Irish Coffee: ‘Let’s go Celtics,’ one final curtain call
|06.08.12 at 4:32 pm ET|
Ask Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about Game 7, and like Good Will Hunting he’d probably throw Shakespeare at you, right? “Once more unto the breach, dear friends.” But he’s never been near one.
Neither have most Miamians, at least not since 2005, although they surely have many more to come in their playoff future. Meanwhile, these Celtics and their fans have experienced six Game 7’s in this five-year run of the Kevin Garnett era, including their previous series, but the “Let’s go Celtics” chants echoing to the banners above in the final minutes of Game 6 seemed to suggest: This could be it for awhile, so give us one more. Please.
‘I want to say to all the fans, ‘Thank you guys,'” said Garnett in the wake of the 97-78 loss. “I’ve never in my life experienced anything like this, in any sport. I’m just truly blessed to be a Celtic and be a part of the city of Boston. That’s what’s up to all the New Englanders around here. It’s crazy. It’s [fudge]ing crazy.’
After three straight Celtics victories in the Eastern Conference finals, Thursday night was supposed to be a Garden celebration — the undressing of the fraudulent Heat in The Emperor’s New Clothes — but instead King James ascended to his NBA MVP throne. When it was over, LeBron James had 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and one elusive victory in an elimination game that saw his Heat lead by as many as 25 points.
Of course, that didn’t stop the Celtics crowd, or the few thousand remaining, from chanting “Let’s go Celtics” over and over and over in the final few minutes of Game 6. It won’t help Paul Pierce‘s knee, Ray Allen‘s ankle or Avery Bradley‘s shoulder, but it expressed, resoundingly, thanks for the memories. It’s ironic that in a season they lost Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox to aortic ailments, these Celtics have shown so much heart.
“Did you hear our crowd the last three minutes of the game?” asked Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “What other crowd in the NBA does that? It’s a terrific place to play. The fans were unbelievable. They did their part tonight. We just didn’t do ours.”
So, the fans offered the Celtics a reminder. While few forecasted much beyond an early playoff exit from them this season, let alone a Game 7 against the hated Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, their “grit and balls” raised everyone’s expectations, and Game 6 didn’t meet them. Far from it.
“Kevin was sitting next to me, and I said these are — I know I’m biased — but they’re the best fans I’ve every played in front of, ever seen in my life,” said Allen. “They understand the situation that is before us, and we understand it. And that was basically sending us off, letting us know, ‘Hey, this is still well and alive. You guys need to go down there and get a win for us.’
“We all felt it on the bench,” added Allen. “I know the game was going on. It seemed like that three minutes lasted forever, but it was special. I’ll talk about that forever. Just knowing being down 20 and these people are still standing up, cheering us on, because they know we just have to win one game.”
Win at least one more, or Game 6 could have been the Garden curtain call for Garnett and Allen, whose contracts expire whenever this strange Celtics season comes to an end. A 19-point loss to the talents in South Beach on their home floor as the end of an era that has featured 267 victories in five seasons. Doesn’t seem fitting, does it?
The fans bid the Celtics adieu, and Rivers sent them packing, not with a suit for one game in Miami, but enough duds for Games 1 and 2 of the NBA finals in Oklahoma City as well. The coach’s postgame message on the dry erase board in their locker room was as clear as those chants from their crowd: “Pack for a week.”
“It’s a Game 7,” said Mickael Pietrus, whose guarantee of an NBA title back on March 2 seems less insane by the game. “It’s a win or go home. I’m not interested in going fishing. I’m not a big fishing guy. I’m more of an OKC guy.”
If the Celtics can capture win No. 268 of this Big Three era, they’ll reward the faithful who stayed until the final whistle with at least two more home games to wash the awful taste of Game 6 from their collective mouths.
“We have the best fans in the world,” said Pierce. “Down 20, at home, in the playoffs, and they cheer us off the court. And that’s just awesome. That’s why we have the best fans in the world.” Added Rajon Rondo: “It was unbelievable. We’ve always said this, but that just shows we have the best fans in sports, not just basketball. A lot of them stayed, and the chant was unbelievable. It’s a crazy feeling when you’re down 20.”
If they can’t manage to turn back the clock on Father Time Saturday night, if James and Dwyane Wade finally tear out this group’s heart in the Temple of Doom that could be AmericanAirlines Arena, it’ll be tough to swallow, watching such a likable bunch fall to such an unlikable one — until reason sets in. The Heat are younger, more athletic, and better. Or at least one of them was Thursday night.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends.
(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)