It made its way up to the rafters, where the Boston Celtics’ 16 NBA championship banners and 22 retired numbers have simultaneously served as reminders and millstones.
Another time, another place — like, say, 40 years ago in another Boston Garden — this would have been unremarkable. But in TD Banknorth Garden in June of 2008? Unthinkable. First of all, you ain’t supposed to smoke indoors anymore. Second of all, why in God’s name would a basketball game be played in Boston in June?
But on this Tuesday night in Boston, smoking bans were temporarily suspended and Celtic Pride — and posturing — was back in vogue. The Boston Celtics' hastily arranged grouping of singular greats — Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen — and veteran role players — James Posey, Eddie House and P.J. Brown — finished off one of the great turnaround seasons in sports history. From 24 regular season wins last year to 82 and an NBA championship this year.
They finished it off with an audacious 131-92 disgracing of the Lakers. It was an overwhelming and less-than-sporting result that would have brought a smile to the face of the Celtics’ OCP (Original Cigar Puffer) Red Auerbach.
And while the bedrock angle to this series was about the renewal of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, that angle got trumped hard by the dominance of the Celtics defense and the Lakers’ inability to generate consistent offense from anyone not named Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers were overwhelmed by the roster Boston general manager Danny Ainge built in the offseason and by the schemes and buy-in that Celtics coach Doc Rivers got beginning last fall during a preseason European junket.
“This is what we talked about,” said Finals MVP Paul Pierce. “It’s one thing to talk about it, another thing to go out and do it, and we did it. It’s so gratifying. We got to the point where we were getting tired of the coaches every day, but hey, we put in hard work all the way from September, getting here early, going to Rome, staying together, the guys dropping their egos for the good of the team, sacrificing so much.”
None of the Celtics stars sacrificed as much of his game as Ray Allen. His shot attempts were sliced, his output — especially in the playoffs — was critiqued. His selflessness in pursuit of a cherished ring was emblematic of what Boston needed to do to accomplish its goal.
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