June 5, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (right) greets power forward Kevin Garnett (left) during the second half in game five of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat of the 2012 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Arena.Boston won 94-90. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics have gone from two games under .500 at the All-Star break to one win away from the third NBA Finals trip of the new Big Three era, and all throughout this magical journey, they've had quite a lot of naysayers.
Kevin Garnett had just finished kicking the butts of the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals when he sauntered off the court for his postgame television interview with Doris Burke of ESPN. One of the questions was, "After 17 years in this league, what fuels you Kevin?"
Immediately, Garnett confidently responded: "Competition. The naysayers. The owners who talk too much. You know, the people who don't think a 36, 35 year old can do what I do. I take a lot of pride in my craft, I work really hard on my craft every day. I'm a true professional."
Garnett isn't alone in this category. Every single man who wears the historic green of the Boston Celtics fits into the group. They're all pros. True pros. And above all else, they are fighters.
"Nothing's easy," Garnett said to Burke. "We do it together. We don't do it individually. When we do, we look bad. But when we do it together, we look pretty darn good."
Tuesday night's game was one of those "do it together" affairs, and yes, they looked pretty good. Garnett was the ring leader, amassing 26 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes. Paul Pierce also stepped up in the clutch, burying a game altering three-pointer with 52 seconds left over LeBron James (30 points), en route to Boston's thrilling 94-90 win, which gave them a 3-2 series edge.
No Celtic scored more than eight points a piece in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Celts got points from five players (Garnett, Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Mickael Pietrus), shot 45 percent and were perfect at the free throw line as they squeaked out a win when they needed it.
It was all grit and balls. Just a grind-it-out type of game. How'd they do it? Just hanging around.
"We're just hanging in there," Doc Rivers said. "They jumped on us at the beginning of the game. We just told our guys, just hang in there, just hang in there. Don't overreact, hang in there."
Of course, the Celtics weren't always up in this game. In fact, they trailed by 13 points (31-18) early in second quarter. Miami was in full attack mode, but the veterans knew they just had to weather the storm and wait for the right time to strike. Expertly, that's exactly what they did.
So once again, in the face of adversity, the Big
Three Four finished the job, and they're just one win away from another trip to the NBA Finals. One question: how do they keep doing this?
I'll admit it, I didn't think they would go this far. There was a point during the season when I wondered if they would even make the playoffs. I thought that the Philadelphia 76ers would win the Atlantic Division and earn the fourth seed. I thought the Celtics would struggle mightily in the last month of the season. I thought the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers would give Boston a run for its money (I was half right -- Atlanta really didn't, but Philly definitely did).
I certainly didn't think the Celtics would be in position to beat the Heat -- the same Heat with the three-time MVP in LeBron, a former NBA Finals MVP in Dwyane Wade and the ever-pesky Chris Bosh. There was just no way. Zilch. Nada. Boston would put up a good fight, it wouldn't quit, as it never does. But the Heat were too good. They would win in six games. Peace out, Celtics.
Heck, even at halftime in Game 5, I was sure that the Heat would still win. LeWhoops.
Well, it turns out I was wrong. I was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. I'm happy about it, too.
You have to respect what this group is doing. In a society where youth is supposed to triumph over age (ahem, "experience"), the old guys have whipped the young guys three straight times. This isn't even happening in the Western Conference, where the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder are giving a licking to the older San Antonio Spurs. The chemistry of this team is remarkable -- you really won't see this again, and if you do, it will be really, really rare. The coach is outstanding, the players buy in. What more could you want? This team, this run ... so incredible.
There is one more thing you could ask for: a championship. It's what they're fighting for, anyway.
First thing's first, take care of business in Game 6. Looking ahead to the NBA Finals could have a catastrophic outcome. LeBron, Wade, Bosh and the Heat aren't dead yet. Far, far from it. I'm not worried about their focus, though. They know who they're dealing with and what is at stake.
Should the Celtics do just that and beat the Heat on Thursday (I'm really, really looking forward to that TD Garden crowd. It's going to be rockin'!), they will be back in the NBA Finals. Again, wow.
Again, though, it won't be easy. Nothing is, KG says. Boston will either face the Oklahoma City Thunder (they have that Kevin Durant guy) or the San Antonio Spurs (they just keep going and going and going). No doubt, it will be a difficult, uphill battle, every single step of the way.
But who are we to pick against them? After everything they've gone through this season, and in the Big Three era as a matter of fact, we just keep on doubting. We often pick against them -- myself included -- and so often, they buck the trend and prove us wrong.
Maybe it's time we stop denying facts. Winning is in their blood. This is Boston Celtics basketball.
"They have championship DNA," said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra following Game 5.
You can't argue that. Genetics are genetics. Facts are facts. Let's just stop denying them.