Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: Celtics' Year of Endings & Beginnings

It's that time of the year when we all reflect what 2013 meant to all of us. As Celtics fans, we've had a fair share of ups and downs. These last 12 months have probably been the hardest in recent years because of the many changes that the Celtics went through and you can't help but think about 'what could have been.' It's only human nature to think in such a manner when things happen that are out of our control but nonetheless here's a few highlights and low-lights of this past year for the Celtics.

January 27, 2013: Celtics vs Heat (TD Garden, Rondo learns he has a torn ACL)

Even after starting the season 21-23, Celtics fans still had hope that the slow start only meant more rest for aging superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for a playoff run. After a loss to the Atlanta Hawks two nights before when they had squandered a 27-point lead that went into double overtime, Rajon Rondo believed he had hyper-extended his knee or pulled a hamstring in the same game against the Hawks. Little did he know, he needed further tests to determine what indeed was wrong with his right knee. After being a late-game scratch from the lineup, Courtney Lee started in place of Rondo on the Sunday afternoon game against the defending champion Miami Heat.

It's a day we won't forget anytime soon, as the game went back and fourth, news began to spread that the Celtics floor leader had indeed torn his ACL and would require immediate surgery, ending his season. By halftime the rumor was confirmed to be fact. After Rajon returned to the Garden to a standing ovation, the Celtics pulled out a double-overtime win 100-98 to beat the Heat on a day that some began to consider the beginning of the end of the new 'Big 3' era. Despite the blow to the team, Doc Rivers believed his team could still compete come April.

Three days later while the Celtics were playing the Kings, Jared Sullinger left the game in the first quarter because he was complaining about having back spasms. He was taken to a hospital where he found out he would require back surgery to repair a lumbar disk and would miss the reminder of the season.

February 10, 2013: Celtics vs Nuggets (Triple OT Sunday win at the Garden)

Boston shot 39.8% from the field and were out rebounded 65-61 against the Denver Nuggets as the NBA's two hottest teams clashed on a Sunday afternoon at the Garden. The Celtics had won six in a row and Denver was on a current nine-game winning streak. It was the wildly vets who found the fountain of youth for the Celtics. Jason Terry made a huge three-pointer (26 points off the bench) and made a defensive stop to end the game.

While KG played a season high 47 minutes and made clutch jumpers in the OT and added 20 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. But the player of the game was Paul Pierce. Pierce did his best Rondo impression when he went for 27 points, 14 rebounds and dished out 14 assists for a triple-double while playing 54 minutes in a 118-114 win at home. They went on to expend their streak to 7-0 in Rondo's absense and they found themselves moving on up in the standing as well.

The following night in Charlotte while playing the Bobcats, Leandro Barbosa injured himself on a drive to the hoop. It was determined that he torn his ACL and would miss the rest of the season. Another hit to the team's backcourt.

April 26, 2013: Celtics vs Knicks (0-3 & on the brink of elimination)

Boston went 16-6 in its first 22 games without Rondo but with the playoffs looming and Doc wanting to rest Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics finished 5-11 in their last 16 games and finished the season 41-40 (21-17 overall without Rondo). It was good enough for the seventh seed and a series match up with the second seeded New York Knicks. After losing the first two games at Madison Square Garden, the Celtics looked to bounce back at home in game three. It was the first Celtics game at TD Garden since the Boston Marathon bombings. At a time when the city needed to be uplifted, the boys in Green could not even score 80 points, losing 90-76 and were down 3-0. The only solace going into game four was the fact that Knicks forward J.R. Smith, who was ejected from the game would also be suspended for throwing an elbow to Jason Terry.

Two days later at TD Garden, the Celtics heard the message loud and clear: 'Win for the City.' Terry led the troops by scoring his team's last nine points in an overtime win, 97-90, sending the series back to New York and avoiding a sweep. Boston led by as much as 20 points, while Pierce played his best game of the series, adding 29 points.

