With their pedigree, it was matter of time
Dwyane Wade will be huddling with his divorce lawyers. LeBron James will be preparing for The Great Recruiting Tour. And Dwight Howard will be sharpening his elbows. But if they get an idle moment or two, those three members of the All-NBA team will rendezvous in Hilton Head, or some such getaway, to watch the Boston Celtics play for the NBA championship.
It’s official. First, they crushed Wade’s overmatched Miami Heat. Next, they took care of the 61-win Cavaliers. And now they have disposed of the 59-win Magic. The Afterthought Celtics will be playing in the NBA Finals for the second time in three years and the 21st time overall.
And you were worried? C’mon. There’s a reason NBA teams are now 0-94 after falling behind, 3-0, in best-of-seven series and why only three of those 94, have even made it 3-3.
It’s pretty hard, that’s why. The fact the Bruins lost a deciding seventh game in this very building to enter the record books was never germane. The Bruins had no championship pedigree and they were playing shorthanded. The Celtics are a year removed from a title and still had the Big Three Plus one, in addition to a few other very useful guys.
It was a blissful evening at TD Garden, the game ending in the exact manner as Game 6 of the Cleveland series; that is to say, with the rival coach having conceded by pulling his star player and with the delirious crowd chanting — what else? — “Beat LA!’’ for the entire final two minutes.
The final was 96-84, and what a shameful liar that 12-point spread is. For the Celtics trailed for just 12 seconds in this game. They led by 11 after one, 13 at the half, 21 after three, and 24 with 11:45 to play. They were in complete control in the final 39 minutes or so.
Oh, and you had Nate Robinson in the Key Player of The Game pool, didn’t you?
Yup, Nate was a true Little Big Man last night. He had been dropped from the rotation in the regular season and had played 16 minutes, total, in the first five games of this series. But Doc Rivers liked what he saw of the 5-foot-9-inch guard in Orlando Wednesday amid that disappointing loss, and he told his coaching staff he was going to give Robinson a shot in what was only the most important game of the season, until the next game.
Rajon Rondo come out of the gate with a spectacular 12-point, three-assist first period. He was clearly on top of his game. And Nate Robinson, amazingly, trumped him.
Who on this earth would have expected Robinson to hit the Magic with 13 points in a 19-9 run that expanded a 9-point second-quarter Celtics’ lead to 19 (51-32)? Well, you’d have to say Doc, who put him in the game to begin with, and then you’d also have to say 21-year-old Brian Kennedy, the Needhamite who may have been the only person in the building brave enough to walk into the joint proudly wearing a green jersey with the No. 4.
“I got onto him when he scored the 41 off the bench for New York after not playing for 14 games,’’ said Kennedy.
“I’ve been telling him, and other guys, too, every day at practice, ‘Stay engaged, at some point you’re going to win a game for us,’ ’’ Rivers explained.
The Robinson outburst included a pair of threes, a pair of non-threes, three free throws, a steal, an assist, and a forced backcourt violation.
“Nate Robinson,’’ sighed Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, “was huge. That was a huge, huge lift for them.’’
Perhaps the Celtics would have won this game if Nate Robinson had done nothing more in replace of Rondo than simply not screw up. But what he did ensured that he will at least be an italicized footnote in Celtics’ history, a la, say, Glenn McDonald. Things like that matter around here. Ask Dave Roberts.
Of course, he wasn’t the best player on the floor, or anything close to it. The best player on the floor was the Captain, Paul Pierce, who played one of his stellar Havlicek-Bird games with game highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds, and he had 5 assists, 2 steals, and some outrageous baskets that eliminated even the slightest possibility of the Magic staging a miracle comeback. He was also a major part of a Celtic defense that held the bombs-away Magic to a manageable 6 for 22 on threes.
In case you haven’t heard, the Magic couldn’t beat Stetson or Rollins if they aren’t killing you with threes.
There is no way to minimize what the Celtics have done by dispatching Cleveland and Orlando, who ran through the league with a combined 120-44 record.
“They made us both look bad,’’ said Van Gundy. “Cleveland was upset because they didn’t play well. We’re upset because we didn’t play well. But they’re just playing very well to go through two series like that. No. 1, they will get down and dirty on defense. No. 2, they are a very unselfish team on offense.’’
Basketball in May and June. Don’t the good people of New England love it? Any time you’re still playing basketball when the grass needs mowing and you’ve got the screens in means only one thing: You’ve got a very good basketball team.
The NBA Finals begin Thursday, with or without LA.
And you were worried?
Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated how many NBA teams have won three straight games after losing the first three games of a best-of-seven playoff series. Three teams have done it, although none won the seventh game.