They're too old.
They'll never be healthy enough.
They don't seem to want it like they did back in 2007.
They don't have what it takes to win a championship.
All of this was said throughout the regular season, and all of it seemed to be warranted at the time. All of it has been proven false.
The only fact that remains is that the Boston Celtics are one win away from becoming the 2009-10 NBA Champions.
One win away from proving the doubters wrong. One win away from raising that 18th Banner. One win away from vindication.
Yes, the Rottweiler Celtics can smell blood. No, they can taste it. And it tastes so, so good.
The Celtics defeated the Lakers Sunday night, 92-86, to take a 3-2 series lead. They will now travel to Los Angeles for Tuesday night's Game 6, a game that if they win, will earn them that 18th Championship and 2nd in three seasons.
"This was huge for us," said Doc Rivers. "Let's just be honest. For us, we had to win this game, and that's the way we felt going in."
There was no doubt that going into Los Angeles down 3-2 would be difficult to overcome. The Celtics responded to their Game 3 loss by showing up and wanting it more in Games 4 and 5. It is this rejuvenated style of play in the postseason that has made the Celtics the team to beat, and one that perhaps cannot be beaten.
Paul Pierce showed signs of life in Game 4, and picked up right where he left off tonight. Pierce ended the night with 27 points, providing the offense that the Celtics needed from their captain.
"Paul was terrific," said Rivers. "He attacked all night. He did it through the offense, he did it through the [isolations], he did it in pick-and-rolls; he made big shots for us. He has great rhythm right now, and we need it."
While it was Pierce in rhythm tonight, it could be anyone else on the Celtics Tuesday night. Unlike the Lakers, the Celtics don't rely on one person solely to provide the majority of the offense.
"If you have a chance to watch our team, we're not a team that goes out and highlights one player where he gets all the shots, scores the points," said Pierce. "We run more of an equal opportunity offense to if a guy gets going then we'll go to him a little bit more."
"I think that's something with our offense," Pierce continued, "when a guy gets going, you earn touches, and it's been like that. That's why throughout the course of playoffs you see different guys that are leading us in scoring each game."
Another player who earned touches tonight was Kevin Garnett. Not only did Garnett provide offense with 17 points, he did it on the defensive end as well, grabbing ten rebounds while stealing the ball five times. The defensive performance in the paint tonight was some of the best all postseason, as Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were kept in check all night.
Gasol's ten points and 11 rebounds are nowhere near the numbers the Lakers are looking for out of him, and Bynum was a complete nonfactor after the first few minutes of the game. Garnett realized how important this game was tonight, and that enabled him to play the way he did.
"The severity of this game is huge man," said Garnett. "You don't want to go back to L.A. with them having a chance to close out and it being on their floor. Tonight I thought for the most part I was active. I got my hands on a lot of loose balls."
"[Garnett] was a great defensive player tonight," said Rivers. "The offense was great as well. But he just had great energy ... He's one of those guys that just does a lot of stuff for your team, and a lot of times it goes unnoticed, but tonight on the stats sheet it doesn't."
Two years ago the Celtics closed out the season by defeating the Lakers in Game 6 in Boston. They now have another chance to do the same- this time on the opposite end of the country.
That's the Celtics though- winning Championships from coast to coast.
Can you believe it? They can.
Let's Get Physical
Tonight was definitely the most physical game the Celtics and Lakers have played in this series. From start to finish you saw the pushing and the shoving, the double technical fouls, the jawing back and forth. It was beautiful. It was necessary to some extent. It was... basketball.
There is a fine line between playing physical and playing dirty, and I never thought either team crossed the line tonight. In a series that has been dominated by questionable officiating, the last two games have been rather refreshing in the sense that the players are able to play a little more.
"I think both teams are playing very physical basketball," Garnett said. "This will probably be the hardest game of the season, if not of the series, if not of everybody's career, this game coming up."
With Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace each having six technical fouls, it is important that they don't pick up any in what will definitely be a physical Game 6.
Speaking of technical fouls, Rajon Rondo picked up one in the second quarter when he pushed Ron Artest. Artest had just got away with a shove to Garnett, and Rondo took offense to it.
"I felt that Kevin-that Artest pushed Kevin," said Rondo. "It wasn't just a regular foul. We weren't going anywhere, so in Kevin's defense I pushed him back."
Artest obviously made a bigger scene out of it then it needed to be, questioning whether or not he flopped.
"I'm not that strong," Rondo said with a smile. "He did [flop] a little bit. He's probably the strongest guy on the court in this series. I've been lifting a little bit, but other than that, I didn't push him that hard."
This being Game 5 of the series, both teams are extremely aware of each other's schemes, adding to the physicality of the game.
"We've seen each other so many times, they know everything we're running [and] we know everything they're running," said Ray Allen. "Personally, it's like, ‘I know you're making this cut, but I've got to prevent you from making this cut, and hopefully I can keep you from doing that without being called for a foul.'"
All that being said, Coach Rivers would just wish his team would simply walk away from situations in which they could get called for technical fouls.
"Yeah, I don't like that stuff," said Rivers in reference to Rondo and Allen's technical fouls. "Let's just play. It was physical. There was a lot of pushing going on, but we kept getting the technicals ... If you want to show toughness, toughness is walking away from all the other stuff."
More Head Games from Phil?
During a timeout late in the fourth quarter, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was wired in the huddle. Coaches know when they are and aren't wired, and for the most part refrain from saying anything to telling that the public will hear.
The reason this particular time is newsworthy is because in this huddle, Jackson was talking to his players about what the Celtics were doing on the court when he said, "This team has lost more games in the fourth quarter than anybody in the NBA. They know how to lose in the fourth quarter. They're just showing us that now."
Of course, the Celtics did not blow it in the fourth quarter in either of the last two games, and have not blown many, if any fourth quarter leads throughout the playoffs. So why would Phil say something like this? He obviously knew it would get back to the Celtics, so maybe it was just Phil being Phil.
When the comments were mentioned to Paul Pierce, he had no problem with it and actually knew where Jackson was coming from.
"You know, he's right," Pierce said with a laugh. "What you just said, that's been the truth for us throughout the regular season. I haven't really seen too much of that in the playoffs but coaches say things to try to motivate their team. He's supposed to give them confidence."
Kevin Garnett showed a little less enthusiasm about the comments when told.
"No reaction at all [to the comment]," said Garnett. "I'm looking forward to Game 6. I couldn't care less what Phil Jackson is talking about."