The Top Five Greatest Celtics Teams: #2 2007-’08 Celtics

The acquisitions of Ray Allen (left) and Kevin Garnett (center) gave Paul Pierce (right) a reason to stay in Boston.

The 2007-’08 Boston Celtics come in at the second spot on this list. This team went from last to first thanks to two shrewd trades by President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge.

After the 2006-’07 season, the Celtics finished 24-58, which marked the second worst record in the NBA behind only the Memphis Grizzlies. The Celtics had a 19.9% chance of receiving the number 1 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, but they got the 5th selection, which meant they lost a shot of drafting either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Oden and Durant were the consensus top picks in the Draft. It was just a matter of which one would be taken first. The Celtics instead suffered the worst possible outcome, but Ainge swapped the fifth choice in the 2007 NBA Draft on the day of the Draft along with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West to the Seattle SuperSonics for sharpshooting guard Ray Allen and the 35th pick in the Draft. The Celtics took Jeff Green at number five for the Sonics while the Sonics chose Glen “Big Baby” Davis. This set the stage for an even bigger move that would propel the Celtics to become title contenders before the 2007-’08 season even began.

On July 31st, Ainge pulled the trigger to acquire forward/center Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ainge shipped Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, two first-round picks, and cash for Garnett. This was the most players involved in a trade for any single player. It was a brilliant strategy that allowed the Celtics to create a super team of Allen, Garnett, and Paul Pierce.

The Celtics then signed Eddie House, another shooting guard off the bench , who could provide energy with his perimeter shooting. James Posey was brought in after he helped the Miami Heat win the championship in 2006. Posey would bring a lunch-pail attitude of defense as well as an ability to stretch the floor with his outside shooting. The Celtics also brought in Scot Pollard to provide depth in the frontcourt. Ainge attempted to lure Reggie Miller out of retirement, but he was unsuccessful.

With 13 players on the roster, the Celtics went to Rome for the 2007 NBA Live Europe Tour. During the preseason, the team, led by Garnett, came up with a term that defined their season and answered critics who questioned whether Allen, Garnett, and Pierce could play together. This word was “Ubuntu ,” and it is an African humanist philosophy that means, “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

In the anticipated season opener, the Celtics crushed the Washington Wizards, 103-83. The 6-foot-11-inch Garnett posted 22 points and 20 rebounds in his Celtic debut. Meanwhile, Allen was an efficient 5-for-10 from the floor, including 2-of-5 on three-pointers. The Celtics built a 22-point halftime advantage and they never looked back in the second half. The Celtics reeled off eight consecutive victories before they lost in Orlando against the Magic, 104-102.

The Celtics had a young, mercurial point guard in Rajon Rondo, who was in his second season after he was drafted by the Phoenix Suns before he was traded to the Celtics in the 2006 NBA Draft. Rondo was still in a developmental stage, but he had trouble with his shot. His quickness enabled him to get by most guards in the league for easy baskets or an opening for a teammate. Meanwhile Kendrick Perkins established a ferocious paint presence on the defensive end with his scowl and toughness.

The Celtics entered the All Star break with the best record (42-9). Allen and Pierce convinced power forward/center P.J. Brown to come out of retirement to sign with the organization. After Sam Cassell was bought out by the Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics brought him aboard in late February.

The Celtics finished with the league’s best mark at 66-16. With a 42-win difference from the previous season, it was the largest single-season turnaround in NBA history.

In the postseason, the Celtics had trouble with the eighth-seeded, Atlanta Hawks. Both squads won three games on their home court before the Celtics put an end to the Hawks with a lopsided 99-65 score in the deciding Game 7. Then in the Eastern Conference semifinals, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers gave the Celtics a scare. With the series knotted at three, James and Pierce matched each other in a scoring duel for the ages. James had 45 points while Pierce put up 41. A P.J. Brown jumper along with a critical James missed free throw handed the Celtics a 97-92 win to send the Celtics into an Eastern Conference finals showdown against the Detroit Pistons.

The Pistons were making their fifth straight Eastern Conference finals appearance, but the Celtics held homecourt advantage. The Celtics lost their only game at home in the playoffs in Game 2 before they beat the Pistons in Game 3. Eventually, the Celtics ousted the Pistons in Game 6 where they won on the road for the second time in the postseason.

The Celtics would meet old rival, the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Lakers made a trade to get forward/center Pau Gasol of the Grizzlies in February. They had lost their other big man, Andrew Bynum to a torn ACL earlier in the season. The Celtics received a scare when Pierce was escorted into the locker room in a wheelchair after suffering an apparent leg injury. He later emerged from the locker room to lead the Celtics to a Game 1 victory. In Game 4, the Celtics held a 2-1 advantage, but they fell behind early. The Celtics came back from a 24-point deficit to win 97-91 and climb within one victory of winning the franchise’s 17th championship. After losing Game 5 in Los Angeles, the Celtics celebrated, to the delight of their hometown fans, a 131-92 demolition of the Lakers. Pierce was named MVP of the series when he averaged 21.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.5 rebounds.

The Celtics underwent this transformation because of their players, teamwork, and defensive intensity. Garnett and assistant coach Tom Thibodeau were the primary reasons for their defense. The Celtics allowed the second fewest points in the league (90.3). They had enough veterans who were hungry for a championship, whether they had not previously won one or they were looking to add more hardware to their collection, to make the vision come together.

This season validated the greatness of Allen, Garnett, and Pierce. Garnett was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Meanwhile, Allen sacrificed his all-around scoring to be more of a perimeter threat while taking any openings. Allen nearly broke the Lakers reserve Sasha Vujacic’s knees with a crossover move in the Finals and his shooting did break the Lakers’ backs in Game 6. In the Finals, the Lakers had nobody to defend Pierce, which is something they would improve upon in the future. Pierce will go down as one of the greatest scorers in the game. The combination of Pierce’s shooting, surprising quickness, and strength allows him to score in multiple ways. Garnett’s pick-and-roll defense along with his ability to knock down outside jumpers makes him one of the best players in the league. All of these players were able to complement their games while making sacrifices to reach a goal that none of them had accomplished despite their remarkable statistical achievement.

The thrill of revisiting that magical season when all elements came together is proof that this squad is deserving of the designation of the second best team of all time.

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