The Celtics aren’t done yet. If they have their way, today’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers will only be the beginning of something special.
“We still believe we can win a championship,” said Paul Pierce. “We still believe in one another.”
Still believe? After three straight home losses? After months of underachieving? After proving — yet again — that no team, no matter how talentless or injury-riddled, should come into the Boston Garden and expect defeat?
“This team has been through a lot of adversity,” Pierce continued. “For us to still be together, to still talk about it, I have a lot of confidence [in this team].”
Confidence, bred only from the success off seasons past, is the only thing keeping anyone’s slim faith in the Boston Celtics. This season has done nothing to inspire hope, but there remains a far-fetched dream that championship experience will be enough to bring everything together for a playoff run. That the regular season is nothing but a mirage, a bored team going through the motions, half injured and half uninterested, waiting to unleash an unexpected fury once the games truly mean something.
Is it foolish to hold hope? To not have given up a long time ago? To think there is a possibility that Boston could win today against Cleveland, rejuvenate a fan base and kick it into gear for the playoffs? Could it happen?
Cleveland coach Mike Brown thinks so.
“I don’t buy any of that ‘they’re too old’ or ‘they’re done,’” he said. “Going into their building is always tough on anybody. It’s not going to be any different [Sunday] afternoon. You still feel it’s a ‘big game.’”
But you only feel it’s a big game because of the Celtics’ reputation. Nothing they’ve done this year has contributed to the feeling that this Easter game means anything more than any other Sunday matinee. The Celtics are skidding, at the wrong time, and could desperately use a win against Cleveland for oh-so-many reasons.
“At this point in the season,” said Pierce, “especially with the way we’ve been playing right now, to get a win at home against Cleveland, the team with the best record in the NBA, it’s something we can use especially this late in the season going into the playoffs.”
“It’s important in the fact that we’ve lost three in a row,” explained Doc Rivers, “and it would be great to win a game and it would be great to beat Cleveland.”
Beyond the win streak, and the whole “big game” thing, the Celtics need to sharpen consistency on both ends of the floor.
“What’s important for us is that we did a lot of good things the last two games and lost,” Rivers continued. “Offensively, where we had been struggling, now we’re shooting 60 and 50-whatever percent. But then defensively the last two nights we’ve struggled. So now we have to go back and fix some of that. That’s just how it’s been this year.”
Then there’s the whole aspect of winning at home.
“Fortunately we’ve been phenomenal on the road to take up some of the slack at home,” said Rivers. “And we still also understand that homecourt is very important. It’s amazing. We’ve played better on the road. Having said that, you all know and we all know that homecourt is very important if you can get it in the playoffs.”
Add it all up — the potential to snap a three-game losing streak, to beat a great team, to begin a consistent playoff push, and to end the home woes, all at the same time — and a win today, against King James and his Merry Men, could very well turn the tide of the entire season.
No pressure, though, Celtics.