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Article:Looking Back: The Boston Celtics and the 2008 NBA Championship

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May 22nd, 2007 - The Ping Pong Balls

This was the darkest day the Boston Celtics had suffered in a long time. I hate to compare losing a lottery that the team only had a 40% chance of "winning" by getting the first or second picks to the death of Reggie Lewis or Len Bias, but losing this lottery is probably third on the list worst things to happen to the Celtics since winning in 1986. At this point, the Celtics were one of the youngest teams in the league. Paul Pierce was the captain of the team entering his tenth season, but we knew he would toil on a team that wouldn't be of championship caliber for many years to come (if ever), and more than likely past his prime when it happened. The trade rumors for Kevin Garnett had already started, but with names like Amare Stoudemire floating in the mix, that didn’t seem likely. Plus, KG and Pierce would be a solid foundation to compete in the East, but it wouldn’t be enough to get us over the top, and we knew it. It was at this time of the year I had many conversations about how the Celtics should move Pierce for more young talent and see how the players develop. It pained us to think that way, but the best thing for Pierce and the team was probably to go separate ways.

June 29th, 2007 - Trade for Ray Allen

The 5th pick (Jeff Green), Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West were all it took for Seattle to part with Ray Allen. At the time, this was the most controversial move Danny Ainge had done. Ray Allen is a fantastic basketball player, but he is an aging shooting guard (stats drop after 30 historically) and Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, with Al Jefferson et all just didn’t seem to be the type of team that was going to get it done. Also, Kevin Garnett had not been traded at the time, and the 5th pick was clearly going to be part of any deal to bring him to Boston. Celtics fans had a month to wonder how this mix of two veterans and many young players would compete in the upcoming season.

July 31st, 2007 - Trade for Kevin Garnett


2 First Round Picks, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff's Expiring Contract, and Al Jefferson for The Big Ticket. The commercial sums it up perfectly. Kevin Garnett is the epitome of the "why doesn’t our team get guy's like this" player: the points, the rebounds, the intensity, and most importantly, the defense. At the time, it was a sad footnote to lose Al Jefferson, but the New Big 3 had been brought together, and the buzz wouldn’t die down. I predicted an Eastern Conference Finals appearance at minimum for a team anchored by these stars, but many questions remained. Would Rajon Rondo be able to successfully be a starting point guard? Was the Celtics' bench deep enough? Was Doc Rivers the right coach for this team?

August 1st, 7th, 26th – Celtics Sign Eddie House, Scott Pollard, James Posey

As big a part of his MVP worthy performance as his play, the addition of Kevin Garnett to the Celtics makes Boston an attractive destination for free agents for the first time since I can remember. Yes, the Celtics went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001, but it was a mirage. The Celtics were not one of the NBA’s four best teams that year. At the time I thought the Scott Pollard signing was brilliant. Adding another veteran big to the lineup was perfect.  I knew surprisingly little about Eddie House, but obviously a veteran backup point guard was high on our list of priorities. Pat Riley said something to the effect of "Celtics" fans will love James Posey when he’s raining 3's in the playoffs" and boy was he right (I loved James Posey a lot sooner than that, as a matter of fact).

Somewhere Between June 1st, 2007 and August 31st 2007 Doc Rivers Reads a Book About Ubuntu

It just seemed like Doc Rivers was doing a bad Phil Jackson impression the first time I heard about Ubuntu, but he was able to get a team of grown men to buy into this program, and the Celtics never looked back. The Team came first, they were committed to each other, to defense, and to winning.

November 13th, 2007 - Celtics are 6-0

At this time we were cautiously optimistic. The Celtics were already off to their best start in 20 years, but the season is 82 games, not 6. Could they keep it up for a season? All kinds of stats were popping up – 15-0 would be the best Celtic start all time, no team had gone 10-0 since 1979, etc. It all felt like it was coming too soon, for a team that had yet to accomplish much. Of course, Kevin Garnett had us salivating, opening the season with 6 double doubles including games of 23-20 and 27-19.

