The Boston Celtics have restored my faith in the universe

Suddenly, the Boston Celtics are back in it, and have restored my faith in the universe -- but can they complete the comeback and make history? (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Suddenly, the Boston Celtics are back in it, and have restored my faith in the universe -- but can they complete the comeback and make history? (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics came into the Eastern Conference Finals overwhelming favorites. But then a disturbance in the Force changed everything, and suddenly the Miami Heat held a 3-0 stranglehold over an utterly broken Celtics team.

Scientists soon observed that the universe had in fact cracked in half, and a great gravitational anomaly—centered on Earth at wherever the Eastern Conference Finals was being played—gave the Heat players supernatural powers, leaving the Celtics stumped.

But scientists are hopeful that the universe has realigned — because the Boston Celtics are in business.

And while whatever business that is was on the verge of bankruptcy four days ago, it is so in business it’s being traded on the Nasdaq and is barreling towards Fortune 500 status.

In fact, someone should call Goldman Sachs so we can get an initial public offering ready by Saturday.

While I believed in the possibility of a comeback after Game 4, I was not ready to say that I actually thought it would happen. I could see how it would go about happening but wasn’t close to thinking it actually would.

But now I’m in. I’m so completely in. This is not just possible, it’s happening. Since the beginning of the second half of Game 4, the Cs have strung together six straight quarters of recognizable, delicious, and FDA-approved Boston Celtics basketball. They have straight-up outplayed Miami in every way, and are plowing through the back-nine of this series looking to keep immortality alive.

The energy of the series just did a U-Turn, and I, for one, can feel it everywhere. Sure, you can feel it on the court with the Celtics’ signature half-court defense coming out of hibernation and forcing the Heat to turn the ball over like they’re Oprah giving out cars, but you can also feel it in the walls of TD Garden. Game 5 found them echoing “LET’S GO CELTICS” like it were a prayer, with every fan begging for salvation from the hell that this series has been so far.

But you can also feel it happening on my couch, where I have returned to the ways of sixth-grade me in establishing a lucky seat, which is immediately to the right of the coffee table, smack in the middle of the leftmost cushion. And you can feel it on my shirt, which has exclusively been my 2017 Avery Bradley jersey since approximately 6:43 left in the first quarter of Game 4. I’ve  only removed it to shower, and even that feels risky.

And you can definitely feel it in my voice, because while I tried to keep cool during Games 1 through 3, I have ditched all that. I am officially overreacting to everything, screaming “SMAAAAAHT,” and “BIG AL!!!” in a Boston accent—despite not having a Boston accent—every time those two do anything at all. I’m not only letting my emotions out, they’re running the show here at the Oliver Fox household.

Which is bananas, considering I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse about the Boston Celtics than I did after Game 3. It’s worth asking what witchcraft has allowed the Celtics to forcibly take back the driver’s seat and allowed me to feel so positively amped right now. Spoiler alert: the Heat showed the C’s how it’s done.

I chalked up early struggles in the series to Miami’s unique ability to keep everything at arm’s length. If they’re down, they’re never fully out of a game, but if they’re up, their opponent is never really in it. It’s a tactic I’ve been calling a “lurk-job,” allowing the often out-gunned Heat to punch above their weight. You don’t have to win wall-to-wall, you just have to fend off calamity in all directions. And the Heat have been masters at it.

But Games 4 and 5 saw the Boston Celtics out-lurk-jobbing the lurk-jobbers. And despite sounding vaguely like the title of a motivational speech about how to confront a stalker, this tactic has flipped the Eastern Conference Finals completely on its head.

The first half of Game 4 was tepid, but the Celtics kept it within arms-length, only down six at half. And then they turned on the gas and never looked behind them. Game 5 was a quick start, with the Heat essentially nursing a 15-point deficit the entire game. They never came within serious striking distance, with only a few forays into the Boston Celtics lead that was quickly rebuffed.

Every time the Heat knocked on the door, the Celtics bolted it. Thankfully for the Cs, knocking was all the Heat were doing. When you’re down double digits in the second half, you’re going to have to bring a crowbar and force your way back into the game. But the Heat simply had no answers for the Celtics’ active hands-on defense. Kyle Lowry was throwing the ball to defenders for what felt like no reason, and Bam Adebayo was in a torture chamber made of reaching hands every time he entered the paint.

After the game, Jimmy Butler guaranteed that the Heat would win Game 6. That’s a bold statement, especially considering that he guaranteed they would win last night before proceeding to do a playoff James Harden impression with his lack of aggressiveness and signature entry-pass-and-walk-away-from-the-play move, leaving Adebayo marooned.

Perhaps the most surprising development is the disappearance of the not-named-Caleb-Martin role players who—until six quarters ago—were basically having a 3-point contest against one another. Gabe Vincent was out with a sprained ankle, Duncan Robinson got in foul trouble early, and Max Strus wasn’t hitting shots at a clip that justified his complete lack of defense.

But here’s my favorite stat of the night: Miami shot a higher percentage from the field than the Celtics. That’s almost certainly a product of their boatload of turnovers not allowing them to take shots, but the second half certainly had a bucket-trading feel to it. That’s not going to cut it when you’re down double digits forever, but the Heat just couldn’t buy a stop.

Miami uses a zone defense at an irregularly high frequency, something that can rattle a disorganized team. But tonight showed the reason why zones have largely fallen out of favor in professional basketball: they give up wide-open 3-pointers. And so long as Boston can hit around 40-ish percent of them, it is going to be hard for Miami to keep up scoring-wise unless they shoot at an ungodly level as they did in Game 3.

A Boston Celtics comeback is still statistically unlikely

I’ll stop short of saying that completing the comeback feels likely, but it certainly feels a lot more than possible. I’d be less confident if either of these wins were fluky, but they weren’t. Something unearthed the best version of this Boston Celtics team, and the Heat have been unable to hang with them.

But beyond all that basketball, there’s something special going on here. Something has me wearing an Avery Bradley jersey that I’ve rarely taken out of the closet for six years like it’s a medical necessity to do so. Something has my mom baking cookies every night because that’s what she did when we won Game 4. Something has us believing that what history says is impossible is suddenly feasible, and I’m all in.

One game, two more times.