Like we said: Celtics in 6

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Like we said: Celtics in 6

Before the start of the CelticsHawks series, there was a legitimate consensus as to where this thing was headed.

Celtics in 6.

It was such a safe, easy and logical prediction.

Celtics in 6.

Once it hit your lips, it was so good.

Celtics in 6.

And we were all drinking it in.

So while no ones entirely surprised by the fact that we sit here today, after six games, with the Hawks in the rearview mirror and the Sixers (OK, THATs a surprise) in our sights, lets take a second to reflect on how we got here. Because even if the Celtics end result is about what we expected, the path they took to get here was anything but.

Game 1 was less than two weeks ago, but it feels more like two months, what with Al Horford and Ray Allen both long shots to see the court, with KG looking older than Hubie Brown, with the Hawks trotting out a starting line-up that featured Jason Collins and Kirk Hinrich, yet somehow dictating every aspect of the game. Bostons eventual comeback was canceled out by Rondo's ridiculous chest bump. He was tossed, the Celtics lost and you wondered if that might be it. But obviously, it was just the beginning.

Pierce threw the Cs on his back in Game 2, before Tebowing at center court. KG saved the day in Game 6, before psychologically-destroying a billionaire at the post game podium.

And in between, there was chaos.

Injuries to Pierce, Josh Smith and Avery Bradley. The return of Horford and Allen. Run-ins with Ed Malloy, Joey Crawford, Billy Boy Kennedy, Mitty Boy Romney and a brief but terrifying encounter with 2005 T-Mac. We saw significant minutes, at various times, from Erick Dampier and Marquis Daniels. We saw SO MUCH ISO Joe. A little bit of "No. 2 Overall" Marvin. At the end of Game 5, we saw Rondo steal the ball a poor man's Bird against the Pistons! before proceeding to dribble into a corner, pass the ball out of bounds, throw on a patent zebra-skin coat and nearly accost a cameraman.

Looking back, who would've thought that wed see Ray Allen shoot 57 from the foul line while Rondo shoots 50 from three-point land? That Keyon Dooling would score more than twice as many points as Mickael Pietrus? That Ryan Hollins would steal Greg Stiemsmas spot in the rotation, Brandon Bass crunch time minutes and the key to Doc Rivers heart? That Kevin Garnett would average 18.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, shoot 50 from the field, 88 from the line and average nearly 38 MINUTES a night? That we'd see the Celtics desperately try to give away TWO home games, and come damn close on both occasions?

Man, saying Celtics in 6 was so easy, wasn't it?

Watching them do it was a two-week anxiety attack.

But that's the playoffs. Things change from day-to-day, game-to-game, possession-to-unbearable-possession. There are so many times when you're so sure of everything; when it all makes sense. Two seconds later, nothing is real. I've used this analogy before but it's like constantly running back and forth between the hot tub and the pool. Every time, you know it's coming. Every time, it's such a shock to your system. After a while, you can lose your mind.

I remember my dad sending me a text down the stretch in Game 5. This was long before Rondo's steal, but after the Celtics had woken up and started to make their run.

"Crazy game."

I wrote back: "Yeah, I can't believe they're still in this."

I put down the phone, thought about what I'd just said, and shook my head:

I can't believe they're still in this?

What the hell?

Didn't we just spend the last 48 hours digging Atlanta's grave? Weren't we all so unbelievably sure that the Hawks had already quit?

Now I can't believe that the Celtics are even in the game?

But that's the way it was. Right down to last second of last night.

It will go down in the book as Celtics in 6, but we know it was much more than that. We also know that the Celtics will bare the scars from this series for the rest of their playoff run.

They may have escaped, but not without an injured Paul Pierce, a re-injured Avery Bradley and a sure-to-be-aching Ray Allen. Not without asking and taking A LOT from Kevin Garnett. Obviously, it could be worse, but the Celtics at least physically are not in great shape.

But again, that's the playoffs.

It's just as much about survival as it is skill.

The Magic lost Dwight Howard they're gone. The Bulls lost Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah they're gone. The Knicks lost Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis and a little bit of Amare Stoudemaire they're gone. And you know what? Had the Hawks played with Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia for the entire series

Whatever.

