BOSTON -- When the Boston Celtics started the season 0-3, there was doubt.
When the Celtics lost five straight in January, and then again the next month, there was doubt.
When the Celtics suffered injuries, looked tired closing out games, and battled with inconsistency, there was doubt.
The notion of the Celtics winning the Atlantic Division this season didnt seem like the most plausible outcome at points during this season. But to the Celtics, there was no doubting their ability to claim the title they have held since the 2007-08 season.
And after clinching the division on Wednesday night following a 102-98 win over the Orlando Magic, they let it be known.
You guys called us old, over, said Kevin Garnett. I heard some of your pathetic articles and some of your lousy announcers (scans group of reporters with his eyes). Its a pity. Obviously you dont know what drives us. We thank yall for those articles, appreciate it because it lit a fire under us.
The Celtics headed into the All-Star Break with a 15-17 record. Since then, they are 22-9 while facing multiple injuries and setbacks. They improved to 37-26 on Wednesday with three games left in the regular season.
Garnett points to chemistry and confidence in one another as the key to this success in the second half. He noted it is a process that doesnt happen overnight, and with less than two weeks before the playoffs, it has happened in time.
One of the hardest things Ive always said in this league is to create chemistry, he said. I knew at some point we all, as a unit, would get a rhythm and ride that rhythm out. I think thats what youve seen since the All-Star break. Weve come back, refreshed, focused.
Like I said, havent had a lot of practice time to implement a system of schemes, but we do have a core here and what youve seen up until this point to obviously come to a point to where weve won the division is not only confidence, but believing in that system and believing in that rhythm and riding that rhythm out.
Like Ive always said since Ive been here, you can rewind the tapes right now. Different outfit, no scarf, same frames, that in order to build chemistry, its a process. You just dont do that in one or two days. And were a very confident team, Ive always said that. We never lack that. To be able to come and win your division is a huge thing. All those things combined is what you got today.
The Celtics are on the same page on and off the court. Prior to Garnetts postgame interview, Keyon Dooling echoed the same sentiments of being counted out by the critics.
Everybody pretty much wrote us off, talking about how old we were, how washed up we were, Dooling said. We all, internally, never bought into that. Obviously coming out of a condensed season when theres a lockout and from a conditioning standpoint, we werent were we wanted to be earlier in the season. But we know as we continue to get healthy, continue to round ourselves out into shape, we will be here at the end.
With that confidence is also focus. The Celtics goals are far bigger than the Atlantic Division. All the banners in the rafters represent the ultimate title and serve as constant reminders of the task at hand.
Im not about to go pop some champagne bottles or anything like that, said Paul Pierce. I know they do in baseball. I mean, it is a good accomplishment. The guys should recognize where we came from to what we are today. Its a good accomplishment, I guess. But all we care about around here is a championship banner. I guess its just a step towards the journey we are trying to go towards.