Goodbye, Boston Celtics
After watching the Boston Celtics get blown out by the Miami Heat in game six, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to watch game seven. But then I decided that it was my duty as a fan. My goal heading into the season was to simply enjoy the ride — the Celtics were too old to contend for a championship, but it would be fun to watch the core members of the team play what would likely be their final season together.
However, after the Celtics beat the Heat in Miami in game five, I was absolutely convinced they would go to the NBA finals, and shock the world by winning their 18th championship. As a result, I watched much of game six in stunned silence, unable to comprehend what was happening. With the Heat ahead by about 22 with only a few minutes left to play, I bid farewell to my landlord. “I’m heading for the exits,” I said. “I can’t watch this anymore.” A good night’s sleep did little to take away the sting — I was furious with the Celtics, and I found myself ranting about them whenever the subject of the NBA came up. “Those Celtics,” I said. “They raise your hopes, and then they rip out your heart.”
“You sound a little unhinged,” a friend of mine remarked.
By Saturday I was feeling much better — my theory is that I was moving through the stages of grief, and had transitioned from anger to acceptance. I understood that the current Celtics dynasty would likely end in Miami, and that there was nothing wrong with that. I did lapse into a brief rant while talking to the New England Sports Fan Friend, who listened to me yell and complain about how the Celtics gave away the series by playing so poorly on their home court, and then said, “What’s interesting is that, out of all the bad Boston sports losses you’ve seen, game six is the one that made you hysterical.” He had a point: I was hysterical, and over a game that doesn’t really seem all that important in retrosepct. In fact, I was so hysterical that I was acting a bit like the New England Sports Fan Friend.
I like to think my hysteria is just a testament to how much I love this Celtics team. Indifference doesn’t cause hysteria. Passion does. Five years ago, the Celtics rewarded long-suffering fans by acquiring two future Hall of Famers to play alongside their star, Paul Pierce. All three were on the downsides of their careers, and there was the sense that their championship window was just three years. What helped prolong the life of this team was the emergence of point guard Rajon Rondo, who has become an All Star-level talent. Overall, this Celtics team has been an absolute delight, but they could also be quite exasperating, and it seems sort of fitting that game 7 showcased both the best and worst qualities of this particular team.
The game started off well, with the Celtics leading throughout much of the first half and the score tied at the end of the third quarter. At that point, the Celtics looked like they were fully capable of pulling off the upset. What followed was one of those maddening stretches of futility that all Celtics fans have come to dread, when everyone on the team simultaneously becomes unable to score points of any kind — open three pointers, lay-ups, jump shots, etc. The Celtics’ score came to a screeching halt at 86, and barely moved; every time a Celtic player missed a basket, the New England Sports Fan Friend shook his head and said, “You’ve got to make that shot.”
And so it went, for the rest of the quarter, as LeBron and his teammates decided they’d finally had enough of the Celtics, and went to work. In the end, the Heat were just too good for the Celtics, who simply ran out of gas, unable to keep up with their younger, less-banged-up, more athletic opponents.
This is, of course, the classic NBA story: A young, championship-hungry team dispatches the weary veterans, and wins the chance to create their own basketball dynasty. The Celtics weren’t the only team who suffered this fate: San Antonio and Dallas both fell this year to the whiz-kid Oklahoma City Thunder.
After game seven came to its sad conclusion, the New England Sports Fan Friend sighed. “What else do we have to look forward to?” he said. “The Red Sox look like a .500 team. The Patriots could be good, but I don’t want to lose another Super Bowl. I think we can get to the Super Bowl. But I don’t want to lose.”
“I think it’s a little too early to worry about the Super Bowl,” I said.
“We’ve still got Tom Brady,” the New England Sports Fan Friend continued. “And that’s the key.”
Unlike the New England Sports Fan Friend, I am not thinking about the New England Patriots. And I am barely thinking about the Red Sox. What I’m thinking about is how much I’ll miss this Celtics team. They only won one championship, and they probably should have won two, but they were always in the hunt. (Some great teams, such as the “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns teams, never win any.) They were tough, and full of heart, and they embodied everything you could want from a team.
NBA FINALS PREDICTION
It seems inconceivable, but a team called the Oklahoma City Thunder is going to become the next NBA champion. I like the Thunder, but I’m actually rooting for the Heat in this one: I just can’t support an expansion team having so much success so early in its existence. Expansion teams are supposed to suffer!
Also, LeBron is amazing. He deserves to win a ring, rather than listen to everyone scream about how he isn’t clutch. You know what? The Heat will lose this series, but it won’t be LeBron’s fault — he’ll play up to his usual amazing standards, while his lesser teammates falter. Anyway, this finals match-up likely represents the emergence of a new rivarly, one that will dominate the NBA for the next five or six years. My guess is that we are going to be seeing a lot more of Kevin Durant and LeBron James on the big stage. Thunder in six.
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