Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley
The Boston Celtics recent NBA title effort not only set a record for the largest margin of victory in a championship game39 pointsbut also became the greatest one-season improvement in history.
A year ago the Celtics finished at 24-58 and dead last in the NBA Eastern Conference. This year they went 66-16, won the Atlantic Division title and the Eastern Conference title before disposing of the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92, in the 6th and final playoff game to win their 17th NBA title and first since 1986, erasing a 22-year drought.
It was an incredible blowout of the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers. It seemed like everything the Celtics threw up went in following great ball movement, while the Lakers vaunted “triangle” offense stalled when the Celtics cut off its passing lanes. Los Angeles was left with Kobe getting the ball at mid-court and trying to single-handedly create points against 5 Celtics. Kobe went 7-of-22 from the field for 22 points.
“They were definitely the best defense I’ve seen the entire playoffs,” said Kobe. That Kobe, he’s as sharp as a tack.
Kobe had too little help to help the Lakers to the title, and take his place in history as the equal of Michael Jordan. Perhaps another year. LA Coach Phil Jackson, who had tied Boston’s legendary Coach Red Auerbach with 9 NBA titles, will also have to wait another year, assuming he can find some aggressive players on LA’s playgrounds.
Maybe someone like back-up James Posey, who came to play for the Celtics and went ugly on the Lakers. It was Posey here, Posey there, Posey everywhere. Draining 3’s. In your Laker face.
Boston General Manager Danny Ainge, a member of the last 1986 NBA championship team, made the key moves to make the Celtics charge to the title happen. Ainge picked up Ray Allen (an All-Star and one of the purest shooters in the NBA) from the Seattle Supersonics, and Kevin Garnett (a 10-time All-Star and 2004 MVP) from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Ainge then added forward James Posey, center P. J. Brown and guard Sam Cassell. Suddenly, Coach Doc Rivers had a team that was hungry, mostly because All-Stars Paul Pierce, the Celtics go-to guy, Allen and Garnett had never won an NBA title.
The result in the title game found Garnett with 26 points and 14 boards, Allen scored 26, and Pierce, the Finals MVP, added 17. Guard Rajon Rondo had 21 points, 8 assists, 7 boards and 6 steals. In short, the Celtics brought a team to the playoffs and the Lakers brought Kobe.
It must have been so sweet for the Celtics, who were pushed to 7 games by both Atlanta and Cleveland before beating Detroit in 6 games to win the Eastern Conference title. And then came Kobe and the Lakers, and Boston rented a steamroller and put a whipping on the Lakers that will be gloated in Boston into at least the next century.
And so the Celtic season ends with an NBA title. Kevin Garnett became the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, an All-Defensive First Team pick and All-NBA First Team Player. Paul Pierce became an All-NBA Third Team Player and the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.