A little over a month ago, the Boston Celtics didn’t have much in their favor looking ahead to the remainder of the season. Philadelphia had a commanding lead of the Atlantic division. Boston’s remaining schedule looked like a nightmare. “Rajon Rondo Is A Poor Influence In The Locker Room And Needs To Be Traded” reports were running rampant, along with “Danny Ainge Is Going To Split Up The Big Three Before The Trade Deadline” stories. Ray Allen seemed like he was washed up and Kevin Garnett wasn’t faring much better. But as it turns out, trade speculation and widespread doubt make a potent mix with brotherhood and championship experience.
The Celtics have won four games straight and eight of their last ten, including victories against the Hawks, Pacers, Sixers, Timberwolves and Heat twice. Their two losses came against the East-leading Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs during their 11-game win streak. Rajon Rondo is facilitating and racking up triple doubles. Paul Pierce has been unstoppable. Kevin Garnett can’t miss and continues to hit the boards. Ray Allen is back and contributing. But even though the Big Three and Rondo improving their play has been extremely instrumental in turning the season around, there’s more to Boston’s newfound success.
It’s been an all-around team effort in changing the team’s mentality and winning tendencies. The Big Three and Rondo are the biggest factors, but even the role players are stepping up: Brandon Bass is scoring and rebound efficiently, Greg Stiemsma is contesting shots at the rim and Avery Bradley, quite possibly the best on-the-ball defender in the league, is starting to chip in points as well. This is how the Celtics have become one of the most dangerous teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s looking like the Celts will wrap up the fourth seed, meaning they will either play Chicago or Miami in the second round. The Heat had better pray Chicago gets the one seed so they can avoid meeting up with this team; Boston isn’t scared of LeBron James and company and haven’t had a problem playing like it.
While I don’t think Boston is a championship contender anymore, it’s also true that with a few upsets, it wouldn’t be impossible if the Celtics found themselves in the Eastern Conference (and possibly even the NBA) Finals. It’s funny to see those words after so many trade rumors about Rondo’s poor attitude and how he was a total detriment to the locker room circulated for the first half of the season. Speculation about Danny Ainge splitting up the Big Three to try and start the rebuilding process early became a popular story topic. And if everything had gone according to plan, the Celtics would have crumbled and possibly missed the postseason. But all that adversity gave Boston something to play for, another task to overcome together. Give Doc Rivers credit for his incredible coaching this season and for engineering his team into such a tightly knit group. Now Boston is bringing its A-game to the court every night, showing the world that they aren’t scared of anybody and can play with the best in the league. They may be getting older, but this Celtics team has the experience, the charisma and the guts they need to be one of the least favorable matchups for opponents in the Eastern Conference playoffs.