Monday, March 15, 2010

Celtics Are Shown First-Hand Who the Team to Beat Is

Yesterday, Celtics' fans were buzzing. Today, they're holed up inside their own minds trying to find out how perhaps we could have evaded the last straw of doom for our Boston team. So far, we've come up with answers that aren't going to help the Celtics. Essentially, because they are answers that have been said over and over again, and that the C's have probably already figured out themselves.

Yesterday, though, we caught a glimpse of what the '07-08 Celtics looked like. The Cleveland Cavaliers are on an aggressive mission. They concretely just aren't going to let loopholes, twisted karma, or unpleasant kismet tear them from their path. They absolutely positively control their destiny, and they know that.

The '09-10 Celtics though, aren't in that same mindset. They're frustrated with the fact that drive and initiative can't come with work, discussion, and craft. It's a snowball effect that usually begins with an unfortunate impetus. Whether it happens 10 years before or the day before, it's something that sticks in their head and haunts them until they turn that memory around. Until they resurrect and rectify that horrific mistake/uncalled for blunder/whatever. The Celtics can't get there, because they are satisfied. They content. Or at least, a good chunk of the team is.

(I just wanted to point out that when Jeff Van Gundy was gushing over Andy Varejao, talking about how he's so effective by merely not giving up plays, hustling, and having been a student of the game so long that he picks up things more quickly than others -- OK, I added that last part, even though I loathe Varejao -- ABC immediately shows a pretty much sarcastic close-up of Rasheed Wallace. And then in the next couple of plays, Rasheed simply hacks at the Cavaliers that slice through the lane instead of actually trying to put a body on them or block the shot. Classic. OK, back to the un-comedic pessimism.)

I will never, ever write off the Boston Celtics. Ever. Hell, I'm so optimistic that I thought they had well-constructed teams the year Gary Payton joined the team and the year we won 24 games. Go figure. But just because I won't write them off doesn't mean I can't accept reality, or that I can't take off my green goggles. There just isn't a way that a motivated team with their type of talent couldn't be in the same championship debates with teams like the Cavs, Lakers, Nuggs, and Mavs... or the Hawks and Magic. That doesn't mean they can't turn it around at any time. But right now, they just aren't there.

And I just want to quickly point out to the fans saying that Boston may be running out of time (translation: I'm contradicting the Celticsfanatic of a few days ago) that there is no such thing as time limits for the Celtics. If they get into the playoffs and somehow get hot or regain that drive (unlikely -- considering there have been so many things that usually at least get a team pumped up for a stretch of the season that the Celtics haven't shown affected them on the court -- but still), they can do anything they want in this league. And I mean that.

Look at Ray Allen motivated (torching the league for a substantial number of games to prove the post All-Star bonanza of scoring from him wasn't a fluke). Look at a Paul Pierce motivated (27 points in 26 minutes despite being defended by a tough Stephen Jackson and a proven-defender in Gerald Wallace). Look at Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins motivated (Rondo and Perkins dominating in their respective areas, Kevin Garnett scavenging the boards like the glass is a treasure chest). Even our bench is extremely talented when they get going (Glen Davis, Rasheed, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, and Tony Allen. Wow).

I wanted to point out three things from yesterday's game, and the first is Paul Pierce. I know Pierce was pretty juiced for yesterday's game, so it was a surprise to see that LeBron was flat-out blowing by him late in the game to boost the Cavs and abuse Boston down low. Pierce was one of the few yesterday who tried to single-handedly put away the Cavs with consistent effort but just couldn't do it, so it's no secret that he was trying (for at least most of the game -- and for all of the second half).

But LeBron was using simple crossovers and a quick first step that resembled Pierce in his physical prime to eat up the opposing team's interior D (which could be an over-/understatement depending on how well you remember Pierce's ferocious scoring spurts and ability to take over whenever necessary), and Pierce couldn't do anything about it. So I guess my point here is, yeah, a few of the guys on the team are a step and a half, maybe a step slower than one or two years before. But can they get the job done as a group? Certainly, and it'd be foolish to analyze them any different.

Glen Davis, on the other hand, was our kryptonite to the Cavs and Anderson Varejao, who was beating up the Celtics' paint in every which way by playing scrappy and utilizing all opportunities given to him. He's really just a taller, more offensively gifted Leon Powe, with a bit more athleticism vertically. And those type of players can really shut down the Celtics and set a tone for their team. Glen Davis? He was getting on the floor, playing competitive, and had the same effect. The numbers don't show it, but he was clearly the player on the floor who was bugging Cleveland with his sheer edge and determination.

And lastly, I'd also like to pay tribute to Nate Robinson yesterday. Nate didn't a great shooting day, which has been rare since his arrival in Boston, but he played good defense for about a large stretch of minutes, as one of the ABC broadcasters mentioned. Despite Boston's disappointing play, he's been a glaring bright spot during these past five-10 games or so.

Go Celts.

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