I write about this team every day. I've said all along that this team was "capable" of making a run in the postseason. And still I'm shocked. Pleasantly shocked. Maybe writing about them every day is the reason why I'm shocked because, like most of you, I had to slog through the bulk of the regular season watching an injured, old, disinterested bunch sleepwalk through the games that "don't matter."
Except they did matter to me. I've never given up hope but my patience was tested time and time again. I wanted to see my team give everything they've got almost every night. I thought, "you can't just turn it on in the playoffs." I was wrong. I love being wrong like that.
What I didn't count on (or discounted as too much of a gamble) was this team's mental toughness. They told us all along that they would win when the games mattered because they knew how to win. They had been there before, they had fought the battles, and they had come out victorious.
Still, because of that regular season, there were much louder doubters than I. People were talking about this team being "done." They were dancing on the grave of a team that wasn't ready to kick the bucket yet. "They" said that the Celtics would be lucky to get out of the first round. "They" said that the Cavs would make short work of them. "They" said that Magic would keep on rolling like they had in the first 2 rounds. "They" were also wrong.
The only thing that is still annoying is the amount of time still spent talking about the other teams. Sure, if LeBron has some better performances for the Cavs, they'd have a better shot at winning that series. But he didn't choke on his own. The Celtics certainly helped tighten the grip on him.
Now Wojo of Yahoo! Sports is pulling the "choke" card on the Magic (with good reason by the way):
Celtics bully Magic into corner in East finals - NBA - Yahoo! Sports
Privately, the Celtics never believed these Magic could match up with them. They knew they could take away so much defensively, and they’ve done it. To think how demoralized the Magic must be to have Howard bust out for 30 points and still lose Game 2. Now, Orlando must withstand the torrent of criticism that’ll come between now and Game 3 on Saturday. Carter had been brought to Orlando in a trade with the New Jersey Nets for these moments, these late-game shots, and even the Celtics privately raised eyebrows over how discombobulated he looked on the line.
Everyone could see his two free throws never had a chance. Carter’s weak in the clutch, his legacy further cemented in Game 2. No one shrinks like him.
"Just don’t remind me," Carter grumbled, when someone reminded him he was an 84 percent free-throw shooter on the season. Just don’t remind him? Oh, he’s going to be reminded every day this week.
Did the Cavs and Magic choke? Yeah, a bit. But the Celtics put them in the position where it would come down to mental toughness. The Celtics showed what winning is all about in those moments. The other teams did not.
Did the Celtics wilt when LeBron hit two 3 pointers in a row to bring his team within striking distance? Did the Celtics fail to close the door when the Magic rallied back in game 1? Did the Celtics crumble when Dwight Howard finally had a good game against them? No, nope, and no way. They just made smart plays and hit the shots that they needed to hit to win the games.
I heard an analyst talk about how the Celtics are the "toughest" team still in the playoffs. I'd say that description is just as apt from the neck up as it is from the neck down.
Bonus Link: Hollinger - Celtics Proving You Can Turn It On And Off