Monday, May 6, 2013

A rockin' roller coaster

They went from the favorite to challenge the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference title to the little engine that eventually could not. They had a stretch in which they won six straight, lost six straight and then won six straight. There were highlights -- Jeff Green's 43 point performance against the Heat, the triple-overtime thriller against the Denver Nuggets, a 20-0 run in Game 6 -- and lowlights -- a 17 point loss on their own floor in Game 3 of the playoffs, three straight losses on the West coast by at least 18 points, two losses to the Charlotte Bobcats. It was all just like a wild roller coaster ride, which is the only way to define the 2012-2013 Boston Celtics.Celtics GM Danny Ainge did a fantastic job of retooling the team over the offseason. He re-signed Garnett to a three-year deal, brought in two former Sixth Man of the Year award winners (Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa) and took a chance on former number two overall pick Darko Milicic. With salary cap restrictions and a poor free-agent market, Ainge did as well as he could. The additions were supposed to take the load off aging stars Paul Pierce and Garnett. As the season unfolded, this did not prove the be the case.The Celtics struggled out of the gates, failing to gel together on the court and relying heavily on what Doc Rivers calls "hero basketball." The offense was inefficient, and the defense lacked communication. Rivers even threatened changes after an embarrassing 15 point loss to the Detroit Pistons on January 20. Many believed the season didn't really begin until the whole team was on the floor, and that did not come until January 2 when Avery Bradley made his long-awaited season debut. Bradley underwent double shoulder surgeries that forced him to miss the first two months of the season. His unexpected emergence was part of the reason Ray Allen left for South Beach. Alongside Rajon Rondo in the starting backcourt, Bradley flourished. His defense was other-worldly. His offense evolved right before our eyes. When he went down, many felt he would be a cornerstone of this franchise for years to come.When Bradley came back, so did the Celtics urgency. They reeled off 6 straight wins, then lost six straight, the last of which came in a double-overtime loss in Atlanta. The loss set the Celtics three games under .500. The Celtics lost more than just the game that night. Before the team's next game against the Heat, Rondo complained of leg soreness. He went for an MRI, and it revealed a torn ACL. Three days later, rookie sensation Jared Sullinger left the game against the Kings with back soreness. The next day, Sullinger underwent season-ending back surgery. Nearly two weeks later, Leandro Barbosa, an offensive spark plug off the bench, tore his left ACL and his season was over. With three key contributors gone for the year, many wanted to bury the Celtics right then and there. "You can write the obituary, but I'm not," Rivers said after their game against the Heat on January 27. We all should have known better than to write off this old, proud and stubborn bunch. When their star point guard went down, the Celtics went on to win 16 of their next 18 games. Paul Pierce did it all, from scoring to ball-handling and grabbing rebounds. Kevin Garnett stepped up, as if an 18-year veteran and 15-time All-Star needs to step his game up. The C's moved the ball and spread the wealth. Their defense remained a staple, and other players stepped up, particularly Jeff Green.Rivers also likes to say, "When one guy goes down, someone else steps up." That was the case with Green. When Green was inserted into the starting lineup, he didn't look back. Green averaged nearly 16 points as a starter. It wasn't a coincidence that Green's game turned the corner as he started getting healthy and more consistent minutes.As the end of the regular season crept up on the Celtics, so did the injury bug yet again. Kevin Garnett missed 13 of the final 17 games with various ailments. As Rivers said after Game 6, Garnett "limped into the playoffs." Paul Pierce also missed 3 of the final 8 games. Jason Terry also got some rest. With major contributors missing a lot of time down the stretch, and with a new starting lineup, it was hard for this team to get any sort of chemistry. The C's thought they could flip the switch going into the playoffs. They were mistaken.The Celtics ran into a scorching hot New York Knicks team in the first round. After falling into a 3-0 series hole, the Celtics did what they have done all year: fight. They refused to give in, even when all odds were against them. No NBA had ever come back from an 3-0 deficit, and that was again the case this year. This was a frustrating, yet exciting team to watch. When they were at their best, they could play with anybody. When they were at their worst -- their 23, 25 and 27 point halves in the playoffs were rock bottom -- it was excruciating to watch. And even faced with a 26 point deficit in their final quarter of the season, they refused to give in. Rivers put it best when he said, "They just never didn't think they could do it."It may not have ended the way they wanted, but let's face it, no one expected the Celtics to win it all this year. To win in the playoffs without arguably your best offensive player is such a tough task. The Celtics gave it their all, but once again, it simply wasn't enough. For the fifth year in a row, a major injury has impacted this team's chances at legitimately going after a championship. But hey, injuries are apart of the game. Is this the end of the Big Three era? Who knows. If it is, it sure was one wild ride.

A rockin' roller coaster Images

Rockin Roller Coaster | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
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rockin roller coaster, disney hollywood studios
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Studios - Rock 'n' Roller Coaster - PassPorter Photos
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Rockin Roller Coaster | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
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