities. In-game coaching decisions are magnified (did Doc kick poor Mike Brown’s butt or what?). It’s all totally different.
The Magic have won 27 out of 30, but the Celtics are ready for them. A month ago, we all thought the Celtics might lose in the first round, no matter whom they played. Now they’re playing Orlando for the Eastern Conference championship, and it’s going to be a fair fight.
We’re done with predictions around here.
We’re down to the best of the very best.
It’s time to get it on and the best team standing at the end is the undisputed beast of the East!