(Note: This will be my last post until my Game 3 recap on Sunday. My apologies.)
Okay, Celtics. I get it. You're not going to make this easy.
It wouldn't be the first time. You guys haven't made it easy on yourselves in the postseason since you got your Hall of Famers together for what was supposed to be a three-year run. You don't seem to mind the pressure. In fact, you seem to embrace it.
You seem to love it when people doubt you. It gives you a sense of accomplishment when you can prove all of the doubters wrong. You embrace being that team that can never be counted out, no matter how far down you might be. You love putting the fear of God into every opponent that you face. You love the fact that your opponents constantly feel like they have to bring their A-game on a nightly basis regardless of your record or who's available on your roster at that time.
You relish these opportunities. The world doubted you in 2008 when you were the new kids on the block that had never been through the battles together and proceeded to lose six straight road games before cruising to the NBA championship. They doubted you in 2009 when your inspirational leader, Kevin Garnett, found himself wearing a suit on the sideline thanks to a knee injury and the outsiders' expectations for you went from repeating as champs to falling flat on your faces. You scratched and clawed your way through the greatest playoff series in NBA history before losing in seven games to the eventual Eastern Conference champions. They doubted you last year when you stumbled and bumbled your way through the regular season and into the fourth seed in the East, only to put on the face of a champion and come within minutes of winning another Larry O'Brien Trophy.
You don't crack under pressure. That's extremely clear. Instead, you use opportunities like these to show how strong, tough-minded and unified you are. You use opportunities like these to remind everyone of "Ubuntu," of coming together through the most difficult of times for the good of the team, even when you're the only ones who still believe in yourselves.
The world is doubting you again. After two losses against the second-best team—record-wise—in the East, you have become nothing but chopped liver to just about everyone, including a good chunk of New Englanders. Everyone is calling you old. They think you're finally over the hill. They're saying that you've hit the wall. They're making jokes at your expense, calling you elderly and putting your names and the AARP in the same sentence. They're talking about the future before the present is over and done with. They're trying to take something away from you that is still rightfully yours.
Your doubters have arrived. They're louder than ever before. They're already digging your hole and getting your gravestone ready. They've waited for this moment since the day you came together four years ago.
You've responded just about every single time. You've always kept your composure and played your best basketball with your backs against the wall. You've done what's been needed to win.
You need to do it one more time. Embrace it once again. Make the doubters doubt themselves.