It's been a while since a playoff game felt like this. Sure, the C's had a good buzz going into 2005 before they took on the Pacers in the first round after reacquiring Antoine and taking the Atlantic title, but it wasn't really close to what this felt like.
That's what this kind of expectation does. It builds and it builds and then is released like a laser.
Before Sunday night's playoff opener against the Hawks, the intensity in the Garden was visible. The pre-into slow-mo highlights on the Jumbotron to that "Requiem for a Dream" song, the on-court fireworks, and Paul Pierce screaming "Let me hear it!!!!" on the big screen fired up the Garden. That's what the TV audience saw, and it was pretty cool to see live as well.
But the game was over before the Celtics even took the court.
The crowd wasn't going to let it. About 30 minutes before game time, the big screen cut to an empty hallway that leads from the C's locker room to the court, and the crowd went nuts. We were cheering white painted brick walls, as far as any outside observer was concerned.
But we knew … what we've waited 82 games for was finally here, that wait accompanied by an endless winter that made 2007 seem 3 years ago, and now it was here.
So as chants of "Let's Go Celtics" wafted about in syncopation around the arena, followed by slight boos for the Hawks as they ran out of the tunnel, the Celtics had made their way into the hallway for their pregame Ubuntu ritual. And when the camera caught them readying themselves, they broke their jumping huddle, and the buzz in the crowd grew.
|The Hawks players' knees must have trembled if they saw what was coming out of the tunnel. (AP Photo)|
There are certain moments when the level of anticipation for a big game reaches those skin-tingling levels. It's giddiness, nervousness, and euphoria mixed into one. And for me, the greatest part of the whole game was right then.
Ray Allen turned from the huddle, a look of absolute concentration -- no, determination -- on his face, and sprinted out of the tunnel as he led the team onto that court. It's hard to properly describe what that looked like, but I can only say that if the redcoats had seen that look and that sprint coming at them at Lexington in 1775, they would have surrendered right there and the American Revolution would have been over before it started.
That look on Allen's face, and that immediate break from jumping to sprint, to see that was to know what these Celtics are all about.
And at that point, as the crowd was whipped into a frenzy as the Green took the court, it was over. The Hawks didn't have a chance.