Date: June 3, 2012
Location: TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA
Basketball games are significant for different reasons to different people. The honorable mention game in this series was significant for a very small percentage of Celtics’ fans, one which happened to include myself. #10 was significant because the defense got going for the first time all season. #4 was significant because the Celtics exorcised a few demons and proved that they belonged.
This game was less about future significance and more about hanging on for dear life, hoping like crazy that things would end up in your favor. This was immediate, in-the-moment significance.
In the moment, I was dreading this game. I was also working. I have a series of bizarre good luck rituals that I go through at work when the Celtics are playing. All writing on the whiteboard has to be in green Dry-Erase marker (you’d be surprised how many games turned around when I changed the letters to green). I also can’t be wearing my 2008 Championship shirt (that thing has wrecked havoc…you don’t even know), and my wallet has to be in my right back pocket (don’t ask).
In the moment, as the game tipped off, I was listening to the radio in my car on break, hoping that the Celtics would, in the 15 minutes I had, take an enormous lead. To my great surprise, they obliged, and as I packed up to go back inside, Paul Pierce drained a three that put the C’s up 18-6.
In the moment, as Ray Allen swished a three that put the Celtics up by 18 in the second quarter, I was standing next to the dishwashing sink (I don’t have a very glamorous job) pumping my fist and spraying water everywhere. But as the second quarter came to a close and the Heat closed the lead to 14, I put my long-suffering phone away for 10 minutes, a feeling of unease settling on my stomach. 14 was nothing. Miami could score 14 points in a matter of seconds. Ugh.
In the moment, as Dwyane Wade drained a spot up jumper from the right elbow late in the third quarter to bring Miami within 10, I was sitting on a trash can in the corner where the security cameras couldn’t see me, biting my nails and feeling the inevitability of Miami’s comeback wash over me. Of course they were coming back. They always came back.
In the moment, as the fourth quarter was coming to a close and the Celtics were desperately holding on to a lead, I was hustling to the back of the store to clock out and go home. So as Kevin Garnett committed an offensive foul and gave Miami the ball with 20 seconds left and a chance to win the game on a final shot, I was listening in my car, terrified. Frozen, feeling even more helpless than usual, I heard Miami bring the ball up. Listening on the radio, I didn’t know that LeBron had been (essentially) triple teamed on the play, nor that Wade had been standing harmlessly on the baseline. All I heard, in seven seconds that seemed much longer, was the radio broadcaster’s voice saying “And now LeBron has the ball, guarded by Pietrus.” I breathed a sigh of relief when James passed to Haslem, who missed badly.
In the moment, when Pierce fouled out in overtime, I reached my lowest point. I was certain the Celtics were going to lose. I turned the radio off, punched the steering wheel, and cursed loudly, several times. Then, naturally, I turned the radio back on, in time to hear James foul out and feel a small amount of hope rekindled.
In the moment, as Rondo missed the first of two free throws, I was sitting in my garage, chewing the neckline of my t-shirt, tense like a bow string. I heard him hit the second. I waited through the time out, and listened to the final play.
This play was torturous. I heard the announcer say “Wade…for three!” I heard what sounded like a ball swishing through the net. I heard the crowd erupt. I, momentarily forgetting that the game was in Boston, despaired. Then the announcer: “Wade’s shot rims out! Wade missed! Boston takes Game Four!”
We know now how the season ended, and how wins like this didn’t actually matter in the grand scheme. We know who won this series and who went on to become NBA champions. But, in the moment, none of that mattered. In the moment, I was pounding my steering wheel, screaming myself hoarse, cheering right along with 18,000 delirious fans in TD Banknorth Garden.
In the moment, this game meant more than anything. If you ask me (and certainly if you ask my poor, battered steering wheel), “in-the-moment significance” remains significant after the fact as well.