The Oklahoma City Thunder are already waiting where the Boston Celtics want to go. The NBA Finals isn’t the final destination the Celtics plugged into their GPS — no, they don’t want to stop after one more win against the Heat. But first they must make the Finals before they make any moves to claim the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
If the Celtics do succeed against the Miami Heat, they can thank their reliability in critical moments. No, the Celtics don’t always win close games. But just as important as their record in five-point games is their response when the Heat go on an 11-2 run to take a 59-50 lead midway through the third quarter, or when Dwyane Wade blocks a Brandon Bass block attempt that could have been the proverbial last straw. Each Celtic can normally rely on his teammates when pressure rises and — cue the Rasheed Wallace voice — certain players around the league get tight butthole syndrome.
The Celtics have surrendered countless runs this postseason, but they’ve only lost by double-digits once in 18 playoff games. That was the opener against the Miami Heat, when the Celtics were playing their 14th playoff game in 28 days and had just one day of preparation for one of the league’s top three or four teams. When games threaten to get away from them, the Celtics tend to tighten their leash and yank those games back within their reach.
Ray Allen said Tuesday that whenever he looks around the locker room, he knows what to expect from his teammates. That’s important, and it might even impact where he signs in free agency this summer. (Boston Herald)
“Starting three years ago those questions were starting to be asked, with (coach) Doc (Rivers) thrown in there at the same time,” he said. “To walk away from something when there’s so much there, it’s kind of hard to do that. You look around the league and you always question, ‘What does this guy stand for? Can you go to battle with him?’ That’s the unknown. But you know what you have in your locker room, and to walk away from that is tough. Every night we give ourselves a 60 percent chance of winning or greater. That’s what we all came here for, and you don’t want to give that away.
“Some of my best times in basketball winning, I won with those guys,” he said of Garnett and Paul Pierce. “I’ll always attribute great things to them. We’ll always be connected, wherever you go. When I call Kevin or Paul 20 years from now they had better pick the phone up, or call me up right away.”
Toughness in sports is an intangible quality the extent of which writers sometimes exaggerate to fit (or even create) a storyline when one team beats another. But Doc Rivers has been preaching all year about his team’s toughness. Kevin Garnett loves this Celtics team because he sees a lot of himself in all his teammates. It seems cliche to say, but these Celtics are tough. And that matters.