On May 1, New York planned to end the series at home. The team went as far as wearing funeral attire, dressing in all black as they wanted to send a message to the Celtics that on this day its season would indeed be 'dead.' But Boston, were inspired from its game four win, had their most balanced game of the series. As five Celtics finished in double figures, including KG who chipped in with 16 points, hauled down 18 rebounds and dished out five assists, beating the Knicks 92-86 and forced a game six back in Beantown.

May 3, 2013: Celtics vs Knicks (Pierce and Garnett's last game as a Celtic)

Celtics were down 3-2 to the Knicks and were trying to become the first team in NBA history to win a series after being down 3-0, while New York was trying to close out Boston and win a playoff series for the first time in 13 years. Game six started off a lot like the first three games of the series. Celtics were down 21-5 in the first quarter. Pierce had gone one-for-nine from three point land and committed five turnovers. By the fourth quarter the Knicks were up 75-49 and all seemed lost until Boston went on a 20-0 run and left the Knicks scoreless for 4:43.

After a couple of defensive stops by Avery Bradley and free throws by Jeff Green, Knicks only led by four points, 79-75. Celtics were poised for a comeback but unfortunately Pierce missed a quick three-pointer from the top of the key and was also stripped (what looked like a foul) going to the hole. In the end it was not enough firepower to force a game seven back at MSG, Celtics lost the game, 88-80 and their season was over.

Some began to speculate if this game was indeed Pierce's last in a Celtics uniform as it was time for Danny to make a decision.

June 23, 2013: Doc's Swan Song (It's official, Rivers is heading to LA-LA land)

After weeks of speculating if Doc was leaving Boston or not, it was announced that after nine season with the Celtics (two trips to the NBA Finals and a championship), Rivers was let out of the remaining three years of his contract to coach the Los Angeles Clippers. He was set to make the same amount of approximately $21 million for the next three seasons, and also serve as the team's general manager of the franchise. Rivers' 417 wins made him the coach with the third best wins in Celtics history. In return, Boston received a 2015 first round pick as compensation. Celtics fans were left wondering how this all went down and why?

June 28,2013: NBA Draft Night (trades and picks)

The Celtics had the 16th pick in the draft but Danny decided to trade up with the Dallas Mavericks for the 13th pick in exchange for Boston's two future second round draft picks. Celtics selected Kelly Olynyk out of Gonzaga. Rumors regarding a trade involving Pierce and Garnett proved to be true when Danny Ainged pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal that sent the two future hall of famers along with Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks, Kris Humpries and Keith Bogans. The deal included draft picks from BK ( in 2014, 2016 & 2018).

With loaded talent coming in next year's draft class, some perceive the Celtics will want to 'tank' the season while Rondo recovers from ACL surgery to get a high lottery pick. Only time will tell what Ainge has up his sleeve.

July 12, 2013: Pierce, KG, JET are offically introduced as Nets (Hello Brooklyn)

