Date: May 26, 2012
Location: TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA
Top Plays: 3:32 (Rondo drains the dagger three. Seriously, watching Elton Brand’s spirit die, even from a distant camera angle, is totally worthwhile), 1:05 (Pierce gets a tough shot to go, plus the foul, wrenching momentum back after a thunderous dunk from Iguodala)
Rundown/What it meant: When Derrick Rose injured his knee, seemingly clearing a path to the Eastern Conference Finals for the Celtics, I told everyone who would listen (my dad and my girlfriend) that it didn’t matter to me if Boston didn’t beat Miami. I just wanted to see them make it to the ECF one last time with the current group. I just wanted to see the old guard (KG, Pierce, and Allen) take one last stand against the newly risen beast in the Eastern Conference. Even if the C’s couldn’t win, just the opportunity to take a moderately healthy swing at the Heat seemed, to me, to be a perfectly satisfying outcome.
“Win this series,” I said. “Everything else is gravy.”
As it turned out, I was dead wrong, but the Celtics WOULD get to take a final swing at Miami (and they made it one hell of a haymaker), thanks to this game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The series itself was as back and forth as a series could possibly be, each team winning all of their home games. Fortunately, Philadelphia’s shocking advance to the second round ensured that the Celtics would have home court advantage in a deciding Game 7. Boston alternately thrilled and infuriated, losing games 2, 4, and 6, but winning Games 1, 3, 5, and (most importantly) Game 7.
And, in typical C’s fashion, they made Game 7 as difficult as they possibly could for themselves. Though the defense was spectacular, holding the Sixers to 75 points, the offense never really got going. The Celtics missed their first 14 3-point attempts, a problem which (shameless self-plug alert) plagued them all year long. Though they ran out to several fairly comfortable leads, Boston allowed Philly to come charging back every time, so that when Paul Pierce fouled out with just over four minutes remaining, the C’s were ahead by just three ,and I was standing, staring at the TV with my hands on my head, speechless.
I shouldn’t have worried. Because, also in typical C’s fashion, Rondo was ready for the big game, and he hit two of his biggest shots of the season. Both were shocking: long jumpers. The second was a three pointer that clearly sucked the wind out of the Sixers, who were unable to mount a final run, and the Celtics moved on to face Miami.
I tried very hard to convince myself that I didn’t care if Boston lost to Miami, and that this was the most meaningful game of the year. I was unsuccessful. No matter how satisfying winning it was to win one last series, nobody who likes a good story can just stop reading one chapter early, even if the ending would be happier if we did. We need to complete the story. Even stat-heads need a final narrative, no matter how much they protest to the contrary, and this wasn’t the final narrative. It was just the penultimate chapter.
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