Blakely: Celtics continue to strive as underdogs

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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.

Avery Bradley (illness) out vs. Suns after being hospitalized Friday

Avery Bradley (illness) out vs. Suns after being hospitalized Friday

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics find themselves once again in cut-and-paste mode with Avery Bradley (sick) out for tonight's game against the Phoenix Suns.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said rookie Jaylen Brown will be in the starting lineup.

"He (Bradley) was in the hospital most of this afternoon," Stevens said. "Hopefully he'll be home soon and get some rest. It was kind of going around. Hopefully it'll stop soon."

Being out tonight brings Bradley's missed game total to a team-high 24 (18 with a sore right Achilles; four with a strained right Achilles; and one due to illness).

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

With all attention focused on overtaking the Cavs for the No. 1 seed in the East, the offseason -- trades, the draft, free agency -- is on the backburner in Celtics Nation these days.

But that pot's still simmering,

And it began to boil a little today when Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, in the middle of a story on the Clippers being at a crossroad, threw a little accelerant on that old Blake Griffin-to-Boston flame . . .

But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start — perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win. The most intriguing fit might be if he were to go home to Oklahoma to join Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, but his interests in the entertainment industry make staying in Los Angeles a priority.

Not much of a thread to grab there. But that didn't prevent cbssports.com's James Herbert from looking into it . . .  

Jumping to another contender on a max contract might not be simple. As CelticsBlog’s Keith P. Smith pointed out, Boston would have to dump Terry Rozier, waive Tyler Zeller and renounce all its free agents, including Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson, in order to even get near the amount of cap room that would be required to offer Griffin or someone like Gordon Hayward a max deal. 

Then again, Herbert says the Lakers and Thunder, Griffin's supposed other two destination spots, are even less financially flexible than the C's.

For now, it's all just a temporary diversion from the battle for No. 1.

It's also a reminder, though, that a whole new season -- the offseason -- is just around the corner.