Current C's Can Draw from Franchise's History
WALTHAM, Mass. – Sometimes it’s those “firsts” in life that are the hardest things to achieve. The Boston Celtics know all about that right now.
As they stare at an 0-2 hole in their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Miami Heat, these Celtics – at least the core fivesome that has been here for four seasons – are experiencing a situation they’ve never dealt with before. In order to advance to the Conference Finals, they will need to win four out of the final five games against the second-seeded Heat.
This is the first time Boston has faced an 0-2 deficit since the current Big Three came together, and therefore they’ve never been afforded an opportunity to crawl back from this far behind. Doing so against the Heat will be incredibly difficult to accomplish, but just because this group hasn’t done it before doesn’t mean it’s an impossible feat.
Kevin Garnett’s famous words after his team took home the 2007-08 NBA title were, “Anything is possible!” John Havlicek is another Celtics legend who can attest to that statement, and he can apply it to the franchise’s current task at hand.
Havlicek, who played all 16 of his NBA seasons with the Celtics, was a part of an aging core group during the 1968-69 season that fought its way to the NBA Finals and lost its first two games on the road to the Los Angeles Lakers. Many compared last season’s title run by the Celtics to that ’69 squad, and the comparisons are returning again during this postseason.
There was no hoo-rah speech at this afternoon’s practice in Waltham, Mass., but Havlicek was present at the facility and one player was able to have a personal conversation with the franchise legend.
Glen Davis, who has not played to his capabilities during this series, took advantage of Havlicek’s presence and pinged him for some advice and story telling.
“I was talking to Havlicek today – Havlicek stole the ball – and I said, ‘Which one of these banners were you 0-2 (in a series)?’ “ recalled Davis. “And he said the one that stood out was ’69, 1969, when they were down 0-2 and they came back to win it in Game 7 against the Lakers.”
It was great to hear that another team in this historic franchise had accomplished the feat that this current Celtics team faces in the Conference Semifinals, but Davis wanted to learn more, and Havlicek gave it to him.
“He was just saying that it’s going to take everything in you to fight and crawl back to get back to the 2-2, to the even,” said Davis. “And then it’s going to take something special to finish them off.”
This group knows all about special, and it will get an added boost for Saturday’s Game 3. Shaquille O’Neal, who has played only five minutes since Feb. 1, is on schedule to return to action Saturday night. He has gone through Boston’s last two practices and Doc Rivers said on Thursday that, “Right now, we expect every single guy, including Shaq, to play in Game 3.”
O’Neal’s return will certainly be an adrenaline boost to both the Celtics and the crowd. When he reappeared in the lineup on April 3 for five minutes against the Detroit Pistons, the arena went into hysteria while Shaq put up six points during the short five-minute stint. The exact same reaction – but maybe not the exact same production – should be expected on Saturday.
Even with Shaq’s likely return, though, Boston has a difficult task at hand. It must defend its home court, or this series will be on the brink of completion. This Celtics team hasn’t been in this situation before, but Ray Allen, for one, is soaking it all in and is fully confident that he and his troops can pull off a comeback similar to Havlicek’s ’69 team.
“It’s fun to me,” said Allen. “Just look at the situation that we’re in. We’ve found different ways to rise from the ashes, so to speak, and winning championships, there’s never really a clear-cut formula on how there is to do it.
“We talk about having resolve all year, and we’ve proven that we have (it), we had it during the regular season. So now we’re just in a playoff situation where we have to prove it again.”
The tools are there to complete the task. The Celtics just have to use those tools in the correct manner. Boston has admittedly gotten away from its preferred style of play thus far in the series, but it can return in an instant, as we saw during the first-round series against the New York Knicks.
Saturday night will be the very first opportunity for this team to fight back from an 0-2 hole, and they have already received some inspiration to prove that it’s definitely possible.
“You like to hear about everybody else’s stories and what they did to overcome trials and tribulations, and you try to apply that to the situation that’s going on right now,” Davis said. “I think just that unbelievable effort – to win a championship you’ve gotta have unbelievable effort. And that’s what we have to do, point blank.”
Boston has shot nothing but blanks through the first two games of this series, but that’s exactly what happened to Havlicek and his teammates against the almighty Lakers back in ’69.
The table has been set for Boston to replicate such a comeback during this series. Now it’s time for the Celtics to serve.