Read the scoreboard overhead: Celtics 70, Lakers 44.
The ghostly family of 16 banners was certain to grow by one. The audience of legends --
But there was no celebrating on the court to mirror the party raging around them. No hugging. No smiling. The Celtics continued to play. There were 20 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in this long, outrageous season, and the Celtics were going to play them out.
"This is what we talked about,'' Finals MVP
No NBA champion had ever done what they were doing. The 66-win Celtics had earned the right to play Game 6 on their home court after completing the biggest improvement -- 42 games better than last year -- in league history. They were becoming the first overhauled team to win the NBA championship in its initial year together; no team since the 1948-49 expansion Minneapolis Lakers had ever won a title with two newcomers among its top three scorers.
They also became the first champion with three leading scorers over the age of 30. If they weren't going to win because they were too old, then they were going to lose because they were too new. What was happening now was undoing all of the common sense that should have been their ruin. It simply wasn't possible for them to manage what they were managing now.
"In the beginning, I thought
It was one of those deliriously happy nights that rings in your ears through the night and into the morning. On the court, Rondo was being lifted out of the pool of photographers. After limping through an ankle injury and being benched during the previous two games for playing passively, the second-year point guard would be called "the star of the game'' by Lakers coach
With 20 minutes, 48 seconds remaining, a writer in the press section was handing his folded MVP ballot with great ceremony to an NBA official. Everybody was laughing at the audacity of it, the truth of it.
Everybody but the Celtics. The countdown had reached 17:09 when
"When somebody dove on the ground for a loose ball, when somebody got a blocked shot, somebody boxed out and we got a rebound and we ran -- those were the things that made this team better,'' Allen said after setting a Finals record with 22 three-pointers overall against the Lakers. "We held each other accountable to get on the floor every time there was a loose ball, to help in rotation when somebody was beat. I mean, we just held each other accountable.''
The third quarter was ending with Garnett yelling from the bench at sixth man
This had been a franchise of young, losing players who had believed naively in trying to outscore its opponents, and one year ago Celtics VP
Doc Rivers was a coach with a career losing record before this season, and he had never won a playoff series two months ago. And yet, in September, he had hired a Duck Boat for a private tour of the championship parade route through downtown Boston he envisioned nine months down the road. On board the tour, he preached to Garnett, Pierce and Allen -- his only fellow passengers -- the importance of playing in an entirely new way, of defending first of all and sharing the ball as much as possible. No coach in the history of basketball has ever accomplished more in so short a period of time. The real parade is scheduled for Thursday ...
Allen and his fellow Celtics were smoking the net on 6-of-9 threes while shooting 62.5-percent overall in the fourth quarter, but Rivers stood tight-lipped, arms folded across his chest.
"We talked about adversity all year, and we kept saying that it had to come our way and we had to accept it and embrace it,'' Rivers would say after joining the most exclusive club in pro sports by becoming the fourth active coach to win an NBA championship. "As a group we said it together: 'No excuses, don't use them. We don't need them.' I just thought we had a very tough team mentally in that way.''
In the days after Allen learned that his young son had diabetes, after the injuries to Rondo's ankle and
I have never seen a happier bunch of guys.