It was quite a journey from November through April, but nothing could match the playoffs.
From this incredible ride, here are 17 thoughts, comments and observations, in honor of the number of championships the Celtics now have:
1. This isn't the end
This was not a one-and-done season. These Celtics are built for the long haul, with Garnett signed for four more years, Pierce three and Allen two. It will be interesting watching Ainge retool this team with that one veteran-without-a-ring per season like the Patriots have done. With Detroit probably taking a step back, the Celts are the team to beat in the East 2008-09.
2. Garden crowd
It really was like old times. The homecourt advantage was insurmountable. The Kobe Bryant chants — "You're not Mi-chael!" to "Where is Ko-by?" — were classics. Remember the knocks on the place, that it wasn't homey enough?
3. Rivalry returns
Lakers fans will take offense to the embarrassing slaughter in Game 6, and the fact that they are being dismissed as not in the Celts' league. I can't wait for their two regular season games next season. Then maybe 4-7 more in June!
3. West is over-rated
When was the last time anybody said that? The Western Conference was good, with nine teams having a decent shot at being the best of the West. But quantity doesn't always equal quality. If the Lakers are indeed the best team, and they schooled the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, 4-1, how good can the Spurs be?
4. Paul Pierce's words
One of the moving comments heard after the game was from Pierce, talking about finally feeling as if he is on equal footing to some Celtics greats. He said, "All the years talking to Bill (Russell) and John (Havlicek), (Bob) Cousy ... finally, I feel like we've come out of that shadow now and created our own. And now we can stand up and look them eye to eye and say, 'Hey, we accomplished it, too.' "
5. Paul Pierce's actions
Kobe Bryant was the regular season MVP. But the best player on the floor the last two weeks was Pierce. He was a complete player — scoring, passing and defending. His second half defensive performance against Kobe in Game 4 basically ended the series. He may not be better than Kobe, but he was the last two weeks.
6. Ray Allen is a pro
We should have known. He wasn't old. He was in a slump, a slump caused by two teams (Cleveland and Detroit) that said they weren't going to let him beat them from afar. Well, he finally figured it out in Game 5 against Detroit in the conference finals, netting five of six 3-pointers and the rest is history. Except for Pierce, he was the finals MVP, averaging 20.3 points and nearly four treys a game.
7. Don't blame Kobe
This is too easy. The L.A. press is killing him. The bottom line is he did not have any help and he had Tom Thibodeau's defensive scheme — anybody but Kobe — stifling his brilliant drives to the basket. The Lakers had the Big One and that was it.
8. Eddie's in the House
This was a great story. House didn't play the first two games (coach's decision). In games 3 through 6, he gave the Celtics offense some energy with Rajon Rondo struggling. His quick release is special. The fans fell in love with him at the Garden, chanting "Ed-die! Ed-die!" on several occasions. He hit seven 3-pointers and gave the Lakers problems.
9. Doc's class
Doc Rivers never gave in. Unlike Phil Jackson, he never slammed the referees. He never backed down from the road woes early, saying "We are going to have to win on the road if we are going to win a championship." Playing guys like House, Leon Powe and Tony Allen was crucial. He earned his stripes against one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
10. Lakers were Rondo'd
Jackson pulled no punches about the Game 6 hero. "Rondo was the star. He was the guy out there that made the plays, got the steals, pushed their offense into high drive and created havoc for us." Rondo still needs to work on his jumper but the rest of his game is Grade A. When he is on his game, the Celtics were impossible to beat.
11. Russell-Garnett relationship
This was not for the cameras. Bill Russell truly believed Kevin Garnett was the straw that stirred the Celtics' drink. Garnett was reduced to tears after the game when Russell hugged him. It was almost a passing of the torch.
12. Phil Jackson not a magician
He showed phony optimism the entire series. He said he believed the Lakers would turn it around. He was telling a white lie. His championship Bulls and Lakers had legends, but they also played great defense. It was remarkable, that this team made it look easy before the finals.
13. Danny defers
The Celtics president was not easy to find in the playoffs. He let the players and Rivers get the fanfare. He easily could have said, "I told you so," but never did. His performance this season is well-documented. His letting the team get the credit was special.
14. Road worriers to road warriors
The Celtics were the best team on the road during the regular season (31-10) and in the end they were in the playoffs, too. After the brutal start, losing their first six playoff road games, they won the games they had to — Game 3 in Detroit and Game 4 in L.A., for example.
15. Ex-Celts enjoyed ride
I have never seen John Havlicek around so much. His wife joined him for the close-out game. JoJo White, Russell, Satch Sanders and, of course, Tommy Heinsohn, had as much fun rooting this team on as the fans did. Havlicek, historically reserved, danced and waved as much as the "Gino" worshipers. It was nice to see them all back.
16. Posey for president
James Posey was the Celtics poster boy in the playoffs. He has a lot of Troy Brown in him: quiet, unassuming, tough, a winner. He was probably the most consistent Celtic for the last two months.
17. Celtics Pride is back
There is no question about this one. Of course, it had something to do with the winning. But as several players said, including Al Jefferson, it was there last year, too. Kevin Garnett admitted he hadn't seen anything like it. It felt like being at Fenway Park for a World Series game. The fact that Bill Belichick and many Patriots were at nearly every playoff game speaks volumes.
E-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out "Burt Talks Sports" at blogs.eagletribune.com/sports.