No one expected the Boston Celtics to be two games away from winning the 2010 NBA championship. Not after a regular season that was marred by injuries, old legs, large egos and fractured team chemistry. Limping into the 2010 playoffs on a two-game losing streak after finishing the regular season with a respectable but non-spectacular 50-32 record, the Celtics looked like anything but title contenders. This team had lost seven of their final ten games and were constantly reminded of their aging roster, with three key starters all on the plus side of 31 years old.
Considered ancient by NBA standards, it was pretty much widely accepted that the current Celtics had peaked in winning the 2008 NBA title over the Lakers. Their time had past. The off-season addition of Rasheed Wallace was looking more and more like a bust, and the Celtic faithful were searching for answers. Hope was not running wild in the streets of Boston; that is until the 2010 playoffs began.
Their opening round opponents were the inconsistent Miami Heat. Though led by all-star Dwayne Wade, the Heat simply lacked the talent to pose a real threat. The Celtics defeated them easily, 4 games to 1. Most pundits chalked that series win up to the Celtics playing an inferior team. Just wait until these geezers meet up with a real team, some thought.
Those critics would get their wish as the Celtics now faced the team with the best regular season record in the NBA and, by the way, the league MVP Lebron James. This was supposed to be Cleveland’s year. After all, King James was due to become a free agent, and the basketball gods had already declared that this would be the year that Lebron would join the immortal realm of NBA champions. Not so fast.
The Celtics seemed to tap into the fountain of youth; frustrating, harassing, and even dominating the younger Cavaliers. Their 4-2 series win set off a parade of NBA conspiracy theorists calling into question everything from the cause of Lebron’s poor performance to the future of the Cavaliers franchise. One thing that they didn’t question was the fact that the Boston Celtics were suddenly back.
Next up was the Orlando Magic, who are led by arguably the most dominating big man in the game, Dwight Howard. The surging Magic had yet to even sniff the scent of defeat, rolling through their first two playoff opponents with the relative ease of Howard curling a 50 pound barbell. Surely, the defending Eastern Conference champions would end this Cinderella run by the Celtics. Fast forward six games and we find the Celtics, arms extended towards the skies, celebrating a six-game dismantling of Orlando. Could this be?
Here we are today. The Celtics are coming off of a Game 4 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in a game that was dominated by Boston’s bench players. Last night we all watched as the relentless Celtics relied on defense, hustle, and team chemistry to thwart Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and company. Suddenly the Lakers, and not the Celtics look weary. Boston repeatedly out-hustled the Lakers, descending on every loose ball and scratching for every rebound. Dave Cowens and Bill Russell must have been smiling.
With Sunday nights pivotal Game 5 set in Boston, the basketball world wants to know; are the Boston Celtics a team of destiny? Is Red Auerbach watching from the heavens, poised to light one of his famous cigars? We’ll all have to watch and see.