Boston’s 122-103 win against Indiana on Friday night was a sight for sore eyes. And, if you’re a Boston fan, your eyes were definitely sore coming into that game. That is to say, if you hadn’t already gouged them out of their sockets after watching Boston get smoked by the Memphis Grizzlies. Whatever shape your eyes were in, that Indiana win was nice, and it came at a good time.
Already, though, it’s nothing but a memory. King James and his Band of Merry Men are next on the Celtics’ schedule, and a win against Indiana — no matter how impressive — means as little as Tiger Woods’ apology if it isn’t followed by a performance worthy of champions against Cleveland.
Kendrick Perkins said the Cavs “haven’t done anything [the Celtics] haven’t done,” but even he had to admit: Cleveland has been the NBA’s best team this season.
“I look forward to the game, seeing exactly where we are at,” Perkins told reporters. “We’re going out and competing against a great team, at home, the best in the NBA, and seeing where we are at. It would be a great confidence boost for us if we could go into their home building and get a win.”
Perk is right about the Cavs being the NBA’s best team, but dead wrong about the Cavs doing nothing the Celtics haven’t. The Cavs have played consistently well all season long. They’ve beaten good teams, on a regular basis. They’ve even beaten the Hawks! Twice. Of course, there are some things Boston has done that Cleveland hasn’t: To name just a few, losing to the Nets, making their fan base want to give up hope, and causing sports scribes all over the country to write them off.
I understand where Perkins is coming from. The Cavaliers don’t have a championship. The regular season means nothing. Yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah.
I hate to break it to you, Kendrick, but your team doesn’t have a championship either. You guys won a title, sure, but it was two seasons ago. That championship is nothing but ancient history, a nice little ring to wear when you want to impress your friends. This year’s Celtics haven’t done shit. Not yet, at least.
But they could start today. With only 18 games remaining in the regular season, the Celtics have stressed the importance of using these final games to head to the playoffs playing good basketball. Doc Rivers took that a step further, saying that playing well has to become a habit.
So far this season, the only habit Boston has developed is inconsistency. From one quarter to the next, one game to another, nobody ever knows which Celtics are going to show up. Will they channel the Celtics of Championships Past, or the Celtics of Losing Present?
If the C’s expect to make a deep playoff run, they need to start working on the Celtics of Playoff Future. They need to beat the best the NBA has to offer, and they need to fully exert themselves when playing the NBA’s dregs too. They need to understand that four quarters isn’t a bunch of change equaling a dollar: It’s the number of solid periods they need to string together every game. They need to realize that 48 minutes isn’t just a 1982 movie starring Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy: It’s the number of minutes for which the C’s need to play hard every night.
It’s a testament to the tumultuous state of the Celtics that just about every column I’ve written has been either a rip job or a pep talk . I’m either tearing them apart, or advising them against falling apart. At no point since Christmas have I been content with the Celtics; even their brief periods of winning have always been followed by some sort of letdown, and normally a letdown of epic proportions.
By the end of today, things could be different. If the Celtics can come away from Quickens Loan Arena with a ‘W,’ I might not be content, but I’ll surely be happier than Michael Sweetney in a buffet line.
Three things to look for in today’s game:
- A ball of energy – Anderson Varejao was a huge difference in the C’s 20-point loss to Cleveland last month. His energy changed the game, bringing the Cavs alive. With Shaq out, Varejao will probably play an even bigger role today. The Celtics have to put a body on him and limit his cuts to the hoop. Knowing the size of Varejao’s motor, that’s easier said than done.
- Second unit of utter importance – Against Indiana, the C’s bench scored 54 points, including 15 by the Diminutive Dunker. When Nate Robinson and company get hot like that, Boston is extremely tough to beat.
- Paul Pierce battles the King – Before scoring 20 points in only three quarters against Indiana, Pierce had struggled to regain his scoring touch after his recent nagging injuries. Want to know what isn’t normally the best medicine for an ailing player? Matching up against the best basketball player in the world. But maybe it will bring the best out of the uber-competitive Pierce.