The defining performance of Eddie House's first season with the Celtics coincided with key moments in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
The Celtics needed House to replace Rajon Rondo, who was slowed because of an injury. They needed House not so much as a pure point guard, but to shoot with confidence and without hesitation and to take care of less glamorous duties, such as being in position for weak-side rebounds. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and James Posey would take care of everything else.
On that June 12 night in Los Angeles, the Celtics took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 97-91 victory over the Lakers in what was one of the best comebacks and/or worst collapses in Finals history. The Celtics overcame a 24-point deficit, the largest comeback in the Finals in 27 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Now House is eager for a repeat after signing a two-year contract Monday.
"I'm enjoying every minute of being a champion," he said during a telephone interview from a promotional event in Phoenix. "When we get back, it will be time to refocus and retool. It's our goal to defend the title.
"I did want a chance to come back and repeat and I feel good about the deal they put together. Everyone is back, except for [Posey], and we feel we can do it again if we come in with the right mind-set. We have the right pieces. The big piece missing is Posey, but maybe we can get a couple guys to pick it up; maybe Tony Allen can do it."
House, 30, will remain in a backup role. But, as House and Posey showed in the Finals, that role can help determine a championship.
"Every game in the playoffs, from the first to the last, was the most important game of the season for us," House said. "Every step was the most important step we needed to take.
"[The Lakers] had a chance to tie it at 2 and it would have been a whole different ballgame going into Game 5. The pressure was on us, but that showed the character and the type of team we had. We never quit. We never did not believe we were the best team. We never thought we weren't going to get back in [Game 4]."
House inserted himself in the middle of the Celtics' rally. After trailing for nearly 44 minutes, the Celtics finally took the lead, 84-83, with 4:07 remaining. The go-ahead field goal? A jumper by House.
"We just wanted to get it under 10," House said of the Celtics' 58-40 halftime deficit. "Then we got it to 2, and from that point, we knew we had a great chance to do something real special.
"When we were out there [on the court], we were having fun and not thinking about anything else. I was just playing, giving all I had. It was an opportunity to leave everything on the court.
"You have to take shots to make shots. You will miss shots. You have to make plays, and sometimes they don't happen. In Game 5, Paul made a move and Kobe [Bryant] slips him from the back - both of them were trying to make a play and that time Kobe made it. You are always going to have heroes and someone will fail trying to do something good."
House appears comfortable in a reserve role. He has started only 30 games in 512 regular-season appearances with eight NBA teams since 2000.
"I want to come in and be better than last year," said House, who averaged 7.5 points and 1.9 assists in the regular season. "I need to be better with my ballhandling and I am concentrating on that a lot. Knowing the offense better will help me make better decisions because I know what I am seeing better.
"We all have a lot of motivation. I won't say pressure, but when you win, you have a target on your back and everyone is coming at you. But that's something we are used to, because everyone was coming at us last year. We've seen everyone's best and we just have go out and match them."
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.