Friday, May 20, 2011
The Five: C's top moments of the year
By Greg Payne
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaThe Celtics might have failed to capture their 18th championship banner this past season, but that didn't take away from the memorable moments that took place between October and May, several of which will be etched into the NBA history books. Without further ado, here's a look back at some of Boston's best moments from the 2010-2011 campaign, in chronological order:
One possible top moment for the 2010-11 season: Ray Allen's record 3-pointer.
October 26, 2010 -- Opening night vs. the Heat
It was regarded as the most-anticipated season, season-opening game in NBA history, and why not? The Celtics, a team that shocked the NBA world by reaching the Finals in 2010 and made a host of roster moves over the offseason, was pitted against the new-look Miami Heat, a team forged around the NBA's new Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The only thing that exceeded the hype was the game itself. The Celtics held the Heat to just nine points in the first frame, but had to hold off a strong Miami comeback in the fourth quarter. James finished with 31 points for the Heat, but Paul Pierce (19 points) and Ray Allen (20 points behind 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point nation) combined for 39 points to pace the Celtics. Shaquille O'Neal was strong in his regular-season debut for Boston with nine points and seven rebounds, and Rajon Rondo dished out a whopping 17 assists. The atmosphere was electric as the Celtics sent an early message that they weren't going to wilt under the talk of Miami being the new crown jewel of the Eastern Conference.
November 3, 2010 -- Paul Pierce reaches 20,000 career points
Entering the fifth game of the regular season, Paul Pierce's resume was already stacked with things like eight All-Star Game appearances and an NBA Finals MVP award. But when he stepped to the free throw line with 13.3 seconds remaining in overtime of the Celtics' 105-102 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, he had the chance to put in his 20,000th career point -- a heralded milestone in the NBA, and one that would only be fitting for one of the best scorers in Celtics franchise history. The fact that the game was actually on the line took a backseat as Pierce calmly tossed up the free throw and sank it, reaching the 20,000 career-point plateau, and causing the TD Garden crowd to erupt in jubilation. Pierce stuck both of his hands in the air in celebration, before giving a series of short nods in response to the cheers and applause from the Garden faithful.
January 25, 2011 -- Kendrick Perkins returns to action
The deafening roar it drew from the TD Garden crowd could only be compared to those that come in response to game-winning shots in the postseason. When Kendrick Perkins -- sidelined since Game 6 of the NBA Finals while he rehabbed the torn ACL in his right knee --- stepped up from his spot on the bench and jogged to the scorer's table less than four minutes into the Celtics' 112-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the crowd erupted, standing up in unison to give Perk one of the loudest and more heartfelt ovations in recent memory. Perk gave an appreciative wave to the fans as he took his spot in the lane in anticipation of two Ramon Session free throws. Perk went to work from there, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds in a 17-minute season debut.
February 10, 2011 -- Ray Allen sets 3-point record
The anticipation had been building for weeks as the countdown to Ray Allen surpassing Reggie Miller as the NBA's all-time leader in 3-point field goals drew closer. Having hit just two 3-pointers in the previous game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Allen was still two shy of breaking Miller's record, but the stage was set for history in a much-hyped game against the rival Los Angeles Lakers. And Allen came out firing. He took his first 3-pointer less than five minutes in, and missed, but followed it up with his first make from distance just three minutes later -- a conversion from the right wing that tied Miller's mark. Then, three minutes after that, history was made, as Von Wafer stole the ball and handed it off to Rajon Rondo, who broke out in transition in the middle of the court and then rifled a pass to Allen on the right wing, where Allen rose up, fired, and buried it. The crowd went nuts as Allen's 2,561st career 3-pointer set the new NBA record. As fate would have it, Miller was broadcasting the game for TNT that night, and Allen jogged over to give him an appreciative hug.
May 7, 2011 -- Rajon Rondo returns from dislocated left elbow
The Celtics held a 60-50 lead in the third quarter of Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat when disaster struck. After Rajon Rondo poked the ball away from Dwyane Wade on the right wing, the two got tangled and hit the deck (some claim Wade purposely tripped Rondo), and Rondo suffered a gruesome left elbow dislocation that left him writhing in pain on the floor. He was helped off the court under the watchful eyes of team doctor Brian McKeon and head trainer Ed Lacerte, and it appeared he'd be done for the night, if not the rest of the season. But in a thrilling (and somewhat Willis Reed-like) fashion, Rondo returned to the floor and played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. He did almost everything with only his right hand, with his left arm dangling somewhat helplessly by his side. Most importantly, Rondo was impactful, one arm and all, in his time on the court in the final frame. He scored four points -- even rising up for a right-handed dunk after combining with Jeff Green for a steal-- he grabbed a rebound, and handed out one final assist as the Celtics captured a much-needed 97-81 victory (their only triumph of the series).