The Boston Celtics thoroughly dominated game six on both ends of the court to win the 2008 NBA Finals, defeating the favored Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 in their historic battle. Boston claimed their 17th NBA title, as both teams have participated in half of the league's 62 NBA Championships. Paul Pierce, the 10-year Celtic veteran who admittedly wanted to be traded during the off-season, was named MVP for his terrific scoring, timely passing & tough defense on league MVP Kobe Bryant, who, also wanted to be traded during the off season.
The Celtics won a league-best 66 games during the regular season & had the best team on paper, yet some media experts worried they might suffer the fate of the Dallas Mavericks, who last year were stunned in the first round of the playoffs by the eighth-seeded, run & gun, three-point shooting Golden State Mavericks in six games. 2008 was a stark contrast to a year ago when Boston won just 24 games & finished with the worst record in the league. In fact, the Celtics dynamic year culminated with the greatest one-season turn around in NBA history, improving by 42 games.
Danny Ainge was named Executive of the Year & Doc Rivers was second on the ballot for Coach of the Year as Boston made some brilliant summer trades to go for the gold. The initial signing of veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen created some buzz, but when Kevin Garnett was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the media circus around the Celtics' three superstars led to a barrage of names such as the PGA Tour, the Three Amigos & Three-Peat. Garnett humbly told anyone who would listen, "this is Paul's team."
Later in the year, the Celtics added veterans P.J. Brown & Sam Cassell (who has 2 rings from the Houston Rockets' back-to-back 94-95 teams), James Posey (a central part of the Miami Heat's '06 title team) & Eddie House. Long before the pre-season began, the Celtics were expected to win their first title since the Bird-McHale-Parrish team of 1986. The buzz in the building quickly returned, season ticket sales went through the roof & Garnett's #5 jersey was being worn by kids, teenagers & adults all over the state of Massachusetts.
When the playoffs started, no one gave the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks a chance against the Celtics. 20 years ago, Coach Rivers was the all-pro starting point guard for the Hawks, who took a three games to two lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over Boston. Game seven featured a shootout - particularly in the 4th quarter - between the Hawks' Dominique Wilkins & Boston's Larry Bird. Wilkins scored 47 & Bird scored 34, yet the Celtics won game seven, a game, to this day, that Rivers finds too painful to watch. Even though Boston lost the NBA Finals to the Lakers that year, the irony of Rivers now coaching a team that destroyed his only hopes of winning it all seems bittersweet & somehow something reserved for a Hollywood script or made-for-tv movie.
Despite Ray Allen's poor perimeter shooting, Boston triumphed over Atlanta in the first round without a road victory - frustrating for a squad with the best regular-season road record at 31-10. Their superior bench, led by veterans Brown, Cassell, House & Posey, as well as rookies Glen "Big Baby" Davis & Leon Powe, helped solidify a semi-finals victory over last year's surprise finalists Cleveland Cavaliers, who were spearheaded by LeBron James, a third-place finisher in the league's MVP voting. In a thrilling game seven, James' 45 points were not enough to overcome Pierce's 41 points, point guard Rajon Rondo's court leadership & Garnett's solid defense to move on to the next round.
Still, the Celtics could not win a game on the road & some feared they'd be surely tested against the defensive-minded, more experienced & 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. When Boston lost game two, their home court advantage was gone for the first time in the playoffs. Staring adversity solidly in the face, Boston won games three & six on the road to win the hard-fought series four games to two. The Celtics had little time to celebrate as the Lakers waited patiently in the wings after soundly defeating the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in five games.
The Lakers were clearly playing the best team ball entering the Finals, having swept Denver in the first round & beating the Utah Jazz soundly in six games. Their strong bench featured consistent all season play from Jordan Farmar, Rony Turiaf, Sasha Vujacic & Luke Walton. The Lakers' mid-season acquisition of all-pro center Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies was the steal of the year, as they finished the season atop the Western Conference, one game ahead of the vastly improved New Orleans Hornets, led by Coach of the Year Byron Scott & all-pro guard Chris Paul.
Everyone was excited about the historic significance of this series: coaches, fans, media & players alike. In the 80's, Boston & LA won eight of the decade's NBA titles, playing each other three out of four years from 1984-1987. Their legendary rivalry gave rise to the Lakers' showtime ball, led by Hall of Fame guard Magic Johnson, as well as the Celtics' all-pro front line - many believe the best in NBA history - of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale & Robert Parrish.
This year the NBA Finals offered a unique two-three-two series, which meant the Celtics' home court advantage would be neutralized & they'd have to win a game on the road to avoid going home with a potential game-ending scenario. Boston handily won the first game 96-88 behind Garnett's double-double, yet nearly squandered a 24-point lead (the Lakers closed the gap to within two points late in the fourth quarter) to eke out a victory in game two, 108-102.
The Lakers defense shut down Boston in game three, as their offensive rebounding & solid free-throw shooting (Bryant made more free throws than the Celtics attempted as a team) propelled them to an 87-81 win. In game four, LA dominated early & led by as many as 24 points in the first half, holding the Celtics' big three to under 40 percent field goal shooting. Undeterred in the second half, Boston would mount the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history, defeating the stunned Lakers 97-91, with solid performances from Allen, Garnett, House, Pierce, Posey & Rondo.
Game five went back & forth as both teams traded baskets in the tight fourth quarter, yet Bryant's 36 points gave the Lakers a hard-fought 103-98 victory, sending the series to Boston for game six. Sasha Vujacic torched the Celtics by scoring 20 points off the bench in a game the Lakers desperately needed to win in order to stay alive. Game six showcased the Celtics' superior team-defense as they lead 24-20 after the first quarter. Boston, inspired by Rondo's four steals, would allow just two free throws in the final 4:30 as the halftime lead ballooned to 23 points. Allen tied an NBA Finals record by hitting seven three-pointers; the team would finish with an NBA Finals record 18 steals.
Many Celtic greats were on hand for this historic occasion, among them Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Tom Heinsohn, M.L. Carr & Cedric Maxwell. Coach Rivers assured the team in the locker room another game would not be necessary. Boston was destined for this championship, as Garnett, Pierce & Allen showed the world what commitment, discipline, heart, sacrifice & unity were all about. The Boston Celtics succeeded in accomplishing what they expected of themselves, as well as what others expected: the 2008 NBA Finals Champions.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.