Where do the Boston Celtics go from here?

Now that the Boston Celtics, a franchise donning seventeen World Championship banners from the rafters of  T.D. Garden, has been officially eliminated from any further play this season, it is time to review and prognosticate on where they were in December and who will be with them going into next season.

The NBA lockout prior to the beginning of the 21011-2012 season hurt many teams. However it had worse of an impact on the Boston Celtic players more than most of the other teams in the NBA save for the Spurs and maybe the Lakers, due mainly to some of the aging stars on this storied franchise; Ray Allen turns 37 next month, Kevin Garnett 36,  Paul Pierce 34.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that KG and Pierce both did not begin the season in ‘basketball’ shape and it took a while for the two of them to shake of their collective rust. After their loss on opening day against the N.Y. Knicks, the Celtics went 4-8 over their next 12. The rust on their so called ‘big three’ was beginning to show.

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Sights, sounds and emotions from Celtics-Heat Game Two

After watching LeBron go for 32 in Game One and seeing both he and Wade combine for 197 points in their final three games against the Pacers (that’s good!), the four hour drive from Tampa to Miami left me wondering what we were in store for Tuesday night.  A 40-point performance?  Fifty, perhaps?  Certainly Boston’s defense wouldn’t allow that to happen.  But we’re slowly learning that anything is possible when Wade and James step on the floor.

Regardless of the outcome, two things were certain.  Miami did not want to let Boston back in the series and Kid Sheraton and I would be regular customers at the arena bar.

As it turned out, someone did score forty Tuesday night, but he wasn’t wearing a Miami uniform.

The Heat came out sluggish, shooting 25% from the floor for most of the first half, simultaneously allowing Boston to score at will.  Wade was even held scoreless until the final seconds of the first half.  Were it not for Miami’s role players, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers, Boston’s double-digit, first-half lead would have been much larger.  Still the white-clad Miami crowd remained positive.

Chalmers led Miami with 14 points at intermission.  His counterpart at point guard, Rajon Rondo, was having the game of his life, finishing the first half with 22.  Boston led by seven heading into the locker room.

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NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Heat v Celtics

Rajon RondoIt’ll be the last time I say this. I am a Celtics fan. Despite any possible biased feelings, Boston has no shot in this series. I’ll dissect the ins and outs of this matchup, but there’s only one reason I need to count the Celtics out. Avery Bradley’s out of this series and will be out for a part of next season due to his dislocated left shoulder.

(2) Miami Heat vs (4) Boston Celtics

Bradley means the world to the Celtics. He’s known for his defense, and rightfully so. He’s one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA, and he’s only 21 years old. For Doc Rivers, Bradley was the one person he could count on to shut down the best player, or at least slow down a superstar on an opposing team. Bradley wasn’t the only reason Boston ranked first in many defensive categories this season, but he was a major part of it. To let Rondo not be forced to defend the best perimeter player on the opposing team, it allowed him to somewhat freelance defensively, which led to high steal and rebound totals.

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Don’t count the Boston Celtics out in the Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat

The Boston Celtics have beaten the Eastern Conference favorite Miami Heat twice in the span of 10 days and have sent a message that is loud and clear to the rest of the NBA; don’t count us out yet.

After starting the first half of the lockout shortened season with a 15-17 record, the Boston Celtics have turned things around and are now one of the hottest teams in the league.  Since the all-star weekend, Boston has posted 18 wins to only seven losses giving them the third best record in the NBA since the break behind the San Antonio Spurs and the Chicago Bulls.  As the NBA playoffs approach, Celtic fans have to be wondering if their team can return to the Finals.  The answer to that question is yes and here is why.

As mentioned previously two of Boston’s wins during the second half of the season have come against the Miami Heat.  Losers of 5 of their last 10, the Heat are slumping and steadily losing ground on the Eastern conference leading Bulls.  If the Heat can’t pull things together prior to the playoffs, an early exit may be in order for LeBron James and company.

The Bulls have problems of their own.  Despite having the best record in the NBA, defending league MVP Derrick Rose has been sidelined with nagging injuries throughout the season.  Rose has missed 23 of Chicago’s 58 games this season.  Although the Bulls have stood tall above the rest of the league in his absence, his presence will be a must in the later playoff rounds.  Chicago has been great during the regular season but don’t expect them to go deep in the playoffs without a healthy No. 1.

So with the Heat slumping and the Bulls hurting the way to the NBA Finals could be paved for the Celtics.  Doc Rivers has done an exceptional job with this team and should make some noise in the Coach of the Year balloting.  Kevin Garnett has been playing like the KJ of yesteryear while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen remain very solid.  Throw Rajon Rondo in the fold, who is capable of exploding at any time, and the Celtics still have a very formidable lineup that has gotten hot at the right time.

The key for Boston throughout the playoffs will be to keep the series’ short and avoid game seven’s.  Shorter series’ equates to more rest and a fresher Boston team will be a dangerous one; especially if the Heat and Bulls aren’t playing up to par.

If the Celtics can advance through the East and get to the Finals it will make the third appearance for their Big three.  After beating the Los Angeles Lakers and then losing to them two years later, Boston appears hungry for a return trip and the opportunity to bring home the organization’s 18th title.

Follow Aaron on Twitter @Da_Bear_Truth

Boston Celtics streaking at the right time

Boston Celtics 3

Boston Celtics 3At the end of the first-half of the NBA season the Boston Celtics where 15-17 sitting at 8th place in the Eastern Conference. Everyone was saying the Celtics are to old, worn out from this tough season schedule, and that GM Danny Ainge should trade away part of the big three. The Celtics did not just look tired, they looked hopeless, but Boston has silenced doubters now.

