2010-11 Season Recap: Part 1
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics coined the marketing slogan “All About 18” during the summer months heading into the 2010-11 NBA season. They were fresh off of a devastating loss in Game 7 of the previous season’s NBA Finals and were hell-bent on creating a monster during the offseason that would take home the organization’s 18th championship banner in June of 2011.
Boston’s summer began and ended with promise regarding that goal, leaving the Celts in prime position to make yet another run at that elusive banner. They re-signed several key players, including Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and added other proven veterans throughout the remainder of the summer who would undoubtedly make a difference.
The opening months of the NBA season let the other 29 teams know that the C’s weren’t over the hill, and that their questionable moves over the summer, such as signing an aging Shaquille O’Neal and a troubled Delonte West, weren’t as questionable as some thought. It all began on Opening Night, in what may have been the most anticipated season opener in the history of the NBA.
The summer of 2010 was, to put it simply, the most anticipated free agency period in the history of sports. With numerous high-profile players floating around in free agency, competing for a title was up in the air; all a team needed to do was use its cap space to lure in the necessary pieces.
As we all know by now, Miami, and Pat Riley in particular, did just that. A 47-35 team that made the playoffs in 2010 was able to bolster its lineup by retaining its prince of the city, Dwyane Wade, and also adding the reigning two-time MVP, LeBron James, and an All-Star power forward in Chris Bosh.
Miami quickly became the most notable – and despised – team in the league, and that only added to the intrigue of the Opening Night game between that retooled Heat roster and the reloaded, hungry-for-a-banner Celtics.
The reigning Eastern Conference champions made a statement on that night by clobbering the Heat for the majority of the 48 minutes of game time. Miami was limited to just nine points in its first quarter of the season, and the Celtics led by as many at 19 points in the second half en route to an 88-80 victory.
That momentous victory was the springboard to a 6-1 start to the season for Boston, in which it knocked off five teams that had made the playoffs the prior season. Four of those teams made the playoffs again in 2011, so the start of the season was no fluke.
What may have been the Celtics’ most difficult road trip of the season, in terms of quality of opponents, began at the very end of their 6-1 start. That sixth win came against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, where Boston’s bench shined and helped the team pull out a 92-83 victory.
Boston then took on Dallas, Miami and Memphis on the road, respectively, to close out the difficult four-game road stint. All four of those teams would eventually advance to at least the Conference Semifinals in 2011.
The C’s finished that road trip with a 3-1 record, with the only loss coming to the Mavericks by a slim margin of just two points. Dirk Nowitzki hit the go-ahead jumper in that game with just 20 seconds remaining on the clock to seal the victory for Dallas.
That loss, however, did not sour the Celtics’ trip, because they bounced back three nights later with a second victory in as many tries against the Heat, this time in Miami.
This contest was closer than the first, with a final score of 112-107, but the same story played out: Boston outplayed and outmuscled Miami from start to finish. Ray Allen lit the Heat up for a season-high 35 points, Rajon Rondo dished out 16 assists and the Celtics limited Miami to just 30 points in the paint.
Speaking of Rondo, who finished with 17 dimes in Boston’s victory over Memphis to close out that road trip, he was the engine that propelled the Celtics to their hot start of the season. And he was racing at record speeds. Rondo was so dominant at the start of the season that he was consistently mentioned in the league’s MVP talk, which is saying something considering the star-studded era the NBA is currently in the midst of.
Rondo’s hot start to the season included a triple-double against the Knicks that included 24 dimes. He was just the second player in NBA history, along with Hall-of-Famer Isiah Thomas, to record a triple-double with at least that many assists. Rondo’s incredible play at the onset of the season also led to 82 total assists (16.4 per game) in Boston’s first five games of the season. During that streak, he tied John Stockton for the most assists ever in a team’s first three games of the season (50), and then set new records for most assists through four games (67) and five games (82).
With Rondo playing at a nearly unstoppable level and his teammates shooting the ball at a league-best rate, the Celtics continued their hot play and eventually rattled off a 14-game win streak that spanned from Nov. 22 to Dec. 22. The most memorable victory of that streak was a 118-116 triumph over the Knicks, who also entered the contest with a lengthy win streak. Pierce hit a step-back jumper with 0.4 seconds left on the clock to win the game. Amar’e Stoudemire went on to make a 3-pointer at the buzzer to seemingly win the game for New York, but the basket was ruled no good upon video review.
Despite several injuries to key players from the end of December until the All-Star break, including setbacks to Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal and Delonte West, Boston continued to rack up the wins and milestones.
The first half of the season was highlighted by the East’s top record, at 40-14, and a few moments in the Garden that no Celtics fan will ever forget.
First, on Nov. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks, Pierce notched his 20,000th point on a few throw with 13.3 seconds left in an 105-102 overtime victory. A signature moment of his career will forever be remembered with the image of him standing at the free-throw line after the make, with his head lowered and his arms raised high into the air with peace signs spawning off of each of his hands. The crowd roared around him with a standing ovation, saluting the captain with one of the loudest cheers of the season.
Another memorable moment came on Feb. 10, when the Los Angeles Lakers came to town. A perfect subplot surrounded the contest between the league’s two biggest rivals. Allen was on the verge of becoming the all-time 3-point king, and the man he was chasing, Reggie Miller, was broadcasting the game for TNT.
Allen hit his first 3-pointer of the game with 4:13 left in the first quarter to tie Miller’s all-time record of 2,560. The big bucket, however, came with 1:47 remaining in the period, when he rose up from the right wing and swished a trey to put himself in a class of his own.
The moment was incredibly special, with Allen and Miller sharing a hug along the sideline and Allen’s family sitting along the baseline to celebrate while the game momentarily stopped. There could not have been a soul in the building without goosebumps, and that included Kobe Bryant.
The same cannot be said for the third memorable moment of the first half, which left everyone in the Garden praying for the health of one of Boston’s players.
While taking on the Orlando Magic in a nationally televised contest on ABC on Feb. 6, Marquis Daniels drove to the basket near on right baseline in front of Boston’s bench and collided with Orlando guard Gilbert Arenas. The collision came at the 11:01 mark of the second quarter, and it couldn’t have been more frightening.
Daniels’ head bumped into Arenas’ chest as he attempted to drive by the defender, and Daniels quickly tumbled to the parquet and lay there motionless for several minutes. After being attended to by the team medical staff, Daniels, who had experienced neck issues in the past, was taken off of the court on a stretcher. He was later diagnosed with a bruised spinal cord.
Boston’s first half of the season featured a plethora of positives that all contributed to Doc Rivers and his coaching staff being able to lead the Eastern Conference All-Stars in Los Angeles, including four of their own players. That injury to Daniels, however, threw the positive aura off kilter.
The Celtics hoped for the best when his injury first occurred, but as time played its course, the facts became painfully obvious, and they weren’t good. Daniels’ ability to return to the court dwindled by the day, and that left Danny Ainge in the precarious position of figuring out what the next step was in the Celtics’ pursuit of Banner 18.