The Boston Celtics will suit up in Miami tonight to play possibly their final game together as currently constituted. The Big Three are coming in for their final approach. "Grit and Balls" teeters on the brink of extinction. Once again these Celtics have showed themselves to be what they've always been, no matter how much we wished they were different. They are imperfect champions, frustrating fighters. Almost everyone expected them to finish off the Miami Heat in Boston. We thought that the Celtics gave the kill shot in Game 5, and that all that was left to do was put Miami out of its misery. Give them a Garden funeral, once and for all, and send them into an off season full of second-guessing, speculation, and ultimately, significant changes. Instead, one of the most unpredictable teams did the one thing we should have been able to predict all along. They failed to make it easy.
The Celtics are hard defined.
From their hard-nosed center, their hard-headed point guard, easy and the Celtics have never been a match. They are harder than knuckle pushups. When they are good they are hard to ignore and when they are bad they can be hard to watch (See Game 6.)
Thankfully, though, they've been hard to count out.
The Celtics have rarely had an easy time of it in the playoffs. Series in 2010 against the Heat and 2011 against the Knicks aside, this group has never taken less than six games to dispatch an opponent in five playoff runs. They've gone the full seven games six times since their first run in 2008 and have won four. Tonight makes lucky number seven. A win tonight would be their most improbable of the seven. After failing on their home floor, where they have been dominant in the postseason, the Celtics will have to win in Miami for the second straight game to make it back to the NBA Finals. Nobody expects them to pull it off, which seems to be just the way they like it.
If the Celtics are going to have a chance to pull the upset they need to play like the Celtics.
They need to play hard.
In Game 6 the Celtics were willing victims to Lebron James greatness. Their home jerseys proving to be little more than flags of surrender. If this era is going to end tonight by James' hands again, they need to make him earn it. They need to make him feel their presence.
They need to make it hard.
After Game 1 Rondo said that the Heat, "have to hit the deck too." Rondo backed up those comments by having the best game of his life, but his declaration seemed to fall on deaf ears. The Celtics fought hard but after getting an early lead, never imposed the physical will that Rondo was asking for. When the Celtics are at their best they are bullying the other team physically. They take the game and bend it to their will, and if the other team can get rough, and dirty, and hard, and still win, so be it. That's the type of basketball that has defined this team for the past five years. That's the type of basketball that needs to be on display tonight. Win or lose, the Celtics need to leave their fans and the league a true impression of the kind of team they've been during this run. Fearless scrappers that, good or bad, continued to defy expectations and always went down swinging; always fought hard.
Beating Lebron James and Dwyane Wade and the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami would be a hard road to glory. For this team there is no other kind.