Blakely: Celtics continue to strive as underdogs


Blakely: Celtics continue to strive as underdogs

MIAMI A horrible start. A better, but nothing to boast about stretch up to the halfway point. A surge of success in the second half.

It was that kind of night for Kevin Garnett, who shook off a poor start shooting the ball with a dominant finish in leading the Celtics to a 94-90 Game 5 victory that has the Celtics just one victory away from a third trip to the NBA Finals in the Big Three era.

It was fitting that the C's would have a game like this which puts them on the cusp of doing what so few outside of the Celtics' payroll ever envisioned happening.

While the C's are being praised left and right these days for their resiliency, their ability to withstand an unusually heavy dose of bad breaks and worst luck, they are to a man, thankful for it all.

Without those struggles, they wouldn't appreciate the success they've had as much as they do.

But as much as they embrace this new found confidence so many others have in them, they understand all too well that this series is far from over.

Miami will come into the Garden a desperate team, well aware that their season rests on whether they can knock off the Celtics on their floor.

That's why following the Game 5 win, several questions focused on how amazing a journey this has been for the C's.

But the Celtics, much like their coach Doc Rivers, keeps the focus on the task at hand, never lingering in the past too long or looking ahead too quickly.

That's why after all the injuries and suspensions and various setbacks, like the 2-0 series hole they were in once upon a time to this Heat team, never seemed to de-rail this team from their goal - to position themselves for a run at Banner 18.

"We're just a good team," Rivers said. "A close-knit team. We have a lot of positive talk in our locker room. And I think it fuels them. Honestly, they think they can win, and we just got to keep hanging in there. I told them, 'we've done nothing.' We're playing a heck of a basketball team. So just because we're going to Boston (for Game 6), I told them, 'We have to play. They're not going to give it to us. We have to go get it.'"

It's been like that all season for this Celtics team, so why would now be any different?

But when you consider all that this team has gone through to be at this point, one win away from the NBA Finals, age suddenly becomes experience, injuries become adversity hurdles to overcome.

And this Celtics team, one that so many left for dead months ago, is alive and well, ready to storm its way into the NBA Finals where they will indeed be major underdogs and once again be considered too old (if they face Oklahoma City) or too injury-plagued (if they meet San Antonio).

But that's OK.

The 2011-2012 Boston Celtics are used to being viewed as something less than the best.

It makes the view from the mountaintop all the more enjoyable.