I didn’t used to be so skeptical about the Boston Celtics. I had such confidence in them. I believed in them, no matter the circumstance. With all my heart.
Not anymore. A simple three road wins in a row can’t change that. Not against the Sacramento Kings, Kobe-less Lakers, and walking wounded Portland Trail Blazers. Not when those three wins put them only 12-13 over their last 25 games, a span stretching back to to two days after Christmas.
Are the three consecutive wins a good sign? Absolutely. And I’ll admit to you that the Celtics looked every bit the team we hoped they’d be in last night’s undressing of Portland. But I can’t believe the team they were last night is actually the team they are. Not yet.
Not when everything the Celtics have accomplished this season has been clouded by inconsistency. They started the season off strong, then faded. They can put together two good quarters, then completely fall apart during the next. They look fantastic one play, amateur the next, and simply confused on others. From one game to the next, one quarter to the next, even one play to the next, I haven’t known what I was going to get from this Celtics squad since Baron Davis’ game-winning jumper on Dec. 27.
I want to believe the Celtics are ready to take the next step. Desperately. I would give anything to have some trust in them. But just ask Tiger Woods — trust is something you can lose, and you have to earn back. Tiger said during his press conference, “As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time.” I hate to compare the Celtics to a cheating husband, and it’s probably completely ludicrous to do so. But damn it!, I’ve felt cheated over the past couple months too. The C’s have yet to earn back the trust I lost in them, and the only way the trust will be re-instilled will be by their behavior over time.
But they’re off to a good start. The second game of a back-to-back is always tough. Especially on the road. Especially after an energy-sapping one-point win against a heated rival. Especially against a formidable Portland team (even with the injuries) coming off two days of rest. Even with all those factors working against them, Boston bent Portland over and flat-out spanked them.
Not only did they put together their most complete performance since 2009, but Boston did it the Celtic Way. With stout defense, ball movement galore, and a balanced performance on both sides of the ball. They didn’t quite play 48 minutes of good basketball, but the 42 or so they patched together represented the most impressive, encouraging game the Celtics have played in quite some time.
Doc Rivers said the Celtics are “trending well.” What he means by that, I think, is that they are starting to show signs of the team they hope to be. The team they expected to be all season long. Doc likes the improvements they’ve made over the past few games. Attitude, execution and poise: All have been far better since the All-Star break.
The Celtics need to continue the same effort and attention to detail as their season winds down. Beating three squads in a row, on the road, thousands of miles away from home, is nothing to be ashamed of. Even if Kobe didn’t play. Even if Brandon Roy could be seen mouthing to his teammate on the sideline, “I just can’t explode.” Even if one of those wins was against the Sacramento Kings. Road wins in the NBA are tough to come by, and to have such a dominant, start-to-finish performance in Portland on the second half of a back-to-back was nothing short of beautiful.
But I need more. I’m not ready to claim the Celtics are back. Or that the NBA better watch out. Or that the corner is turned.
You can think the Celtics have regained their rightful spot among the NBA’s greatest teams. I’ll just sit back and watch for a little consistency before I make my judgment.
Still, I will say this:
Boston is trending well.