Time to give Celtics a little credit
After the Celtics elimanted Cavs last week all we heard about was LeBron
Meanwhile, the 50-win Celtics have played remarkable defense and are on roll
Boston mailed it in at end regular season, but are now playing like title team
OK, people, now can you give the Boston Celtics a little credit?
We have seen an amazing development over the last week. The Celtics have destroyed a couple of heavil favored playoff opponents without getting any love from Basketball America.
When the Celtics conquered the overrated, heartless Cleveland Cavaliers last week, the only story was ... "LeBron James Loses. Where Is He Going Now?''
It was disgusting. Not to pick on any one media outlet, but ESPN was utterly ridiculous (ESPN may have been the loudest, but all of the national media, including SI.com, were guilty). The Celtics eliminated the Cavaliers in Game 6 last Thursday night and we were bombarded with LeBron all day Friday. I hadn't seen that kind of indulgent, star-driven storytelling since the last time Brett Favre retired or came back.
King James falls off his throne.
Will LeBron go to the Knicks?
Will LeBron go the Bulls?
Will LeBron get Mike Brown and/or Danny Ferry fired?
It was a 24-hour news cycle of LeBron and I kept wondering if anyone noticed that the 50-win Celtics had just pulled off one of the great victories in recent playoff history. They destroyed the Cavs, cut their hearts out. Cleveland went 74-8 at the Quicken Loans Arena in regular season play the last two years and the Celtics beat the Cavs by an aggregate 50 points in Games 2 and 5.
Could anyone perhaps mention that Boston played tremendous defense in the Cleveland series?
No. It was all LeBron drama. Boston apparently played no part in the downfall of the King.
Now after the Celtics beat the Orlando Magic, 92-88, in Game 1 of the Conference Finals on Sunday the theme seems to be "What's Wrong With Superman?''
Dwight Howard made only 3 of 10 shots and scored only 13 points in the ugly first game. The stunned Magic had not lost a game in six weeks.
It is possible that the Celtics had something to do with this?
Trust me when I tell you that these words are not coming from a random homer sportswriter. True, my man Jim Rome calls me a "Boston Honk" and we had a lot of fun with my outrageous prediction that the Celtics would beat the Cavaliers. Now that the C's are up on Orlando, I have no idea if they can sustain their success. Boston certainly could lose to the Magic or the Lakers between now and Flag Day. But it seems to me that it's about time folks gave the Celtics some props for what they are doing in this Association tournament.
The Celtics went 50-32 this year. They were 27-27 over their last 54 games. They went 5-8 over the final 13 games. They mailed it in during March and April. They said the would flip the switch when the playoff started. And now they have.
This is the same starting five that won the NBA Championship two years ago. Kevin Garnett, who did not play in last year's playoffs, is back running up and down the floor (Garnett turns 34 on Wednesday). Ray Allen looks like he's throwing oranges into an oil drum. Paul Pierce, quiet for the last few months, just got his mojo back. And Rajon Rondo has emerged as a one-of-a-kind all-star point guard.
Doc Rivers is coaching his butt off. He toyed with poor Mike Brown in the Cavs series. He has found a workable bench rotation in Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen. Rivers gets a lot of credit for Tony Allen's contribution. Most of us wanted Doc to dump him a long time ago, but Rivers stuck with Allen and now it's paying off. As for 'Sheed, he's annoying, overrated and overpaid. But he's doing exactly what he said he would do. He's playing his best ball when it matters.
The Celtics had a 20-point lead in Game 1 on Sunday. Orlando clawed back into contention, but Boston never looked worried. And when you put Ray Allen on the free throw line with a chance to ice a road playoff game, he will not miss.
The Celtics have been a good road team all year. Now they have won three consecutive road playoff games. They are still old (six players over 30), but the playoff pace favors older teams. The Celts can take advantage of TV timeouts and friendly scheduling. Game 2 in Orlando is Tuesday and Game 3 in Boston is not until Saturday. That helps the old guys.
Like the Cavaliers, the Magic didn't seem to know what hit them in Game 1. Orlando hadn't lost since April 2. The Magic went 8-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, averaging 101 points per game. On Sunday they scored 88. They had 32 points at halftime. They shot 41 percent for the game.
Time for LeBron and Superman and their fans to stop whining.
Time to give the Celtics a little credit.
Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Boston Globe. Read more of his columns here.
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