Celtics let opportunity slip away vs. Sixers


Celtics let opportunity slip away vs. Sixers

The same thing happened against the Hawks.

It was the night before Game 1, and over in Chicago, Derrick Rose tore his ACL, ending his season and placing the Bulls in serious danger. Back in Boston, the Celtics hadnt even taken the court for Round 1, but the conversation had already moved past Atlanta and on to the second round.

Can the Sixers beat Chicago? Either way, with Rose out of the picture, are the Celtics now a legitimate threat to move on to Miami?

Roses injury was the break that Boston was waiting for. The latest in a series of late season dominoes to fall in their favor and inject hope into a lost season. There was a time when the mere thought of the Conference Finals was more laughable than a Mickael Pietrus press conference, but with one injury, the Conference Finals became the expectation. The seas had parted, and in our eyes, all the Celtics had to do was dance down the middle, through the Hawks and whomever else.

Destination: Miami.

The next day, the Celtics laid an egg in Atlanta, and woke us from the perverted dream. Suddenly, Derrick Rose the Bulls the Sixers nothing mattered. The Cs had a battle on their hands, and spent the next five games and a whole bunch of energy and effort fighting for their playoff lives.

They eventually took down the Hawks in the first round, the Sixers in Game 1 of the second and then, it happened again.

It was the night before Game 2, and down in Miami, Chris Bosh strained his abdomen. When the dust settled, and the Heat classified him as out indefinitely we fell right back into the dream.

Another round, another major domino. Of course, Chris Bosh isnt Derrick Rose (hes barely Carlos Boozer), and his injury was nowhere near as serious. But whether hes significantly less than 100 or altogether absent, the injury presented a legitimate threat to Miamis chances.

Back in Boston, the conversation moved past Philly and onto the Conference Finals.

"Can the Celtics beat the Heat?" became "The Celtics can beat the Heat!"

There was a time when the mere thought of the NBA Finals was more laughable than a Mickael Pietrus dance party, but now it was the expectation. Or at the very least, a legit possibility. The seas were parting again, and all Boston had to do was follow their Basketball Moses down the middle.

Destination: NBA Finals.

Last night, we were all hit with another wake up call.

Suddenly, Bosh the Heat the Pacers the NBA Finals nothing matters. The Celtics have another battle on their hands. Now, they're without home court advantage against a young team that's brimming with confidence. Now, we're back to obsessing over Paul Pierce's knee, Rondo's late game decision-making, whether KG can carry them every night. From looking into the future to worrying whether there will be a future at all. It's Atlanta all over again.

And just like with Atlanta, the most frustrating part of all this is the knowledge that the Celtics are the better team.

It would be one thing if we still had that mindset from earlier in the season. When the second round was the ceiling. When the Celtics didn't have a chance. When we'd made peace with the futile end of the Big Three era and were prepared to watch them go down peacefully. Back when we had no expectations, a night like last night wouldn't have hurt so badly.

But now, things have changed. With the Celtics, and all around them. To this point, the playoffs have been like a sequel to Angels in the Outfield Leprechauns in the Backcourt (working title). We've watched the Basketball Gods strike down other teams, give KG wings and make believers out of everyone. Destiny's basically called a team meeting and is screaming in the Celtics ears: "It's right here, guys! I'm doing this all for you! Why do you have to make this so much harder than it has to be?"

But they still don't get it. Like Game 1 in Atlanta, and especially Game 5 in Atlanta, last night the Celtics missed another huge opportunity to help destiny along. To take advantage of their unbelievable good fortune and put themselves in the best position for another unlikely, yet entirely realistic trip to the NBA Finals.

But now as opposed to yesterday, and thanks to last night that potential trip to the NBA Finals, even the Conference Finals, is the farthest thing from our mind.

The Celtics once again have their hands full, and will spend a whole lot of effort and energy fighting for their playoff lives.

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

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Should Paul George or Gordon Hayward be Celtics' priority?


BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Should Paul George or Gordon Hayward be Celtics' priority?

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0:41 - Should Paul George be the priority over Gordon Hayward? Is trading for one year of George better than signing Gordon Hayward long-term? Curran, Holley, Giles, Smith discuss.

4:45 - Could a Tom Brady extension be in the works? Phil Perry joins BST to discuss Dan Graziano’s article about QB contracts in the NFL. 

9:13 - Evan Drellich and Lou Merloni join from Fenway Park to talk about the message John Farrell sent to Hanley, how the bullpen was used after Chris Sale was taken out, and the rumor that the Red Sox are interested in Sonny Gray. 

15:09 - Tom Giles and Tom Curran discuss how the Suns GM Ryan McDonough might have “tampered” with Josh Jackson to prevent him from going to the Celtics. 

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards


Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

NEW YORK - Russell Westbrook was voted NBA MVP on Monday night after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles last season.

Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season, and he broke Robertson's single-season record set when he had 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62.

The point guard beat out Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard to succeed Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards.

Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era.

Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966.

"I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards," Brogdon said. "I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot."

Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award.

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and the Rockets' Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve.

The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.

Two of the best moments came during segments that didn't include the NBA's six individual awards.

Bill Russell was presented the first Lifetime Achievement award, welcomed on stage by fellow Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. The 11-time champion as a player and the league's first black coach first pointed at them and joked that he would have kicked their butts, then told them: "You have no idea how much respect I have for you guys."

Former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams was given the SagerStrong Award for the strength he showed after his wife was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City. He was given a colorful jacket like the ones worn by Craig Sager, the longtime Turner Sports reporter who died of cancer this past season.