Last season the Boston Celtics finished with just twenty-four wins. They ended the season with a sub-.500 record for the second straight year, and the third time since the 2003-04 season. Paul Pierce was pondering a trade request, Doc Rivers was on the verge of being fired, and Danny Ainge was known as one of the worst GMs in the NBA.
They tried furiously to get Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves. It seemed that KG did not want to come to Boston and the Celtics were going to have another dreadful year. Then the draft rolled around. Greg Oden was selected first overall by the Portland Trailblazers, Kevin Durant was taken by the Seattle Supersonics, then a few picks later, the Celtics were up. Ainge worked out a trade sending the rights of this draft pick (Jeff Green), Wally Sczerbiak, and Delonte West in return for Seattle's second round pick, which became Glen "Big Baby" Davis, and Ray Allen, who was coming off ankle surgery.
At first I was not too happy about this. I thought the Celtics should enter the rebuilding process and build around Al Jefferson, among their other young players, like Rajon Rondo. I also wasn't sure how well Allen would perform coming off of surgery on both ankles. I wondered if his jumpshot would still be effective, as well as his movement.
Then the Celtics made another huge trade. They traded for the 2004 MVP, Kevin Garnett. Now I was excited. This trade included Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, and a 2009 first round draft pick going to the Timberwolves in return for a first round pick and, of course, KG. The season was suddenly looking good for the Celtics and fans were excited for the first time in a while. There was a new big three in Boston; Garnett, Pierce, and Allen. However, no one expected this big of a turnaround so quickly. The big three were willing to sacrifice stats for wins and they worked well together. KG brought intensity, defense, and rebounding. Pierce had versatility; he drove to the basket and shot threes, while consistently getting to the free throw line. Allen's ankles turned out fine and his shot was great as usual.
The Celtics completed the biggest single season turnaround in NBA history and they grabbed the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They entered the playoffs as very heavy favorites over the young and upcoming Atlanta Hawks. Surprisingly, this series went into seven games. There were murmurs about the Celtics' vulnerability. Those grew louder as the next series, against the Cavs, was decided in the final minute of game seven. In the Eastern Conference Finals they faced the Pistons, and they were no longer favorites, but they finally won on the road and finished off the aging PIstons in six.
In the Western Conference, the Lakers' own big three, Kobe, Gasol, and Odom, cruised through the playoffs and seemed like they were going to take down the Celtics easily. They came in as favorites and many, including me, thought this series would end with Phil Jackson passing Red Auerbach in NBA Championships.
The Celtics and Lakers rivalry was supposedly revived, but let's be honest, this clearly isn't the same rivalry it was. The Celtics won games one and two in Boston. Then they went to Los Angeles. The Celtics had struggled away from Boston throughout the entire playoffs. In game three, it was close. Ray Allen was absolutely on fire, but Pierce and Garnett couldn't get things going. This looked like the Celtics' best opportunity to win, with Odom and Gasol playing terribly, but it was also the Lakers' best opportunity. Rondo was injured and KG and Pierce were having a horrible offensive game. Sasha Vujacic and Kobe both came through and brought the Lakers their first win of the Finals.
Then rolled around game four. Lamar Odom came out firing right after the tip off, scoring the first points of the game. He must have been fed up with his sub-par performances earlier in the series. The Celtics were playing dreadfully and the shot not even 30% in the first quarter. It was painful to watch, but I couldn't look away. They were down at halftime as well. However, like in the three games before tonight, the Celtics dominated the third quarter and at one point, the Celtics were within two. They came back from a deficit that was once as alrge as twenty-four points and somehow reduced it to two. In the fourth quarter, the Celtics outscored the Lakers again. They gained the lead on an Eddie House jumper with over four minutes remaining. That lead would never go away. The Celtics held on to win it.
This comeback has described the Celtics' season. They came into the second half of this game with fans expecting a loss, much like they expected a terrible season at the end of last year. However, they held on and grinded it out and somehow pulled out the win. Now they are just one win away from becoming champions. But, as the saying goes, don't count your chickens before they hatch. The Celtics better keep focus. I would be surprised if the Celtics won game five. I can't wait for the rest of the series.