Time to Play Like It's 1969
Finished 4th in the Eastern Conference.
Eastern Division Semifinals (4-1): Boston Celtics over Philadelphia 76ers
Eastern Division Finals (4-2): Boston Celtics over New York Knickerbockers
Finals (4-3): Boston Celtics over Los Angeles Lakers
The 1968-69 Celtics were too old. Their window had past. They struggled in the regular season with injuries and entered the playoffs with the worst record of any team in the playoffs. They had to win on the road because they didn't have home court advantage in any of the 3 series. They faced a vaunted Lakers team in the Finals who were anointed as the champions before a game was even played. The Celtics weren't given any chance to beat what was considered to be a superior Lakers team.
When they made it to game 7 in LA, they saw the ceiling lined with nets full of balloons and saw all the cases of champagne lining the halls and there were fliers being passed out with details on the Lakers victory celebration. But that team had Celtic Pride. They reached deep down and pulled out that game 7 and the series and won the Celtics 11th championship. That Celtic Pride is alive and well in the 2011 Boston Celtics. These players are proud. They are veterans. They know how to dig deep to pull out a victory.
The Celtics are down 0-2 but those two losses were on the road. There have been 14 teams in league history to come back from an 0-2 series deficit to win the series. And one of those 14 teams is the 1969 Celtics. They lost the first 2 games on the road to the Lakers team that was considered a lock for the title. There were reports of them being finished, not having enough left to win another title, being too old to compete with the younger and more athletic and more talented Lakers. But that team was too proud to give up and they rallied to win games 3 and 4 and 6 at home and then beat the Lakers on the road in game 7.
Much like the '10-'11 Celtics, the '68-'69 team not only finished with a lower seed, but they also went through an extended period of mediocrity in the second half of the season. The '69 Celtics started out strong, as did the current team, but the 1969 team played .500 ball over the final half of the season and the current team faded down the stretch.
Both teams had to go through a NY team that started the season poorly but was boosted by a mid-season trade. The '69 Knicks had been just 16-17 in December, but a key trade for Dave DeBusschere helped them finish the season 38-11. And we all know about the trade for Melo that lifted the Knicks to a 7 game win streak at the end of this season.
In round 1 against the Kincks, a different player led the team in scoring each game. Similarly, the 1969 team had key contributions from several different players in leading them to the Finals. Russell, Havlicek, and Sam Jones were all key contributors, forming a "big 3" of sorts. But there were others who came up big for the team as well.
Larry Siegfried scored 28 points off the bench in Game 3 of the Finals in a must win game with the Celtics trailing 0-2 in the series. Emmette Bryant had several strong games. He was key in Game 1 of the Knicks series. Veteran Celtic Satch Sanders had 18 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes in Game 2 vs. Philly, after Sam Jones was ejected early. Don Nelson contributed clutch fourth-quarter scoring throughout the playoffs, including a miraculous shot late in Game 7 of the Finals.
I know that looking back to a championship team from 42 years ago may be stretching it a bit, but that same Celtic Pride that coursed through the 1969 Celtics, also is a part of this team. This team may be old, they may be counted out by many, and they may be down 0-2 in the series, but because of that unfathomable quality of Celtic Pride, I'll never count them out.