by Sammy Newman-Beck

Pregame

Game 7s are supposed to be won and played here in Boston as evidenced in my last Game 7 (Bulls vs. Magic) post, however today my excitement is lacking. Can’t tell whether it’s the sickness I am trying to fight off or my lack of confidence about the C’s will to win.

The Scene

– Outside of the TD Banknorth Garden it is the usual scene. People are excited. The rowdy Irish men are in the pub’s “pre-gaming,” swarms of different ethnicities leave the local t-stations (as they’re only called in Boston), and you can feel the excitement on the outside. The inside, however, is quite different.

– It is awfully quiet in the TD Banknorth Garden. In comparison to the previous series, or even last year’s Playoffs, today seems like a (gulp) normal game. The press room is somewhat empty, the halls are quiet, Rajon Rondo arrived at the same time I did (only an hour before gametime). Doc Rivers press conference seemed either extremely serious, or as if he was disappointed. Everything seemed quiet and unfortunately by now you know, quiet is how the Celtics went.

Notes and Quotes

“We’ve only played one more actual game than them,” states Doc when asked about the extra day off and fatigue of his guys.

“If the first Game 7 (meaning vs. Chicago) is any indication I like what were looking like,” Doc says in regards to his bench players in Game 7s.

The Celtics jumbotron shows a quote from Patrick Ewing—“Even though I’m not playing I’m guaranteeing a win”.

“There are Game 7s. Then there are Game 7s in Boston,” Paul Pierce via Jumbotron.

An NBA exec on the future of the Celtics—“Give it one more year with KG then blow up the Big Three for draft picks and money. Start over with Rondo and Baby.”

Game Notes

Whether it was the lack of Garnett, a missing Powe, or more likely a better team in Orlando, the Celtics possible hopes at a return to the Eastern Conference Championship vanished last night. With the loss comes the off-season. But more importantly with the loss comes fear. It was only a short time ago when losing was ever so familiar in Boston. Fear is what makes Boston fans strive. When teams win in Boston days are sunny, but when a loss occurs fear swarms through the New England fans (Red Sox and Patriots included).

The Celtics could be the next Spurs (a great team that due to age slowly goes downhill). Questions will loom. Why has Paul Pierce had a sub-par postseason? What happened to the Truth that gave LeBron 41 last year? How long can Ray’s ankles hold up?

Let’s give Orlando some credit—actually rephrase—let’s give the players some credit. Stan Van Gundy is a good coach. Does he panic? Yes, but not even he can mess up a 20-point lead. As a Celtics fan I am going to sulk now. I will listen to the postgame press conference, wonder what could have been had KG made a surprise appearance a la Willis Reed and remember the early 90s when the feeling I have now was the norm. Boston is no longer invincible. KG seems like a thing of the past. For now I will just have to settle for watching a 6-8, 270-pound monster known as LeBron.

**I concurrently emailed my father from the garden and asked him for his post-game sentiments.

All good things must end. A heroic effort but eventually you miss Kevin Garnett. A 6-11 mean defensive rebounding machine. No lucky leprechauns tonight. Just a lot of what ifs for a championship team that gets older each day. Danny Ainge and the front office have a lot of hard work to do to plug some holes for next year’s version. The Celtics don’t lose many seventh games at home (just the fourth in 25 times). And now that they have, they start to feel less invincible and a little bit more like they have moved back to the rest of the pack. Of course we can’t forget that with KG healthy they were No. 1 or 2 all year. But if you don’t improve in today’s NBA (especially if you play in the East with LeBron), you become just another Playoff team. Lots if work to do in Celtic land…

Can KG come back healthy? How many miles does Ray Allen have left in the tank. Same for Paul Pierce, who looked surprisingly ordinary in a big game. What about Steph—do they re-sign him? With Leon Powe hurt, and KG out you can see how much they need another serviceable big man (Big Baby does not have the length to compete full time with big time centers.) Lots of 2nd Round picks on the bench (Pruitt, Giddens, Walker). How do the Celtics get younger and get better? And what about Rajon Rondo—a star in the making—but wildly inconsistent down the stretch? Lots of questions for a team with a lot of heart and character and who now has four-and-a-half months to think about how they regroup.