Man, how things have changed in the last 21 games. Boston has gone a stunning 15-6 against a strong schedule and minimal rest. Who do we give credit for this remarkable turn around? Doc Rivers has pulled off some nice feats as a coach, but these last 21 games have been something else. Kevin Garnett is starting to look like the animal that joined the team in 2007, and also Rajon Rondo has been completely uncontrollable.

Hats off to Doc Rivers for taking this Celtics team and getting them to play playoff basketball at just the right moment. The of the Celtics getting into the playoffs was even at risk. Now Doc has them sitting at top of the Atlantic Division currently sitting on fourth overall in the East. Doc has had to go through so much this season. Injuries have hit the C’s so hard this year. With everyone in the starting lineup missing games this year. The lockout shortened season cramped 66 games in the span of 4 months, causing teams like Boston to struggle. Doc has picked up and resurrected this lifeless team to what some people think to be as a legitimate playoff contender.

The Big Ticket has been huge these last games. Since Kevin Garnett has played center the Celtics and him have been surging. Kevin Garnett is playing as the intense monster he has been for the Celtics in recent years. He will be turning 36 in just over a month and is getting sustainably better during the most physically demanding season the league has had. He is putting up stats almost as good as the year he finished third in MVP voting which was 2008. Kevin is using the media calling him old and having no gas left as motivation, as if the most intense player in the league needs more things to get motivated about. I have no clue how Garnett is pulling of these numbers, but he is doing this at just the right time and hopefully can continue this in the playoffs.

Rajon Rondo was in numerous trade talks before the trade deadline even though Danny Ainge send he was not on the table. Since then Rondo has showed why he is the best PG in the league. Rondo has been getting over 10 assists in the last 14 games and 14 assists during the Miami Heat’s worst loss of the season. Rajon has been finding open teammates constantly and driving in at will. Despite all of the rumors that Danny Ainge was going to trade him, Rondo has shown why he should never be traded under any circumstance. Rondo has been a triple double threat every single time he has walked on to a basketball court and come playoff time that should be no different.

From Doc Rivers, KG, or Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have been on a tear overall, not to mention to emergence of Avery Bradley, Boston has been looking as strong as they have the last 21 games then we have seen in awhile. Come late April though how will Boston’s undersized and small lineup far against the Eastern Conference’s elite for a 7 game series? Time will tell, but I would not be surprised if we do not see the Celtics in the Conference Finals.

Morgan Grimmett is a NBA writer for The Sports Blitz and can be contacted at MGrimmett@SportsBlitz.com or on Twitter @Morgan_Grimmett

Top 5 Boston Celtics of all-time: Any of the big 3?

Bob Cousy

Bob CousyWhen talking about the best five Boston Celtics’ players ever you are arguably assembling the greatest collection of players from any single team in NBA history.  The Celtics have won a league high 17 NBA Championships as they have dominated the competition during their championship runs.  From the Big Three to the Larry Bird era, and all the way back to the days of Bob Cousy, here are the Top 5 Boston Celtics of All-Time.

5.  Paul Pierce:  A lot of people are going to disagree with this but Paul Pierce is definitely deserving of making this list.  In his 14 seasons with the Celtics, Pierce has accumulated 21,694 points.  That’s 7,000 points more than Bill Russell and this season Pierce will surpass Larry Bird.  At 6-6, 230 lbs, Pierce is a wide body forward with a knack for making off-balance clutch shots and scoring points in bunches.  Pierce has appeared in nine NBA All-Star games and was named the NBA finals MVP in 2008 after the Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers for their league leading 17th NBA title.

4.  Bob Cousy:  Nicknamed the Houdini of the Hardwood for his unprecedented ball handling ability, Bob Cousy was a 6-1 Guard from Holy Cross.  Cousy spent 13 seasons with the Celtics from 1951-63 where he helped Boston capture six NBA Championships.  During his career, Cousy led the NBA in assists for eight consecutive seasons.  He also averaged over 18 points a game throughout his career.  Cousy was named the NBA MVP in 1956-57 season.

3.  John Havlicek:  Havlicek was a 6-5 Guard/Forward who joined the Boston Celtics in 1962.  During his 16 year career, Havlicek scored over 26,000 points, grabbed more than 8000 rebounds, and dished out more than 6000 assists.  Havlicek won eight NBA championships with the Celtics and was named to the NBA All-Defensive team eight times.  Havlicek is arguably best known for one of the most famous play-by-play calls in NBA history.  “Havlicek steals it! Havlicek stole the ball!” – Havlicek seals the win for Boston in the 1965 Eastern Conference Championship Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

2.  Bill Russell:  When you win 11 NBA Championships in a 13 year career you’ve got to be one of the best of the best.  During his career, a 6-9 Russell was the centerpiece of the Boston Celtics dynasty from 1956-1969.  Russell scored 14,522 points while grabbing over 21,000 rebounds on his way to five league Most Valuable Player awards.  Russell’s ability to rebound and play defense were major reasons for the success of the Celtics as the team won nine out of a possible ten NBA titles during the 60’s.

1.  Larry Bird:  Larry Legend was one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.  A 6’9 forward out of Indiana State University,  Bird was known for his hustle and craftiness and more often than not demonstrated the ability to score at will.  During his 13 year career, Bird averaged 24.3 points per game with over six assists and 10 rebounds.  Think about it…Bird was only four assists per game short of averaging a triple double for his career.  That’s incredible.  Bird was the front man for the Celtics three championships during the early to mid 8o’s and without a doubt would have won two more had it not have been for Magic Johnson and the Lakers.  Bird also won three League MVP awards during that stretch.  Larry Bird is the greatest Celtics’ player of all time.

You can follow Aaron on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+  @Da_Bear_Truth.