"I'm not the man I once was, but I'm all the man, once, that I ever was."
When I was little, my dad and his friends used to use that quote all the time and laugh about it as they got older. And I was reminded of it as I watched this series play out.
The Celtics were either tied or had the lead in the final minutes of four of the five games in the series, but in the end they just didn't have enough to sustain it. LeBron and Wade were like a wave...relentless and unceasing. In order to dam the waves, the Celtics needed to play at their absolute peak. They needed to be all of the men that they ONCE were. And, to their credit, each of them reached down and found that man as they could. Pierce had his game 3. Ray had his moments. KG reached into the well and pulled out one vintage, turn-back-the-clock 30/20 effort and then found it again for a quarter in game 4.
But they just couldn't sustain it. Not this year. They could be that man ONCE...they just couldn't be that man consistently. That's where age and injury really seemed to tell the story. My lasting impression from this series comes from the sideline snapshots...Rondo and Jermaine O'Neal laying on the sideline getting treatment on their backs...Shaq in a suit...KG trying to surreptitiously rub his knee without anyone noticing...there are no moral victories, but outside of the expected depression of realizing my team is out, in a lot of ways this year feels cleaner than last year's game 7. The 2010 Celtics, to me, really were as good or better than the 2010 Lakers, so it was tragic that they came up short. But after watching this series, at this time...the 2011 Celtics just weren't as good as the 2011 Heat. And it showed.
So, in line with the concept of this thread, it's time for me to say I was wrong. This year, the pundits were right. John Hollinger was right. Those that weren't willing to look at the numbers the way that I did, weren't willing to come to the same conclusions as I did...they were right. It scalds my gut to say it, but the proof is in the pudding.
The 2011 Celtics were a great team, in my eyes. Had they gotten past the Heat, I remain convinced that there is no other team in the NBA that could have beaten them this year. But, as they say, it is what it is. We had a great run this year, but we weren't the best. Here's hoping that at this time next year, I'm writing a very different message in this space.