What else could we call it, honestly? Every season is full of ups and downs, but this has been the grittiest fight so far in the KG era, with so much change throughout the season.
The promising off-season with a reloaded roster displayed potential in the Europe exhibition games. We were excited at Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green’s return, and also at all the new faces.
We had the JET himself, ready to take big shots. I was really excited to see Courtney Lee, being a fan from his Orlando days. We had two big men in Darko Milicic and Jason Collins, ready to give twelve hard fouls and some tough interior D. We had scoring speedster guard, The Brazillian Blur himself – Leandro Barbosa. Talk about a stacked guard roster.
Best of all, we saw Rondo consistently nailing jumper after jumper. He was making free throws like a man possessed.
Summary: WE HAD OFFENSE. (Albeit, at the cost of defense.)
The season however, began with a shaky start. The team floundered, and somehow never got on an even keel. Adding multiple new faces took time, and our defense suffered. We were horrible on pick-and-roll defense. Offensive lineups became experimental. Rondo was pounding the ball at the top all too often. JET was running off back screens and taking jumpers the way Ray did, but it wasn’t working. Courtney became hesitant on offense, pulling the ball back in transition all too often. It was obvious Pierce could no longer take a guy off his dribble and make dagger shots consistently, which meant we had to find more offense somewhere else, and nothing was happening.
I was frustrated.
Good news arrived in the form of lockdown defender Avery Bradley, who said he was going to return from shoulder rehab. His return gave us a boost of confidence, that his defense would set the tone for the Celtics, who looked lost. It looked like it would, and it did. The defense slowly, but surely got better.
A temporary moment of triumph happened. We conquered the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day, 93-76. Sullinger had 16 points and 7 rebounds. Everyone was calling for him to start.
As it was since the season began, our undersized rookie Jared Sullinger played his ass off. We loved #TheHustler so much for his tenacity on rebounds, his focus on nabbing the boards above all else. His passing smarts, and his shooting range. He became a starter, to everyone’s joy.
The injury bug strikes again
Without Rondo, Ticket and Truth had to shoulder a heavier load, and get involved in playmaking. Everything and anything, for the team.
Having no choice but to soldier on, we found our footing and played harder, winning from off-ball movement and ball sharing. Avery and Courtney were The Pitbulls on defense. We were finding some sort of rhythm, even without Rondo. The KG/Pierce two-man game worked. Truth was being a point forward once more, and a gritty defensive rebounder on top of everything else.
Meanwhile, Jeff Green was creating poster dunks left, right and center. He was slowly finding his way on offense. Slowly, but surely, we were seeing consistency.
“We’re better without Rondo!”
Things were looking up, some fans began to talk about the team being better without Rondo.
Really? Honestly, no. The problem was the offensive system, not Rondo’s execution of the game plan. He did what he was supposed to, every time. If you thought that, sorry – we have to agree to disagree. And Rondo’s plays in the postseason cannot be measured. The man made countless hustle and gamechanging plays, never ever forget that.
Barbosa’s loss – The straw that broke the camel’s back
The rhythm fell apart once more as bad luck struck the team. Bench scorer Leandro Barbosa tore his ACL, injecting yet another blow to an already depleted roster. We weren’t the Minnesota Timberwolves, but things were really looking down.
New faces once more.
We had to get healthy bodies one way or another. Left with no alternative, trades happened and signings were made. We added more new faces in the form of ex-Wizard Jordan Crawford, plus CBA imports Terrence Williams, DJ White and Shavlik Randolph.
Everyone loved Shavlik’s hustle and defensive instincts, and Justin dubbed him #ShavKill. Celtic Nation made jokes about Crawford’s crazy shots.
Terrence Williams went from a small forward to being a point guard. T-Will outdid all of our other guards when it came to making plays, no questions asked.
Fighting all the way, the Celtics clawed its way to the postseason, vets rested and ready to fight.
Round 1, playoffs – New York Knicks
Everyone was eager to see more of the Truth firing his usual daggers at New York, confident that somehow we would make it a contest. Reality was a huge disappointment. The offense was stagnant and one-dimensional. The ball moved too slowly, the Knicks had a field day in steals. We simply could not get the ball to drop into the cursed hoop. The Knicks were not exactly stellar, but made enough to kill us. Avery wasn’t playing with his usual intensity on both ends, and I cringed every time he passed the ball, for fear that someone would cut the passing lane and make a steal.
