The Boston Celtics are heading to the NBA Finals. Some of their biggest fans are in town in Fenway Park.
The Red Sox have been keeping a close eye on the Celtics’ success. Like the rest of us, they were swept away by the excitement of the Celtics reaching the Finals for the first time since 2010.
Before Sunday’s win over the Orioles at Fenway, Red Sox head coach Alex Cora wore a green shirt with the Celtics logo that read “Trust Boston.” He joked about the high cost of seats in the final, which begins Thursday night in San Francisco.
It just happened to coincide with the Red Sox’s rest day in the Bay Area, where they opened a series in Oakland on Friday.
“Even for (MLB players), it was very expensive to play that game,” Cora said. “We’ll find a place to look.”
Cora isn’t just a Celtics fan. He was their successful student. He kept a close eye on the team during the winter, when Ime Udoka’s team dipped below the 0.500 mark mid-season. While fans called on Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens to break the core of the team and reboot the roster, Stevens stuck with his team.
His confidence paid off.
“I like to follow other teams and see how people react to them,” Cora said two weeks ago. “At one point, people were screaming to disband the team. …I think the patience paid off.”
In fact, the Celtics had a losing record on New Year’s Eve, still hovering around .500 a month later. That’s when they had their nine-game winning streak, a game that gave them the second seed in the Eastern Conference at 26-6. They’ve eliminated the Nets, Bucks and Heat to win a trip to the Finals.
A series win over the much-loved Golden State Warriors would add to Boston Sports’ golden age. We’ve seen 12 championships here since Tom Brady led the Patriots to a last-minute win over the Rams in Super Bowl 36. All four teams have had their duck boat trips, but the Celtics have been on the clock since Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen went all-out in 2008. This was the longest dry period in the group.
Regardless of what happens in the Finals, this season has been a success for the Celtics and their first-year coach. This is the blueprint Cora wants his team to follow. People gave up when the baseball team lost its fifth straight game on May 8, dropping to 10-19 for the season. Cora’s group responded with a 13-6 score. They are still below 0.500, but with more than two-thirds of the season remaining, they are already showing signs of life.
There are other examples of teams falling early before forming a championship game. Last year’s Atlanta Braves didn’t have a winning record until August. They go on to win the World Series.
That team didn’t sit still. Warriors president of baseball operations Alex Ansopoulos struck a deal at the trade deadline and revitalized his team.
The team that plays the best at the end of the season is the team that usually succeeds in the playoffs. Game 1 on Thursday night will be the ultimate reminder of that.
Tom Caron is the studio host of the Red Sox radio on NESN. His column appears every Tuesday in the Portland News-Herald.
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