It’s okay to start dreaming. The Celtics have finally given us reason to hope.
A week ago, the Celtics sat in a growing mountain of uncertainty. Actually, for a lot of people, there was no uncertainty regarding the Celtics; they were bound for impending doom and a long summer filled with fly-fishing and golf. The regular season — a bumbling, up-and-down affair — offered little confidence in an old, weary ballclub that had seemingly lost its insatiable desire to win.
When the playoffs started, who thought the Celtics could win a championship? If you nodded your head yes, you are lying, unless you are the Michael Jordan of optimism. They couldn’t possibly win it. They had nothing left in the tank. A first-round playoff victory was the best they could hope for. Their stint as a championship contender had run its course, and all that was left was the concept of rebuilding after the Big Three Era.
But here they are, a week to the day from their Game One victory, the only 3-0 team in the playoffs. Cleveland isn’t up 3-0, L.A. isn’t up 3-0, New Jersey isn’t up 3-0. (Just wanted to make sure you were still reading.) Atlanta and Orlando are winning 2-0, but neither has yet won on the road. Only the Celtics — and, in case you didn’t know what “only” means, no other team in the NBA has done it — are one win away from the second round. It’s funny, because this was supposed to have become Rajon Rondo’s team, but two-thirds of the Big Three have led them there.
Beyond anything else, it’s the resurgences of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce that have transformed the Celtics into a team to be reckoned with. Ray is throwing darts into an ocean at this point. He’s aggressive, in rhythm, and dangerous. Oh, so dangerous. When Ray Allen gets hot, momentum is only a flick of the wrist away. And Pierce? If there were questions regarding whether he could still create his own shot — and there were, at least in my mind — Pierce’s Game Three should quell those notions. He has a different role than he did in 2008, but he’s still capable of going all Cool Runnings on his opponents. You know, putting Boston on his shoulders and carrying them past the finish line. Just ask Dorell Wright.
A lot was made of Boston trying to avoid Cleveland in round two, but do you think the Cavs are happy to face the C’s? Do you think the Cavs wouldn’t give anything to play Atlanta, the same team Cleveland bulldozed through last spring? As good as Cleveland has looked this season, as indestructible as they may seem, they have yet to win anything. They got to the finals one year, but were swept away like a pile of dust by the Spurs. Cleveland has Lebron James, they have more weapons surrounding him, and they have playoff experience. But they haven’t won anything, not as a team. And the Celtics, with Kevin Garnett healthy, have a spotless playoff record. One postseason, one championship. And they beat Cleveland on their way to that ring.
Granted, Cleveland is a different team now and Lebron James has become the (almost) undisputed best player in the league. The Cavs are a formidable foe, and they’ve proven they’re worth through a dominant regular season. Boston won’t be a favorite against Cleveland, even if the C’s complete a sweep of Miami with a 120-point victory in Game Four.
But the last three games have given us hope, allowed us to dream. Championship, parade, banner, all within question. The Celtics aren’t the favorites, but they’ve got a shot.
A week ago, that was almost unfathomable.