June 1, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) talks with point guard Rajon Rondo (9) and forward/center Kevin Garnett (5) during the third quarter against the Miami Heat in game three of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat are going to renew their rivalry tonight. Although, this time it’s under extremely different circumstances. The Celtics aren’t exactly the Celtics that they used to be.
Doc Rivers packed up and left for the sexiest job in the NBA, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were shipped out because of a rebuild and Rajon Rondo is still battling back from a torn ACL injury. It’s easy to write this Celtics team off because of the losses they’ve tallied up over the last few months.
Meanwhile, in Miami, the Heat have become NBA champions for the second time in a row. Last season’s playoff run didn’t even feature the Celtics taking a shot at the Heat–something that we all expected at last season’s start. LeBron James is, maybe for the first time in his career, the unanimous best player in the world. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are still themselves and the Heat still have the high powered offense that they featured last season.
Things don’t look so good for the Celtics going into the game tonight. However, the uniforms are still green, the pride still burns and the games are still played. They may be underdogs, but this isn’t a role that they haven’t gotten used to playing as of late.
The Celtics have been doing things that they haven’t been expected to do for the last half-decade. No one expected them to go back to the Finals in 2010 after the ‘Celtics are old and done’ narrative started to root. Then they were expected to get swept in the series but, wouldn’t you know it, they pushed the Lakers to seven games and even had a 3-2 series lead at one point. And we all know that they would’ve won the final game had Kendrick Perkins not torn his ACL.
Let’s not forget that only two years ago the Celtics went back to the Eastern Conference Finals and forced a game seven in 2012 against these same Miami Heat. Had LeBron James not had an All-World game in game 6, maybe we would’ve seen the Celtics back in the Finals once again. Rajon Rondo was playing out of his mind at the time and gave the Celtics a chance to win a game against anyone.
The Celtics have been doing this since they formed the big three in the offseason of 2007. The Celtics were supposed to be terrible, but they managed to make moves to land them two great players and they took off from there. Now, they’re back to that pre-2007 form just looking to regain their footing again.
The Celtics aren’t going to just roll over for the Miami Heat tonight. So what if they’re going through a rebuilding phase? So what if their star point guard is sitting out tonight? So what if they have a one year head coach at the helm? None of that matters when the tip happens. At that point, it’s man-on-man. It’s one coaching mind pit against another. And, on any given night, someone can make a mistake–everything has a weakness.
The Celtics pride is still burning within the organization, and that’s what is going to fuel them in this game tonight. Win or lose, they’re going to play hard. And, at this point, that’s all that really matters.