It doesn't matter.

Those teams are done.

The Celtics survived.

In six games, just like we all thought. But in six games we never could have imagined.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz in 'attack mode'

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Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz in 'attack mode'

CHICAGO -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the White Sox:

 

QUOTES

"I think the most encouraging thing was after a couple of hard-hit balls early on, he was still in attack mode.'' - John Farrell on Clay Buchholz.

"The biggest thing centers around his fastball. First inning, he might have been up a little bit. But after that, he was down in the zone and the curveball was a good compliment to that.'' - Farrell.

"Man, I tell you what -- he does it in such big moments.'' - Farrell on David Ortiz.

"If you could paint a picture, I think tonight would be just about what everybody would want to do.'' - Buchholz on his outing.

"I think everybody would be lying if they said they didn't see your numbers; you see them every day. (Being) 0-3 with a six-something (ERA) is obviously not where you want to be.'' - Buchholz.

"Hopefully, this is the start of something good coming out of him.'' - Ortiz on Buchholz.

"You feel like the luckiest man on planet earth - finally hitting the ball where no one's at!'' - Ortiz on beating the shift with a single through the shortstop hole in the seventh

 

NOTES

* When the Red Sox homer, they're 11-6.

* Clay Buchholz's win was his first since last July 10.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

* Mookie Betts has scored at least one run in 10 of his last 14 games.

* David Ortiz is now one homer from tying Carl Yastrzemski for second-most homers in franchise history at 452.

* Ortiz tied Gary Sheffield for 25th place all-time in homers with 509.

 

STARS

1) Clay Buchholz

After five straight poor outings, Buchholz turned in a gem, giving up two runs in the first, then nothing else for the next six innings.

2) David Ortiz

As he so often does, Ortiz delivered when the Red Sox needed him most, clocking a two-run homer in the fifth to turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead.

3) Jose Abreu

The White Sox slugger belted a two-run homer in the first to give him five RBI in the two games in this series.

 

First impressions: Buchholz finishes strong vs. White Sox

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First impressions: Buchholz finishes strong vs. White Sox

CHICAGO - First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the White Sox.

 

If this was some sort of must-win proposition for Clay Buchholz, he passed his test.

Buchholz found himself behind 2-0 just three batters in when he allowed a two-run homer to Jose Abreu, but he righted himself nicely after that.

Buchholz pitched seven innings and didn't allow another run. In fact, Buchholz only yielded two more hits after the first - both singles.

John Farrell said he wanted to see Buchholz attack the strike zone with his fastball, pitch with a quicker tempo and not rely so much on his secondary stuff. To varying degrees, Buchholz accomplished all three and finished strong - retiring the last 10 hitters in a row and 16 of the last 17.

 

Josh Rutledge had a nice night off the bench.

Rutledge was a last-minute addition to the lineup when Hanley Ramirez was scratched with the flu and Travis Shaw was shifted from third base to first base.

Rutledge reached base three times with two singles and a walk. One of the singles drove in the fourth run, scoring Chris Young with an important insurance run.

 

David Ortiz broke out of his U.S. Cellular slump in a big way.

Coming into the game, Ortiz was hitless here in his last 19 at-bats and when he hit into a double play in the first and flied to center in the third, that stretched to 0-for-21. Since the start of 2014, those first two at-bats made Ortiz 1-for-26.

But in the fifth, Ortiz hammered a pitch from Carlos Rodon into the seats in right for a two-run homer, giving the Red Sox their first lead of the series.

For all the talk about Ortiz's difficulty hitting lefties, he's now third among lefty batters in homers off lefthanded pitchers since last July 2.

 

The home run power continues to be in short supply beyond Ortiz.

Last season, the Red Sox didn't have anyone hit 20 homers other than the (then) 39-year-old Ortiz.

Might the same thing happen again this year?

Ortiz hit his sixth homer last night, again leading the club. Mookie Betts is the only other hitter on the Sox with more than three homers -- and he hasn't hit one in his last 58 at-bats, dating back a week and a half.