November 24th, 2007 - Celtics beat Bobcats by 1 (Improve to 11-1)

Looking back on a championship season a 1 point win in November against a lottery bound team shouldn’t be significant, but this was:  

The Celtics are down by 2 with just over 4 seconds left. The Bobcats have the ball, and it looks like they are about to hand the Celtics their second loss of the season. But Eddie House tips the inbound pass up in the air, creating a steal. Paul Pierce comes down with the ball and finds Ray Allen moving to an open spot at the top of the key. Ray Allen nails the game winning 3 pointer. I thought at the time, if the breaks continue to fall like this for the Celtics, they’ll be unstoppable. Of course, it also showcased the new strength of the team. In the past, Pierce would have forced a jumper in traffic after coming down with the ball. He would have been the only Celtic we wanted shooting the ball there anyway, instead he calmly looked for the open man, which was all star Ray Allen, and it’s an entirely new team for the Celtics in 2008.

January 5th, 2008 – Celtics are 29-3

Somewhere around this time it was brought to my attention that ESPN’s John Hollinger had created two different calculators. The first is a playoff calculator, creating odds on which teams will make the playoffs and chances those teams have of winning the championship. Celtics odds of playoff birth was 100%, easy enough to calculate, but their championship odds were at 40%. This was a welcome number for any Celtic fan. No other team was near that level. In fact, the Celtics were playing so well, Hollinger found it fitting to create a second calculator. The odds the Celtics would finish the season with a record tying 72-10 record. The odds floated at surprisingly high levels for awhile, but unsurprisingly the Celtics did not eclipse Jordan’s old mark. There’s too much parity in the league in these days to accomplish that, but the impressiveness of the Celtics start is lost on no one.

January 27th, 2008 - KG Strains Abdominal Muscle

The first real uh-oh moment of the season. We find out later that the injury is only a muscle strain, but it is wondered aloud by many if age will be the Celtics Achilles' Heel. Injuries and fatigue are of concern for any team, but particularly a team lead by 3 aging stars. 

January 31st – Celtics Beat Dallas with KG Out of the Lineup

Starting in place of the injured Garnett and in charge of covering Dirk Nowitzki? Brian Scalabrine. This is one of the many times throughout the season I wondered if Doc Rivers was the right coach for the Celtics. James Posey had showcased his defensive skill set (not to mention his 3 point shooting) all season, and yet we trot out Scalabrine to cover one of the NBA most talented scorers and big men. Of course, Scal picked up 2 fouls in about 4 minutes of play and Posey came in and did as good a job on Dirk as you could ask for. The Celtics show strength through their weaknesses, but it’s never good to feel like you won a game in spite of your coach.

February 12th, 2008 - Celtics are the First Team with 40 Wins

Sports minds often point out that title contending basketball teams should reach 40 wins before they have 20 losses. The Celtics do this before losing 10. The season already feels magical and fans are afraid of doing anything that might jinx the team.

February 14th, 2008 - Paul Pierce and KG have a Conversation with PJ Brown

If it weren’t for P.J. Brown, the Celtics would not have won the NBA Championship, it’s that simple. Without this conversation during All Star weekend, P.J. would not have come out of retirement to join the Celtics. I give KG and Pierce a lot of credit for actually making this happen. More on this below.

February 15th. 2008 - NBA All Star Game

In the fourth quarter of this game Ray Allen got hot, making 3 of 4 3-point attempts and scoring 14 points in just over 5 minutes. He finished with 28, leading all scorers. Not only did Ray Allen show us he could still take over a game when it counted, but Doc Rivers showed us he was willing to shorten his bench and run with the hot hand. Yes, it was the All Star Game, but we were looking everywhere for signs that this might actually be happening.

February 27th, 2008 - PJ Brown Signs with the Celtics

PJ Brown

I’ve said it before, I will undoubtedly say it again: I didn’t see what 38 year old P.J. Brown would bring to the table, besides height and 6 fouls. Kendrick Perkins had shown he was of enough quality to start at center for an NBA team, and Leon Powe and Big Baby Davis had played well for the season, I didn’t like the idea of P.J. Brown taking time from the younger players who I wanted to see develop.  I wasn’t happy about the signing but I sure am happy with the result.

