The win will go down in the books simply as one victory out of 30 Celtics wins. Against a lowly Washington Wizards team, the win would normally be nothing but expected, routine, perfunctory.
But last night’s 99-88 triumph was anything but normal. The Celtics needed it. Badly.
Boston had lost three straight, and common perception was that they might be on their final legs. A past contender on the way out.
If you listen to a lot of panicky folks, the Celtics’ grave had already been dug after the one-point loss to Los Angeles. Imagine what the sentiment would have been after a defeat to Washington.
After three quarters, it looked like the Celtics would find out that sentiment. But instead of letting the poor three quarters derail them from getting back in the winner’s circle, the Celtics did something we haven’t seem them do in a while, at least in crunch time. They banded together.
It was what we hoped they would do when facing three consecutive games against the NBA’s marquee teams, but that never happened. Instead, each game became worse than the last. Rashard Lewis exposed K.G.’s injury and sent the C’s away from Orlando with a last-second loss. Jamal Crawford tore out their hearts as Atlanta took out the brooms. Then Kobe Bryant stomped on whatever was left of the Celtics’ suddenly delicate psyche.
After all that, beating the Wizards became essential. A midseason win against Washington usually doesn’t mean much. Any team worth anything should beat the Wizards. But right now, the Celtics will take whatever they can get. Beating the Wizards, normally a given, became a must.
“Tonight’s game was much-needed,” Kevin Garnett told CSNNE. “We felt like we had to come out here and put above-average effort.”
“When you lose a couple in a row, the next time you win is definitely a relief,” Ray Allen explained to the Boston Herald. “It’s exorcising demons definitely for us.
“You get back to that feeling of winning and finishing out fourth quarters and doing some of the things that you want to do down the stretch.”
Coming into the season, would anybody have ever thought a game against the Wizards on February 1st would inspire such emotion from the Celtics? No way. Or people clamoring to trade Ray Allen, and the Celtics reportedly considering it? Before the season, those things were out of the realm of possibility.
But losses cloud emotions and cause panic. The Orlando and L.A. games could have gone either way, and Boston outplayed Atlanta most of Friday night. Nonetheless, those games became losses, and poor play that likely would have been overlooked in wins was magnified exponentially.
“We’re 1-3 [in this four-game stretch] and the sky is falling,” said Doc Rivers of the reaction to the losses.
“It really isn’t. This was a good team win for us. A lot of guys did a lot of good things. Rasheed [Wallace] and Kevin [Garnett] did a terrific job. The second unit held their own, and I think they got us a lead when they came out [in the fourth quarter]. Tony [Allen]’s defense, Baby [Glen Davis] gave us energy in the second half — this was a good one for us.”
Rivers talked, correctly, about the season’s sky not having fallen.
But with a gritty yet ultimately flawed win over the Washington Wizards inspiring such relief and optimism, it’s clear that the Celtics’ expectations have.