The Celtics sport green as the team color, and it was said that long ago there were witches nearby in Salem, but does that make Boston the Emerald City?
One thing is for sure. There is no wizard hiding behind a curtain coming to save the Celtics and bring them safely home this season, or so says Doc Rivers. According Glen Davis, that was Doc Rivers' message to the team before their game with the humming Miami Heat.
Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, three of the game's top stars, an 8 game Heat winning streak and a healthy roster (save Udonis Haslem) were invading TDGarden. The Celtics had already recently lost to Dallas and L.A. in this building. They were on a 2 game losing streak and had lost 3 of 4.
The barbarians were at the gate. These barbarians were cutting a 30-7 path of destruction through the league since a November 27th loss to Dallas had rendered the Heat a very unscary 9-8 to start their season. Heat? The Miami Room Temperatures were more like it.
Things changed big time once coach Spoelstra unleashed the dogs. The difference and the deal for Miami? They could free lance and run more if they played lock down D at the other end. It worked and the Heat began to grow into the team many thought they would be. They have the lowest percentage shooting defense in the NBA. Furthermore, they had 2 straight losses to avenge against the bent and bruised home team.
The Celtics had lots of reasons to lose this game and the Heat had lots of reasons to win. The Celtics could have taken their lumps, put up a good fight and gone home with a valiant loss, knowing they were still up in the series 2-1. They then could have beaten New Jersey this week and limped into the All Star break, salvaging time for healing and rest before their second half race for the best playoff position began in earnest.
Miami needed this game more, right? Glen Davis disagreed. The Celtics weren't ready to concede anything.
"You know Miami...we both need to win games. We need to win games to keep our spot, where we're at. They need to win games to keep their spot where they're at."
Due to that recent Celtic tailspin, Miami had just regained a precious half game lead over the Celtics for first place in the east. The quest for home court advantage would face a minor but important battle right here, right now.
But Boston had the excuses if they weren't ready for this contest.
"The practice time is very limited. We're very short right now. We don't have it full throttle right now so we work on what we got. But like any other team (we are) going through episodes."
Garnet wasn't making excuses. Just the opposite. Celtic fans get to watch a ‘no excuse' team every single night (or Sunday afternoon).
"You know, we don't fear nobody. We come out. We run our stuff. Some nights we make it look great. Other nights...we're baffled (as to) what happened. We're still a team that's a work-in-progress."
So....who was going to save a team that had three key role players out (Shaq, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels), and a 4th one (Nate Robinson) nearly out of play with a bad knee?
In addition, not publicly known at the time, Paul Pierce, their sole defender on arguably the top offensive player in the league, would be playing this game with a sprained hand and troublesome foot. He is getting a MRI on it today.
No one cares about your adversity, your injuries and your missing players.
In his pre-game talk, Doc talked about the importance of home court, right?
Davis: "No, he didn't. We just talked about...he really talked about the Wizard of Oz."
CB: About the Wizard of Oz? (Davis nods) Okay. How did that come up?
Davis: "He was telling us you know...the Wizard of Oz..... there was no wizard, so basically we can't depend on anything else.
We can't depend on (any) wizard to get us healthy. To get us to the point where we have to go out there and do it ourselves."
So if this team was looking for help or excuses from Doc or anyone else, he made it clear that they are the only ones who can help themselves.
There are no Tin Men on this team....
Garnett: We're not short of heart...
Cowardly Lions? Come on. We're talking about the Celtics.
KG: You know, we don't fear no one.
No brainless Scarecrows here either. But even a smart team doesn't know everything.
KG: "Some nights we make it look great. Other nights...we're baffled (as to) what happened.
We're still a team that's a work-in-progress and we're still trying to figure out some of these little faux (pas), like the 4th quarter faux (pas). So we still have time to get better."
And discussing the team's state of mind right now in a long NBA season, Garnett talked about injuries but reiterated Doc's pregame message....
"Stay healthy. To be honest... healthy, healthy, healthy. You know I think the thing right now is trying to...not to preserve guys and conserve anything....but we're definitely trying to stay free of the injury bug. But at the same time, you know the guys that (are) out there are going to have to pick up the load or whatever load there is, (or) burden, to pick it up together and continue to play basketball. "
Glen Davis took that to heart along with Von Wafer (10 points, 2 steals in about 14 minutes), and gave the Celtics a lift in both halves. Davis finished with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 big steals and 2 even bigger free throws to help the Celtics help themselves. His defense was just as big.
His missed dunk is getting national air and he's taking it good naturedly. As Doc noted, Rondo and others missed some lay-ups along the way. But Glen had a few solid power moves around the basket and his inside accuracy is up while his ‘blocked' rate is way down this season, though he is still working inside.
CB: You seem to be significantly more effective inside this season. You are keeping the defense moving and just off balance enough to get some shots off in traffic.
Davis: "Yep. Being on the block. Posting up. Being a factor. Michael Finley last year told me, after we lost game 7, the fact that I need to work on being aggressive, being an option in the post. And I took that through the whole season. Doc's been giving me a chance to show that I can play on the block."
Glen's been working on the inside game since the summer and everyday in practice with Ray Allen and Roy Rogers, the Celtics new big man coach. Glen's inside game is showing the results of that work.
So, in a game they needed a spark, they provided it themselves by Rondo helping an injured but gritty Pierce out and finishing with his quietest triple double yet. (Is there such a thing?) Davis and Wafer gave the team a boost. Perkins scored 15 points and came up big at both ends. Ray was busy tiring out his defender Dwyane Wade by running him all over the court. Their defensive rock, Kevin Garnett, came up big offensively when they needed it and finished with 19 points.
The Celtics masterfully got behind an energetic and tenacious Heat defense by making not one, not two, but often three purposeful and attacking passes and ending up with some high percentage shots inside.
When James missed that free throw at the end, the crowd erupted. Yes, click those emerald green heels together. There really is no place like home.
To keep Doc's illustration going...if the Yellow Brick Road is the road to the championship, then they will indeed have to help themselves get there. No doubt they will have to fight a few flying monkeys along the way.
In an ironic but simple twist of fate, Doc turned out to be that wizard with a pre-game talk about the Wizard of Oz.