An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
Flashback: Celtics return to the top
Day 30 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Boston Celtics. The Celtics franchise has won 17 NBA titles, and has 11 playoff appearances since the 1991-92 season.
Date: June 17, 2008
Situation: The No. 1 Boston Celtics lead the No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers, 3-2, heading to Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals
Context: It had been a long time since the Celtics won an NBA title. The league’s most celebrated franchise, Boston had gone over 20 years without a championship heading into the 2006-07 season. And things didn’t get much better. In Doc Rivers’ third year as head coach, the Celtics lost 58 games — the most since 1996-97 — and finished last in the Atlantic Division. In an effort to climb back to the top of the NBA, the Celtics made a big splash in the offseason, trading for two perennial All-Stars, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, in a 33-day span. Not surprisingly, the moves paid off. Boston won 66 games — the most wins by the Celtics since they won the Finals in 1986 — earning the No. 1 seed in the East. The first two rounds went anything but smoothly for Boston, though. First, the Hawks took the Celtics to seven games before Boston ultimately crushed Atlanta, 99-65, in Game 7. LeBron James’ Cavs did the same the following round, but again, it was Boston coming out on top in the decisive game, 97-92. A 4-2 series win over the Pistons in the conference finals set up a Finals match-up with the long-time rival Lakers. Boston jumped out to a 2-0 lead at home, then took one of three games from the Lakers in Los Angeles, to set up Game 6 at the Garden.
Recap: Simply put, Boston would not be denied. The Celtics shot 49.4 percent from the field, hit 13 of 26 three-pointers, and shot 32-for-37 from the free throw line. The starting five combined for a plus/minus of +125; the bench wasn’t much worse, finishing +50. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo all scored more than 20 points. Garnett and Paul Pierce had double-doubles. And Boston scored at least 30 points in each of the final three quarters on the way to the most lop-sided series-clinching win in NBA Finals history. Boston won, 131-92.
Top players: Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett led Boston with 26 points. Garnett grabbed 14 rebounds; Allen shot 7-for-9 from three. Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and James Posey also all scored in double-digits. Kobe Bryant was the only Laker to score at least 20 points; he finished with 22 on 7-for-22 shooting. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol combined to make as many field goals — six — as Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic. L.A. was also demolished on the glass, out-rebounded by Boston 48-29.
After the game: The championship was the Celtics’ first in 22 years, the longest drought in franchise history. Paul Pierce was named Finals MVP, averaging 21.8 points per game in the series. The Celtics again won more than 60 games the following season, but were eliminated in the conference semifinals by the Orlando Magic. Boston returned to the Finals in 2009, again against the Lakers, but Los Angeles came out on top in seven games.
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