This could be it. After six incredible years, tonight could be the last home game for the Big Three era Celtics. KG and Paul Pierce aren’t getting any younger, and it’s been widely speculated that either one or both of them will seriously consider retiring at the end of the season. Additionally, many believe that Danny Ainge will use this offseason to try and rebuild/reposition the Celtics to be competitive after their two aging stars are gone. Either way, there’s a good chance that this will be the last postseason with the core group of KG, Pierce, and Rajon Rondo.
For some, these teams will be remembered as a disappointment. After winning a title in their first season upon acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, it seemed as if the Celtics had positioned themselves to be the NBA’s next dynasty. Five years later and that one ring is the only hardware they have. Year after year, injuries have derailed them and fans have been left wondering what could have been. When you consider all the talent they’ve had over these past six years, the fact that they’ve had one of the league’s top two or three coaches in Doc Rivers, and their consistency in being among the top defensive teams in the league, it’s easy to feel disappointed by this team.
But these Celtics are about much more than championships. With a franchise like the Celtics, where winning is everything, it’s easy to lose yourself in the “championship or bust” mentality. The true legacy that this Celtics team will leave, however, will be one of heart, toughness, and togetherness – and it is something that all Celtics fans should feel proud to have been a part of.
As Brian Windhorst wrote earlier this week, one of the staples of recent Celtics teams has been their apparent resurrections after being left for dead by the rest of the basketball world. Time and time again, Boston has fought back against seemingly insurmountable odds to extend their season.
This year has been no different. After losing the first three games in this first round series against the New York Knicks, the Celtics have won two gut-wrenching in the gritty, hard-to-watch manner that we’ve grown so accustomed to in recent years. With the momentum and a raucous Boston crowd on their side, as well as all the pressure on the Knicks to keep the series from getting to Game 7, everything seems to favoring the Celtics. And if there were ever an NBA team to come back from a 3-0 deficit, it only seems fitting that it would be these Celtics.
Nobody sums up this team’s attitude better than their emotional leader, KG: “We out here scrappin. This is survival. This is like a Game 7; every game from here on out is like a Game 7. We scrappin.” Scrapping is exactly what’s gotten the Celtics to this point. It’s what allowed them to overcome a slew of regular season injuries – most notably, the loss of Rajon Rondo to a torn ACL. It’s also, as KG pointed out, what’s gotten them back in this series with the Knicks. Despite having what can only be described as an abysmal offense, the Celtics have been able to put two wins together by relying on stingy defense and mental fortitude. This gritty, scrappy mentality has defined the Celtics since the arrival of the Big Three.
For a team that has made toughness and an ability to overcome adversity their calling card, becoming the first team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series would be the most fitting end. Although success will always be measured by championships – especially in a city like Boston – perhaps this would be an even greater, or at least more meaningful, accomplishment. When I look back on these Celtics teams, I will always think of the heart they’ve shown in the face of a number of difficult situations. I can’t think of a better way for them to walk away than by making NBA history, and if they just keep “scrappin,” they’ll be in great position to do so.