“If this is to be our end, I would have us make it SUCH an end as to be worthy of remembrance.”
-Lord of the Rings
In the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn’t matter.
With the news that Rajon Rondo has a torn ACL, the Celtics’ run as title contenders is effectively over. Even if Boston can rally and claim a low playoff seed, there is little chance that a post-Rondo Celtics apocalypse ends with a championship. This could mean the team is blown up. It could mean that they miss the playoffs even if they don’t blow the team up. It is, clearly, terrible, terrible news.
But what a game. What an unbelievable game. For one afternoon, the Celtics were competitive. They were contentious. They hustled, they defended, they were tough. They were, in short, everything we have been screaming for all season, and they did it rallying around their fallen leader.
Don’t mistake me: Rondo being out is the worst thing that could possibly happen to this team. His absence likely hurries the rebuilding process. It likely precludes the C’s from a reasonable playoff seed. And, most importantly, it throws a horrible wrench into the career of a supremely talented young man entering the prime of his career. It is everything that is occasionally awful about basketball.
But for this afternoon, the Celtics weren’t going to lose to their rivals, nor to an ex-shooting guard who will remain nameless since his impact on the game was minimal. Every time the Celtics seemed like they were done, they responded with big baskets, tough defensive stops, and a ton of (I apologize for the sports cliche) heart. Whether or not the players knew about Rondo’s injury (Pierce looked shocked when Doris Burke asked him about it post-game), they played like they knew their season was on the line.
And it might have been. If you are looking for one final fond memory of the KG/Pierce era, it doesn’t get much better than beating the Heat in such a hard-fought bout.
Instead of bullet points, let’s list players who deserve a standing ovation after that performance. Let’s give it up for Pierce. Despite an inefficient shooting night, he hit big shots down the stretch and finished with a triple double.
Let’s give it up for Jeff Green. He scored 11 points, but more importantly, he played surprisingly good individual defense against LeBron James.
Let’s give it up for Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa and (yes, even) Jason Terry. None of these players are a long term point guard solution for the absence of Rajon Rondo, but all of them filled in for him temporarily.
Let’s give it up for Garnett, who scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 45 grueling minutes.
And once again, let’s give it up for the Celtics, who forced 20 turnovers and defended like their basketball lives depended on it. And they did it. They won.
We don’t know what happens next for this roster. Will they blow it up? Will they try for one more gutsy playoff appearance? We can’t know. But if this is the end, at least it’s one hell of a memorable one.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.