The Celtics bowed out of the 2012 NBA playoffs with a 101-88 loss in Miami in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. After the C's led for most of the game, they scored just six points in the last 8:49 of their season.
But the fact the Celts made it to within one game of the NBA Finals after losing Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Avery Bradley and Jermaine O'Neal to season-ending surgery made the run a surprise to most.
According to coach Doc Rivers, the turning point in what was looking like a lost season came after a 15-point road loss to the Thunder on February 22 that left the Celts two games under .500 heading into the All-Star break.
"We had a moment in Oklahoma City in the locker room after they blew us out," he said. "It was during the game where I made comments to our coaches about what we're going to do in the second half of the season. It was after the game that I delivered the message. And then really from that point on, we kind of gathered ourselves. Now, it took us awhile to get running, but that was an important part of our season."
"That we're going to change how we play," said Rivers. "Kevin (Garnett) was going to move to the five, Brandon (Bass) was going to be the four, and we were going to go from there. I said, 'I don't know who else off the bench is going to be in the rotation. That would have to be earned. But that's how we're playing, and that's how we're playing the rest of the year.' "
While the Celts did begin picking up their pace after that, another major hurdle came less than a month later at the NBA trade deadline. The C's were very much involved in talks that could have broken up their veteran core. Things could have changed.
"Well, I'm obviously happy that they weren't actually (traded) at that time," said Rivers. "You know, I don't really know how close. We all read about the Ray (Allen) things, so I guess that part was close. But other than that, that was it. There was nothing else that was going to happen.
"I'm a big fan of the guys we have. I'm glad that it ended up being the way it turned out.
"You know," Rivers went on, "I think it's always a process with the team, and I think it's a never ending process. And that's one of the reasons I've liked this team from the beginning. I think at times we didn't maybe follow through on the message, but I always thought they were trying to absorb the message. So this group in that way has been pretty rewarding.
"This is a good group. I've said it for a while. It's just a good group to coach. It's clearly not my most talented group, but they are a good group to coach. We have some wild personalities that all fit. When you get that, it's really nice in your locker room."