The Celtics did what many said they wouldn't- what many said they couldn't. They eliminated the Cavaliers in six games to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals, winning 94-85.
It was a sight that nobody thought they'd see just a few weeks ago, but this certainly is not the same inconsistent team that played 82 games during the regular season. This is exactly why a team like the Cavs, the number one seed in the East, could not stop them.
"One thing we don't lack is confidence," said Kevin Garnett after the game. "Even when we were playing like crap and trying to get our chemistry problems together and our locker room and all the things that come with the season. I thought we hit our stride at the right time, you know."
Garnett looked like the Kevin Garnett of old tonight, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds while abusing Shaquille O'Neal on the offensive end. The goal was to get the ball to Garnett as much as possible and exploit the mismatch between him and Antawn Jamison.
"The number was 20," said Doc Rivers about how many shot attempts they tried to get Garnett per night. "And our guys had a count on it. Everyone knew, everyone knew what they had to do in that way. Get (Garnett) space, get him room. The great thing about Kevin- they know he's not going to take a lot of bad shots. Even with the 20 number, he's going to make some good passes, which he did."
Rajon Rondo, whom most may consider the series MVP, finished with 21 points and 12 assists. While Mo Williams scored 20 points in the first half, Rondo held him to just two points in the second half on 1-8 shooting.
It was the type of Celtics defense that has given them success all postseason. They held the Cavs to just 38% from the field, and just 33% in the second half. Furthermore, the Cavs turned the ball over an astounding 22 times, including nine from James alone. It was a team effort tonight on both ends of the court, and the opposition is having a tough time figuring out how to manage competing against a roster that boasts so much talent.
"That's what makes us so strong," Paul Pierce said after scoring 11 of his 13 points in the second half. "When you do your scouting report on us, you have to worry about four, five, or six different guys night in and night out. A lot of great teams, they have one great player, when you look at Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James. So a lot of our scouting report is going to be geared to the star players and then key in on other guys. I think with us you can't just key in on one guy, you can say I'm our leading scorer but you got four or five other guys that could be our leading scorer and it's not by much."
But this isn't where it ends for the Celtics. They didn't start the season in hopes to simply just make it past the Cavaliers and into the Eastern Conference Finals- they have bigger goals than that.
"I'm really not that proud of this truthfully because our goal was to win a championship," Pierce said. "We didn't say we wanted to come into this year and beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs- our goal is a championship."
In order to do that, they will have to go through the Orlando Magic. The Magic have cruised through the first eight games of the playoffs, sweeping both the Bobcats and the Hawks easily. The Celtics were 1-3 against the Magic in the regular season, but that doesn't mean much when you consider that the regular season Celtics are nothing compared to the postseason Celtics.
"This is why I came here," said Rasheed Wallace after the game. "I didn't come here for the regular season. These last few games, we have been playing good. We just have to keep the chain rolling."
It appears as though Wallace is just one of the many Celtics players who didn't come for the regular season. They have, however, arrived for the postseason- let's hope they are the last to leave.