Grind-it-out C's Reach Conference Finals
BOSTON – They’re halfway toward their goal of bringing home an 18th banner, and it seems like every step toward that goal is defined by the word “grind.”
These are the 2011-12 Boston Celtics.
With 66 regular-season games and 13 postseason games in the books, we’ve gotten to know this group pretty well. We know the Celtics well enough to realize that after every single victory, they’re going to march to the podium and use the term “grind it out” to describe the process of securing that win.
Nothing comes easy for this team. It truly seems as if Boston always makes things as difficult as possible on itself. But therein lies the beauty — these Celtics know who they are, and they know they won’t reach their goals by using flash. Instead, they do it by grit, the blue-collar way.
“Our mindset is that we have to grind games,” Doc Rivers said after his team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. “That’s how we go into games, with that thought, and I think that’s how we have to think.”
Rivers has been relaying that message to his players and the media alike for months now. He has said time and time again that this Celtics team has no margin for error thanks to the amount of injuries with which it has dealt.
As we’ve learned during Rivers’ coaching career, what he preaches often sticks to its target. People listen to him. His players trust him. Rivers’ words aren’t taken with a grain of salt. Instead, they’re ingested by the Celtics and recalled each and every day.
Less than an hour after Boston advanced to the Conference Finals, a time in which most players aren’t interested in diving deep into their memory banks, Brandon Bass sat at the postgame podium and delivered a story about the day Rivers told this team what its personality really is.
“Doc just came into the locker room one day and said that we just have to be a grind team,” Bass said, shortly after noting that many people have counted the C’s out all season long. “We might not blow teams out, teams might go on big runs, but he just wants us to have resolve as a team and fight. That is what we’ve been able to do.”
Doesn’t that sound like a player who received the message?
Bass and the rest of his teammates have proven throughout this current playoff run that their resolve and grit is on its own rung of the ladder – the top one. They’ve dealt with injuries, suspensions, illnesses and devastating losses en route to the Conference Finals.
They’ve been able to overcome all of it.
The seven-game series against Philadelphia was a microcosm of that story. Injuries plagued the C’s, as they lost Avery Bradley for the season following Game 4 and Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and a host of other players fought through injuries all series long. Thanks to all of those distractions, Boston’s play was rollercoaster-esque, as it would peak with a blowout win one night and sink with shocking loss the next night.
Doug Collins said after Game 7 that the Celtics and Sixers are what’s good about the NBA. He said these two franchises do it the right way. The right way must not be very attractive, because this series was about as ugly as playoff basketball can get.
Both teams shot the ball poorly throughout the series. In fact, there was only one game in which both squads shot better than 44 percent from the field. Neither team was able to win consecutive games in the series, and heck, it was a rarity to see a team win consecutive quarters.
Despite all of the ugliness, somehow, some way, Boston got it done, just as it has all season long.
This is a season-long trend that we’re seeing with the Celtics. It all started way back on Christmas Day, when they gave up 106 points and committed 19 turnovers while taking on the New York Knicks. It has continued to this day, as they shot just 42.5 percent and committed 15 turnovers against the Sixers in Game 7.
Somewhere between those two games Rivers delivered his memorable locker room speech. Somewhere between those two games, the Celtics learned who they really are.
No, Boston basketball might not always pretty, and yes, it might be maddening to watch at times, but results are results. The Celtics are flying Sunday morning to Miami to take on the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat better be ready to strap on their work belts. The grind-it-out Celtics are coming to town, and things might get ugly.