April and May 2009 — it was during the midst of the greatest year (so far) of my life. When all is said and done, this playoff series is responsible for at least shortening my life by 25 minutes.
First off, the 2008-2009 Boston Celtics were the defending champions of the good ol’ National Basketball Association. They were back on top of the pro basketball mountain after whipping the Los Angeles Lakers’ asses in the 2008 NBA Finals in six games, capping it off on Tuesday, June 17, 2008, a day and time period that I’ll always remember, be grateful for and never forget (I can’t believe it’s been over five years ago since I watched ’em win the NBA Finals).
The Celtics started off their defending champion campaign for the 2008-2009 NBA season by going on a 19 game winning streak, which lifted the Celtics to the best start in franchise history. They did it with a balance among their Big 3 (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were averaging between 16 and 19 points), solid play from the James Posey-less bench (Posey was a huge, huge, huge part of that ’08 championship winning team; after the title win, he signed with New Orleans) and the continued development of point guard Rajon Rondo, who became a star in the following 2009-2010 season.
The 2008-2009 Boston Celtics season was a damned heartbreaking one. Kevin Garnett completely damaged his right knee in February 2009, missed about 14 games, came back and further damaged it before he was shut down for the season. In the playoffs, the Celtics found themselves in a surprisingly heated battle with a young, athletic Chicago Bulls team led by flashy rookie Derrick Rose which turned into a seven game battle.
Ben Gordon vs. Ray Allen, crazy shot after crazy shot. Brad Miller coming up in the clutch for the Bulls. A series I’ll never, ever forget. In game 6, with the series in the balance as the Celtics looked to close out the Bulls as they held a 3-2 lead, the Bulls pulled out a heart-stopping 128-127 triple overtime victory that solidified how wrong I was about Joakim Noah (look up my 2007 archives…) as he outmuscled the Celtics frontcourt with rebound after rebound. Might I add that, despite the Celtics’ loss, Ray Allen poured in 51 points.
In game 7, the Bulls battled back from a 14 point deficit to turn it into a 5 point game with minutes remaining before the defending world champs pulled out a 109-99 victory to close out the series. Like I’ve written many times in the past, I’ll never, ever forget this series. Despite Derrick Rose being on the opponent side of things, he won me over as a big fan with much respect.
In the next series, the Celtics played the Orlando Magic. No need to rehash this one. The Celtics had another 3-2 series lead before falling in 7. And that seventh game against the Magic? One of the most uninspired games of basketball I’d ever watched that version of the Celtics play. The Magic went on to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Lakers in five in the NBA Finals.
I’ll talk about the 2010 NBA Finals again one of these days. Over three years later and I’m still bitter about that one as it’s still the most devastating loss I’ve ever witnessed in regards to the Celtics’ postseason history in my life.
That Celtics team should have 3-peated. Ah, well. I’ll always be grateful for that 2008 championship victory. And while I feel that if Garnett had been healthy in 2009 they would have went back-to-back, I KNOW that the 2010 Finals belonged to the Celtics before they blew their chances with a 17-point lead in game 7 on Thursday, June 17, 2010, two years to the day they’d won it in 2008. I’m too bitter to ever get over that Finals. As a whole, the entire year of 2010 was a colossal, underwhelming disappointment (understatement) in general even non-sports related.