C's Final Chapter Written with Celtic Pride

BOSTON – You can say the Celtics went down. You can’t say they went down without swinging.

These are the Boston Celtics. These are winners. These are champions. These are fighters until the dire end.

The end could have arrived back in January or February, when this team lost two of its starters and three key players overall to season-ending injuries. Realistic championship hopes flew out the window like an empty plastic bag.

Kevin Garnett and the Celtics walk off of the court

The Celtics walked off the floor with their heads hung low, but they should keep their heads high knowing that they displayed true Celtic Pride.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

The Celtics could have bowed out and mailed the season. Instead, they chose to dig in and grind the season out.

A similar break in the road arose Friday night at TD Garden. Facing its third consecutive elimination game, Boston fell behind by as many as 26 points during the fourth quarter. Most teams would have keeled over and begged for mercy at the feet of the Knicks.

Not this group. Not the Celtics.

“We came together and said, ‘If we’re going to go out, we’re going to go out fighting,’” a subdued yet proud Jeff Green said after the game. “I believe it was probably nine minutes left and we just gave it everything we had.”

Kevin Garnett echoed those sentiments by saying, “We all said we wanted to leave it out on the floor, and that’s what we did.”

As crazy as it sounds, that was almost enough.

The Celtics nearly completed a miracle Friday night. Twenty unanswered points over a span of less than four minutes brought them back to within six points of the Knicks. Twice, with less than four minutes remaining, that deficit was sliced all the way down to four.

It probably goes without saying, but the roof of TD Garden nearly exploded into the stratosphere during that run. Boston’s fans, who were treated to a dismal display of basketball over the first three quarters, were going berserk.

The men wearing blue and orange? They felt like they were going crazy.

“It felt like it wasn’t real,” said Iman Shumpert.

“There’s definitely a moment in their run… that I was thinking, ‘What are we doin’, fellas?’” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler.

What they were doing was facing a team that refuses to quit. They were facing Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry, a group that is too proud to lie down and submit.

They were facing the Boston Celtics.

“Those guys over there, they’re warriors,” said Knicks guard Raymond Felton. “We knew they weren’t going to give up.”

Even the opponent knows that giving up isn’t in the Celtics’ DNA. It’s not part of their culture. It’s not part of their history.

Every Celtic player takes pride in that DNA, that culture and that history, whether they’ve been around for two months, two years or two decades. Friday night was their final opportunity of the season to show the world what it truly means to be a member of this organization.

“That’s what the definition of a true Celtic is: Never say never, never say die,” said Terry, who was fresh off of his first season in green and white. “I’m proud to wear this uniform.”

His coach, who coined the phrase “I am a Celtic” almost two years ago to the day, is the man who drills home that Celtic Pride to his players each and every day. Playing for the Celtics, with those letters across your chest, is a privilege.

When all was said and done, Rivers stood in front of his players and delivered a message of honor. His men played with pride until the final buzzer sounded.

“I told them after the game that I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys who went through a ton of adversity all year with all the injuries and all the stuff,” said Rivers, who was clearly emotional following the loss. “They just never didn’t think that they could.”

In other words, the Celtics believed. They believed back in January when they lost Rajon Rondo for the season. They believed on Friday when they stared up a 26-point mountain during the fourth quarter. They believed, because that’s what Celtics do.

In the end, belief wasn’t enough to prolong the final chapter of Boston’s 2012-13 book. The final words have been written. Those words will state that the Celtics went down, but that they went down fighting.

You should never expect anything less from the Boston Celtics.