After 15 seasons in green, The Truth held up a Brooklyn Nets jersey and said how excited he is to start a new chapter in his career. Kevin Garnett talks about how Pierce had to convince him to come to Brooklyn and that this was their best opportunity to win one more title. Ultimately they both mentioned their desire to end their careers in Boston, but it just wasn't meant to be. It was truly a sad day for Celtics Nation...
October 1, 2013: Media Day/Traning Camp (It's a New Day)
Not much hype or noise on this day like in years past, especially because there aren't big expectations for this team. Brad Stevens named Avery Bradley as his starting point guard until Rondo returns. Everyone seemed pretty positive, even Danny about the upcoming 'rebuilding' season. 
All players made it clear, no one is here to 'tank' this year!
October 30, 2013: Opening Night in Toronto (To 'tank' or not to 'tank'?)
After a 2-6 preseason finish and multiple starting lineups, the Celtics opened their season north of the border versus the Toronto Raptors. It was Brad Stevens' official NBA debut. The Celtics loss 93-87, and were without their power forward Jared Sullinger. Sully was suspended for one game by the team for being arrested and charged with domestic violence stemming from a September 3rd incident. All charges were later dropped.
Boston would go on to lose the next three games, starting the season 0-4 before getting their coach his first win in the pros on Nov. 6 against Utah and his former protege Gordon Hayward. The Celtics beat the Jazz 97-87 at home, and coach Stevens inserted Jordan Crawford as the starting point guard and swapped Sullinger for Gerald Wallace, two moves that would later became permanent. 
November 9, 2013: Celtics vs Heat (The 'Miami Miracle')
After beating the Jazz and Magic in the three days, Boston was looking to win three in a row and knock off the champs in the process. With several lead changes the entire game, it seemed the Heat would take the lead for good when they went up seven with less than two minutes remaining in the game. LeBron made two free throws to give Miami a 110-106 lead and a quick Gerald Wallace layup led to Dwayne Wade being fouled with less than one second left. 
After a missed free throw, Mr. Wade figured he would try to miss the second one on purpose to end the game. Except he hit noting but backboard, giving the Celtics a chance to either tie the game and send it to OT, or win it with a three-pointer. With only 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock and down 110-108, Brad Steven drew up the play of all plays. On a perfect inbound pass from Wallace to Jeff Green on the right corner behind the arc, a shot that was even out of reach of James's hands, Green hit a game-winning three-pointer. Boston had beat Miami 111-110 and The Miracle on South Beach was completed. 
December 4, 2013: Celtics vs Bucks (Third Time is a Charm)
Boston played 19 games in 30 days, including six back-to-backs in the month of November and went 7-12 in that span. No other NBA team had reached 19 games by the end of November. The Celtics finally beat the Bucks at home after three tries 108-100, and grabbed first place in the Atlantic Division at 8-12 where they would remain for the next three weeks.
December 8, 2013: Celtics vs Knicks (The Start of Reunion Week)
Reunion week for the Celtics began with a 114-73 victory. A 41-point win at MSG vs the Knicks on a Sunday afternoon, was the largest win by any team in the NBA this season. Two days later Boston headed to Brooklyn where they faced KG and Paul Pierce for the first time since the blockbuster trade between the two teams. Pierce came back from a broken hand helped beat his former team 104-96 at the Barclay Center.
On Wednesday Dec. 11 Doc Rivers made his first comeback to the TD Garden for the first time since leaving to coach the Clippers. The place where he called home for nine seasons received him with open arms, that included a video tribute and three standing ovations. Even after he openly admitted that he did indeed walk away from the Celtics, the Garden faithful couldn't forget all the great things he accomplished while coaching in Boston. Doc also went on to say that the best decision he ever made was the day he agreed to coach the Celtics. The Clippers beat Boston 98-88 on an emotional night.
Boston would end the week by beating the Knicks again, this time at the Garden 90-86. After blowing a 20 point lead and being down by double figures in the fourth quarter, they came back to beat their division rivals. They finish their week 2-2, by beating the Knicks twice in five days.
Decemeber 14, 2013: Rajon Cleared for Practice (Rondo watch is offically on)
After weeks of wondering when and if Rondo would be ready to come back, doctors gave the 'OK' for the veteran point guard to participate in full contact practice. The floor leader has been sidelined for almost 12 months since tearing his ACL and recovering from surgery. 
Impromtu scrimmages after practices, and workouts before games having become the norm for Rajon, even before he was physically able to return. A late January return seems to be the target and maybe a trip to the D-League might be in order to complete the rehab. In any case, it's good to see the year start and end with Rondo, who looks like he has been hitting the weight room hard as well.

Despite trade rumors and all the changes we as Celtics' fans have witnessed, the future looks bright regardless of how this current seasons ends. Boston is currently 13-18 and one game out of first place in the Atlantic division. All things considered, I believe the sky is the limit for this team, especially once Rondo returns. I hope you have enjoyed a look back on this very fasinating year for the C's. From all of us here on Causeway Street, we would like to wish you all a very safe and Happy New Year! We will see you in 2014, where anything can happen, and we difinetly see big things coming. As always we will try our hardest to continue to give you the best, we thank you once agian for all the support... much love and blessings to everyone in the New Year!

Joel Pavón

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