Saturday, May 31, 2008

Celtics to Face Lakers in NBA Final

For the first time in 21 years, the Boston Celtics have reached the NBA Final. The Celtics defeated the Detroit Piston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 89-81, to earn this berth. They will be facing an old nemeis - the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Celtics had an enormous turnaround from last year. In 2006-2007, they were 24-58. In the off season, they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to give some much needed help to Paul Pierce. The Big Three along with the emergence of Rajon Rondo got the Celtics off to a 27-3 start and never looked back. They finished the 2007-2008 season 66-16, the best record in the NBA.

The excitement about the Celtics has been restrained. Of course, this city has seen the Patriots win the Super Bowl thrice and the Red Sox win the World Series twice this decade. We have become accustomed to it. It is also worth noting the Patriots loss in this year's Super Bowl as well as the lingering impact of the Spy Gate scandal has also tempered enthusiasm for the Celtics run.

Then there are the Celtics themselves. They came within a heartbeat of being eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs as they could not win away from the Garden. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers also took them to 7 games as they continued to struggle on the road. But they did clinch last night on the road so perhaps a corner has been turned.

The Lakers have also undergone a resurgence. Kobe Bryant found the magic again and was named the NBA's MVP. But perhaps the key turning point in the Lakers season was the acquisition of Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies back in February. The Lakers are largely a young team which I why I think the key to their success maybe Derek Fisher (who was with Kobe when the Lakers won three consecutive NBA Titles earlier this decade). Then, of course, you have head coach Phil Jackson who was won 9 NBA Titles, which ties him with Celtics legend Red Auerbach.

Doc Rivers has never won an NBA Title as a head coach but the Celtics have won 16 - the most in NBA history. I think that's another reason why the fans in Boston have been relatively quiet about the Celtics. Their history. The Celtics, despite recent lean years, are expected to win championships. Garnett, Pierce and Allen are great but in order to be placed alongside Bird, McHale and Ainge there has to be a championship banner placed on the roof of the Garden. The Celtics-Lakers Final promises to be the best in years. Celtics in 7.

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