#10: Boston rediscovers their defensive capabilities, blowing out Orlando.
#9: The Celtics blow out the Sixers in Game 5.
#8: The C’s shoot the lights out in Miami.
#7: Boston proves themselves capable of winning back to back big games.
#6: The Celtics close out Atlanta at home.
#5: Boston grinds out a tough overtime win against New York.
#4: The C’s give us all hope, blasting Miami in Boston.
#3: Boston evens the series with the Heat.
#2: The Celtics close out Philly, setting the table for a showdown with Miami.
And now, number one. Try to pretend like you didn’t know this was coming. You know, for my sake.
Date: May 5, 2012
Location: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL
I shall die here. Every last inch of me shall perish. Except one.
An inch. It’s small and it’s fragile and it’s the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.
-V For Vendetta
I mentioned my crazy rituals in the #3 post in this series, and here’s another one spawned this year: my dad and I can’t watch Celtics games together because the C’s ALWAYS seem to lose when we do. This has been proven over many regular season games, but the most painful example happened two years ago. We spent most of the 2010 Finals hundreds of miles apart, but we were able to watch Game 7 together. I’ll give you a minute to stop cringing.
So I watched Game 5 at my girlfriend’s house. Watching with her is fine because she has adopted the Celtics (possibly related: we are now engaged), but a little unpleasant because her roommates aren’t exactly basketball people.
“Wait, Rose got injured?” One roommate asked, when I was explaining that the Celtics didn’t have to face the Bulls before the Heat. “What happened to him?”
So to keep myself sane, I called my dad during commercials to discuss what we were seeing. When Paul Pierce stepped into that three with LeBron’s hand in his face, I cursed loudly before leaping out of my chair, ecstatic and completely shocked that it went in, and as Miami called time, I called my dad, giggling.
“That was a TERRIBLE shot,” I said.
“Absolutely terrible!” He agreed.
It was. It was awful. There were still five seconds left on the shot clock. The C’s were clinging to a one point lead. LeBron is an excellent defender, and if he had blocked Pierce’s shot, the Celtics would have wasted a possession on a shot clock violation. But James couldn’t reach, Pierce stayed focused, and the Celtics went up 3-2, closing out the game from the line.
I’ll admit it: at the time, I thought the Celtics were going to the Finals, and I thought they were going to close Miami out at home. I wasn’t certain, and I avoided any Oklahoma City speculation out of fear of bad luck, but I REALLY thought Boston was going to advance. In retrospect, that almost makes this game more painful to remember: my jubilation mixed with my fear that the Celtics would lose the next two games, turning this victory from a joyous occasion to something even more painful than a sweep.
The Celtics, of course, did lose the next two games. But it wasn’t more painful than a sweep. Sure, the Heat went on to win the series. Yes, they walked all over OKC in the Finals. Certainly, a strong case could be made that the only reason the Celtics were in that position was because several things broke their way (Rose’s injury, Bosh’s injury, etc.). All of these things are true.
But the Celtics were close. Very close. Inches, perhaps, from advancing to the Finals. And this is important: the Celtics kept their inch. An inch is something to work with next season. An inch convinced Boston’s management to reload instead of rebuild. An inch gave us a good team to cheer for, instead of a bad team hoping for a lottery pick.
The Heat are the champions. The Heat are the favorites. But we have an inch, and if Valerie from V For Vendetta is to be believed, that inch is something.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.