Go ahead, count them out. They're just daring you to. No matter how old the core of these two contenders get, they are always in the mix come late April and May. Neither has won a championship in several years, but don't be fooled, the hunger and the passion are still there. They're just waiting for you to tell them they can't do it.
This was the year that veteran teams like the Celtics and Spurs were supposed to show their true colors. They both had nice runs centered around veterans like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, but they couldn't possibly keep up the success, said many analysts. Oops.
San Antonio has only 14 losses this season -- yes, 14 -- with the league's 13th oldest roster and is sitting pretty at 37-14, good enough for first place in the Southwest Division and the second seed in the Western Conference heading into Wednesday's game against Boston. Duncan has been up to his usual tricks, averaging 15.2 points and 9.0 boards while Parker is contributing a team-leading 19.3 points per tilt and 8.0 assists per night. Ginobili is the only other Spur averaging double-digit points with 12.8 in limited action this season. (*Spurs' stats as of Tuesday morning).
Boston's story has been different, as it looked like the Big Three era had finally run out of gas heading into the All-Star break, at which point the Celtics were struggling to even stay in the playoff picture. A second-half surge has erased any doubt about Boston missing the postseason, and the Celtics are sitting pretty at 30-22 with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and a five-game winning streak.
Wednesday night's tilt marks the first and only time that Boston and San Antonio will meet in this lockout-shortened season. The two last played on March 31, 2011 in San Antonio, when Rajon Rondo had 22 points and 14 assists to push the Celtics past the Spurs, 107-97. Paul Pierce scored 21 and Kevin Garnett added 20 points and nine boards.
While it's unlikely that these teams will meet again this season (and there's only one way: in the NBA Finals), it would be a perfect way to bring to a close two of the most successful eras in the NBA. Garnett and Duncan -- two of basketball's best bigs -- duking it out for one last championship. Sound like fun? Again, unlikely, but one can dream.