Tonight, when the Boston Celtics take the court they will have the chance to save the world from the forces of evil. Ok, maybe it’s not that dire, but this is still pretty huge by basketball standards. After winning game 5 of their Eastern Conference Finals showdown against the Miami Heat, the Celtics can send them packing and thus wasting another year of the Miami Heat’s championship window.
This isn’t how things were supposed to play out. The veteran Celtics, long thought to be too old and too injured to keep up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, weren’t supposed to be in a position to make this a series, let alone in a position to close them out. Afterall, the Heat vanquished Boston last year. They cried tears of joy having toppled the insurmountable force of Pierce, Allen, Garnett, and Rondo. But, not so fast. While Boston may not have youth and athleticism on their side, the Celtics make up for it in both veteran leadership and heart.
The latter of which has been a point of contention for the Heat for the better part of two seasons now. Blessed with two of the top five talents in the NBA and a velociraptor, there should be no excuse for them to find themselves in this hole. There wasn’t an excuse for this last season either, but again, the Mavericks simply wanted it more. Sure enough, when the dust settled it was the Heat left to wonder what went wrong on their path to not one, not two, not three… etc championships.
Perhaps the biggest problem of all when it comes to the Miami Heat is that this was supposed to be easy from the start. There wasn’t supposed to be an incubation period when it came to James, Wade, and Bosh hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy. In the era of instant everything, the Heat had developed the microwave model to winning the title. It’s a model that’s been followed now by the Knicks and teams such as Brooklyn looking to follow suit. Low and behold, it hasn’t been easy and it certainly hasn’t been instant. Unless of course you’re talking about instant criticism. From that perspective, they were spot on.
Now, with another chapter to their careers ready to be concluded, the Miami Heat find themselves being stared down by the very team that instigated the “Big 3’s” joining of forces. After coming together in 2008, the Celtics raised another banner in the Garden and became the favorites year after year. What James, Wade, and Bosh failed to realize is the Celtics weren’t a microwavable champion, far from it.
The road to the championship for the Boston Big 3 was forged through years of struggle; Garnett losing year after year in the first round in Minnesota, Ray Allen falling short in both Milwaukee and Seattle, and Paul Pierce being in Boston during the wrong era with the wrong supporting cast (i.e. Antoine Walker). When they came together it was the perfect fit. The big man, the sharp shooter, and the scorer, each willing to take a lesser role for the greater good. Combined with what looks to be a once in a lifetime point guard in Rajon Rondo, the results spoke for themselves (Anyone who has watched Oklahoma City can see a similar narrative playing out, perhaps even closer to the first run of the Jordan Bulls. The perfect team with the perfect superstar, built in a timely manner that embraced the process and bided it’s time, and now looks like the potential champ.)
This wasn’t three big names thrown together and expected to win. This was three solid players whose games meshed perfectly together with the right coach and right supporting cast. This is where Miami, and to a greater extent the Knicks, have gone wrong. James, Wade, and Bosh sounds great on paper, but after a handful of games it was clear the fit wasn’t right. After almost two seasons now it’s obvious this team is lacking something. That something is the heart of a champion.
Watching the Celtics during what is surely their last hurrah together, it’s clear their will to win goes above and beyond talent and surely is more important than age and athleticism. You can see it on their faces. You can see it in every jumper, rebound, and blocked shot. These Celtics refuse to let this Miami team get the best of them. This isn’t just a series and the Heat aren’t just their opponent. It’s personal.
So tonight, when the final buzzer sounds don’t be surprised to see the Celtics walk off the floor as confetti rains down. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett pounding their chests and letting out primal screams. Rajon Rondo nodding his head and smirking in defiance. Ray Allen, the glue that holds the entire thing together, acting the part of consummate professional.
All the while LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh will slink back to the locker room and ultimately to the podium (maybe) to begin facing the hard truth that you can’t circumvent the championship process. Two years into their master plan and it’s possible that by 11 pm tonight, it’ll be two years lost for the Heat and another offseason answering the same question. How do the Miami Heat finally get past the Boston Celtics?
Turns out the more things change, the more they stay the same.