Wanna know how long ago the Jazz last played the Celtics?
As the Celtics subs finished off a 105-86 smackdown, Deron Williams marveled at how the Celtics starters laughed on the bench, clearly unworried that they would be unable to compile statistics during the fourth quarter.
Williams even credits the Celtics’ team play and unselfish attitude that day for helping Utah find the right path.
“It was a turning point in the season,” Williams said, “when we saw how they played, and we kind of wanted to emulate that.”
A blowout of a good team? A team wanting to emulate the Boston Celtics? That’s how you know that game was played a lifetime ago. Or at least on Nov. 11, when the Celtics were still shooting for 72 wins and already planning a championship parade.
The Celtics can no longer feel such confidence and haven’t blown out a good team in a millennium or so, but are starting to piece together the puzzle that confounded them for a few months. With each recent win, including two in a row in the state of Texas, the Celtics come a little closer to resembling the team the Jazz strived to emulate after that November night.
The season has been a lot different than the Celtics imagined, but the C’s seem to have come full circle and regained the magic that was M.I.A. as they sputtered to a .500 record for almost half a seasonworth of games. After the win against Dallas, ESPN’s Marc Stein noted via Twitter, “Celts might have found something in Texas. Turned it up a notch late and Mavs couldn’t deal. Saw some ol’ Celts swagger tonight.”
Some ol’ Celts swagger, indeed. The Big Three didn’t spend the fourth quarter laughing and cheering on their backups. No, they instead spent it digging out of a 7-point fourth-quarter hole and emerging with a victory, against a contender, on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back. The Celtics executed beautifully down the stretch and, in a season that has so often seen them look old and creaky, looked a step faster and a whole lot hungrier than their Dallas counterparts.
It was only one win, only one night. But, after seeing the Celtics falter time after time, watching them patch together their first significant win in months felt better than opening presents on Christmas (which, coincidentally, was the last time they had won a significant game). The win against Dallas even feels like more than a fluke. When coupled with two home blowouts and a gritty victory in Houston, it feels more like a pattern.
That pattern will be tested again tonight, in Utah. The Jazz are 28-8 at home, where the cozy confines of the Delta Center (sorry, but I refuse to call it EnergySolutions Arena) have always allowed Utah a legitimate homecourt advantage. It will be a tough task to defeat Deron Williams and co. in their own backyard, but one the Celtics finally seem ready for.
“They’re a great team,” Williams said way back when, after getting smoked by Boston. “They have a group of guys who know their roles 1 through 10. They come in, they do the job, they get stops. They don’t coast. They hold everybody accountable. That’s what it takes to be a championship team.”
They lost their mojo for a long time, but the Celtics are again starting to look like the championship team the Jazz were so impressed by in November.
The mojo is back, baby.