Bass was playing elite defense on Melo. Truth and Ticket were playing hard, but it just was not enough.
Game 1: we had a 8 point fourth quarter. That was bad. I thought this was rock bottom, we could not possibly get any worse. Boy, was I wrong.
Game 2: the team scored 11 points in the third, 12 points in the fourth. This, was rock bottom. Our offense was so bad, it was ridiculous. Our famed fourth quarter meltdowns in the past were nothing compared to these.
The team went down 2-0, everyone was praying for the team not to go out this way. We missed Rondo. A lot.
It was not until Game 3, when JR Smith gave a vicious elbow to Jason Terry, that the team seemed to find a bit of fire. After losing Game 3, the JET proclaimed:
“I’m coming out with something. I’m going to come out with the heart, the passion, the energy that’s needed to get a win. We have to do that collectively. One man’s not going to be able to provide that. It has to be a collective unit and we’ve got to get it done together.”
And fight we did, taking Game 4 with JR Smith serving a suspension on that silly elbow strike. Dumb luck, the detractors said. We would not have won if JR was playing.
And then, we took Game 5 too, despite an ugly 11-0 start in the first quarter. Melo missed a ton of shots. JR Smith had the same problem, only worse. The unthinkable had happened. New York fans were shaken. Kenyon Martin’s proclamation about wearing black to a funeral, ended up with the Knicks getting buried.
Could the Celtics truly be the first team in league history to come back from 3-0 and clinch the series? We wanted to believe.
Today, Game 6. Three quarters of putrid basketball set us back in double digits. We were at 51-75, with 9 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
The odds seemed insurmountable. With the way theyhad been playing, I had given up hopes of the team making a comeback. Tweets were coming in about fans exiting at the end of the third quarter. The Knicks seemed ready to roll into round two.
Never count the C’s out.
Bit by bit, shot by shot, a 20-0 run somehow happened. Avery somehow found himself and became a defensive maniac once more. He stole the ball and finished it, twice. We got multiple stops, thanks to the Knicks’ multiple bricked shots. We got the defensive boards, and Green ran the floor, finishing at the rim with astounding effort. The NY score was frozen solid at 75. They were regressing into Melo iso plays. Melo had an injured left shoulder, but somehow made baskets. The lead was within grasp at 4 points, we were closing in for the kill.
And just like that, it was over. Melo made free throws over a phantom Bass foul. Green fouled out. New York played the clock out, made shots and led by 12. The noose was slowly but surely closing.
Doc called a final timeout. Coming out of the play, JET hit a 3 and closed the lead to 9. It was hope.
Yet, it was not meant to be. Tyson Chandler got the rebound off a missed Felton shot. The clock continued to wind down. Melo missed a shot, KG corralled the board and Bass managed to get to the line for two. We were 7 points away, with 27 seconds to go. Close, but time had simply run out. It was too late.
The game ended 80-88, with the Knicks advancing after a 4-2 series win. The Boston Celtics end their 2012/13 postseason run in the first round.
The momentuous journey finally ended with a first-round exit. It was more or less what most of us knew deep inside, but just did not want to admit. We wanted to see another magical postseason run, another upset, another round of showing the disbelievers that we could do it one more time.
I was happy to see the fight in the fourth quarter today, to know that the Celtics would not simply roll over and surrender. It just kills me to know that we had a possible Game 7 within our grasp, and yet not be able to reach it.
In the end, it was the first three quarters that did us in, despite a heroic rally in the closing frame. If we had had a perfect free throw game, or made a few more shots, things might have been different. Alas.
Nevertheless, I am stil proud of this team, for battling through all the unsaid injuries and giving it their all at the end. I just wish we could have done it more consistently, that we could have flipped the switch a little earlier.
That’s all behind us now anyway. My thanks once more to everyone in the team, and to everyone in the fan community for taking this journey together.
Onwards, to the next season! Keep believing.
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Green Kick of the Week
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