March 4th, 2008 – Sam Cassell Signs with the Celtics

This was the bizarro-P.J. Brown signing. I thought this move made so much sense. Eddie House was playing well, but his ball handling had been suspect all season. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen loved playing with Sam Cassell on past teams, and he brought the total number of championship rings on the team from 1 to 3. At the time I thought he would come up huge for us in the playoffs (crunch time scoring but also covering the larger Chauncey Billups). Um, not so much.

===March 17th, 18th, 20th - Celtics Win at San Antonio, at Houston, and at Dallas=== I had this section of the season circled on my schedule for months, a true test for the Celtics.  And they shined.  Playing all kinds of different lineups, small ball stirring a comeback against the defending champion Spurs and large ball against the size depleted Rockets, the Celtics completed the Texas Trip (not to mention a 17 point outburst by Sam Cassell that I thought completely verified the move to sign him).  On top of this, the win against Houston ended a 22 game winning for the Rockets.  The horizon looked good.

April 2008 – Celtics Coast to Playoffs

With the number 1 playoff spot all but wrapped up for weeks, Doc Rivers wisely begins to cut back on minutes for his starters.  I still feel like Ray Allen played too much during this period, which was potentially part of his problem during the early rounds of the playoffs, but the Celtics finish the season strong and compile a record of 66 and 16.  Playoff buzz is abound. 

May 4th, 2008 - Celtics Beat Atlanta in 7 Games

The Celtics won the series, which is ultimately what matters, but a 66 win team should not lose 3 games out of 7 to a sub .500 club. The Celtics failed to win a game on the road, despite having the best road record in the NBA during the regular season. From what I read, no one picked the Hawks, and no one even bothered to pick the Celtics in more than 5 games. It turns out a young athletic team was the worst matchup for the Celtics, but they were 1 game away from going home, and that wasn’t good.

May 18th, 2008 - Celtics Beat Cleveland in 7 Games

The Celtics win the series again, but it has taken 14 games to advance only 2 rounds. They are 8-0 at home and 0-6 on the road in the playoffs. Pierce scores 41 in game 7 to outduel LeBron James, but questions are prominent. The bright side of the situation was the team, only composed for one full season, was getting playoff experience together, but in actuality, the Celtics had already played 96 games, and the toughest were yet to come. On top of this, Ray Allen was struggling, shooting horrendously low percentages, we all had to wonder: were his legs getting tired? Also, P.J. Brown makes me eat crow.

May 22nd, 2008 - Celtics Lose Game 2 to Detroit

This was the lowest point of the entire playoffs. The Celtics could no longer depend on home court advantage to win the series. The series was tied and headed to Detroit. The light in the storm however, was Ray Allen breaking out of his slump to score 25 points. If he could start to play well again, Celtic confidence would be high.

May 24th, 2008 - Celtics Win Game 3 on the Road

Ending all of the media hype, which the Pistons made sure to point out even they weren’t buying into to, the Celtics win a playoff game on the road. All of a sudden talking heads had a little less to say, and the Celtics had the lead and the momentum again.

May 30th, 2008 - Celtics Beat Detroit in 6 Games

Just in case winning only 1 game on the road before entering the finals wasn’t enough, the Celtics close out Detroit an the Palace. No team had ever won the Finals entering with less than 3 road wins, but that didn’t matter to us. The Celtics were going to finals, and they were looking strong.

June 8th, 2008 - Celtics take a 2-0 Lead in the NBA Finals

It was happening. The Celtics defense was swarming the finesse Lakers. The Celtics didn’t limp to a 2-0 lead, they were plus 16 over the 2 games. The questions went from "can the Celtics do it?" to "will they even return to Boston?". Things were looking good, to say the least.

June 12th, 2008 – Celtics Play the Comeback Game

Enough has been said about this Finals game. But this was it. Confidence was sky high, there was no way the Lakers could bounce all the way back from this, and they didn’t.

June 17th, 2008 – Celtics Win 17th Championship

Nba trophy

The storybook ending. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen all win their first NBA Championship. Green and white confetti rains from the ceilings once again, and an absolutely magical season comes to a close. Blood, sweat, and tears, it was all there. It will not be forgotten.

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