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.
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
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.