The Boston Celtics 2009-10 regular season was forgettable to say the least. The Celtics came into the season with high expectations, from GM Danny Ainge down to the most bandwagon fan you can find. The team was inconsistent, injury ridden at times, and played with a lack of passion that was uncharacteristic of Celtics basketball. Fans questioned the coaching and the desire of some of the players on this team- and rightfully so.
One thing that was constantly said throughout the season by coaches and players of the Celtics was that this team was "built for the post-season". Kendrick Perkins mentioned that they were maybe "bored" of the regular season. It was clear that the postseason could not come soon enough, and when it did, the Boston Celtics arrived right on schedule.
"We wish we could have done it in four," said Paul Pierce, who moved into 9th place all-time in Celtics playoff scoring with 21 points, "but maybe we needed a little bump in the road to kind of wake us up and get a couple days of rest before we move on to the next round, so I am glad with the way we played throughout the series."
The postseason Celtics took it to Dwayne Wade and the Heat tonight, 96-86, winning the series 4-1. The Celtics, who jumped out to a 21 point lead midway through the third quarter, let the Heat climb back into the game. Ray Allen picked up his fourth foul during the Heat comeback stretch, and it was then that the Heat went to a zone defense and prevented the Celtics from scoring a field goal in the last six minutes of the third quarter. They would get it to three points with a little over 10 minutes to go in the game, but that would be the closest they would get, as Ray Allen and Glen Davis would add a pair of baskets plus the foul to pad the Celtics lead.
Ray Allen, as he did often in this series, stepped up huge in the second half, matching Dwayne Wade point for point in the second half with 20.
"I thought Ray early in the third (quarter) got us the lead," said Coach Doc Rivers. Perk's energy and Ray's shooting- there was always somebody getting Ray open. But it's frustrating guarding Dwayne Wade and he basically guarded him throughout the series- him and Tony (Allen). To have the energy to still make shots was huge for us. We made a concerted effort to come out at halftime: we thought we saw something and we just kept going to him over and over again and guys kept making the next pass and it was terrific."
Wade still got his numbers- 31 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists, but that was expected out of the superstar. The reason the Celtics won tonight was because they limited the other Heat players' production.
"Sometimes there is no denying great players," admitted Pierce, "but what you can do, you can control other guys from really having big nights and that's what I thought Perk did for all of the series with Jermaine O'Neal- me being able to slow Richardson down, when he played well there earlier in the game, so I thought that was the key just taking care of the other guys."
The "other guys" in the starting lineup were held to just 21 points combined for the game, while Mario Chalmers came off the bench and scored 20 points. As a team, the Heat were held to 39% shooting. They had 18 assists but turned the ball over 20 times. Wade had seven turnovers of his own.
Rajon Rondo put together another solid outing, scoring 16 points and dishing out 12 assists, while falling two rebounds shy of a triple double.
"Anytime Rondo is aggressive like that, it sets the tone for pretty much how we are going to be," said Kevin Garnett. "I thought defensively he was very active like always, but offensively he was finding guys."
Many of us expected the Celtics to beat the Heat, but perhaps they did so in a more convincing fashion than we expected? One thing is for sure- the Celtics are playing inspired basketball. They go into Cleveland as the underdog, something they haven't been in a playoff series for a while. That could actually be a good thing.