I know it’s easy to overreact to last night’s loss. (“Losing to the Cavaliers? They’re going to do THIS again?? They don’t give a damn about the regular season!! NOOO!!!”) I even cautioned before the game that it would be a nice measuring stick to determine the Celtics’ collective attitude this year. But there are a couple reasons why you shouldn’t be too concerned… yet, at least.
1. It was just one game – I know last night felt like deja-vu, like last year all over again. But it was just one game, people. Last year wasn’t concerning because the Celtics lost a single bad game. It was concerning because the Celtics made a habit of losing to bad teams, a habit of getting outworked by inferior opponents. They went .500 for the final two-thirds of last season, for God’s sake. They lost to the Nets. They lost to the Wizards. They lost to the Grizzlies by 20. And they lost all those games at home, and two of them with one day of rest in between games. I remind you, last night was only one game. Until the Celtics make losing ugly games the norm, I won’t be too worried. After all, as Greg Payne points out, the ’08-’09 Celtics lost to the Pacers in just the season’s third game. They went on to start the season 27-2.
2. It was a classic trap game – I know last year is clouding your vision right now. You see one bad early loss and think, “AHHH!! It’s happening again!!!!” But last night was a classic trap game. It was the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, and it followed the most historic NBA season-opener ever. I’m not condoning excuses, but… if there was ever a time for the Celtics to take a game off, it was last night.
Which is why last night was different from last season. It was a game the Celtics were supposed to struggle with, rather than a night the Celtics were supposed to take care of business. When Doc Rivers first looked at the schedule, I guarantee he circled the game against the Cavaliers and thought, “Shit, I’d better come up with one hell of a pre-game speech on that night. It’s going to be tough to motivate the troops for that one.”
At home, with a day of rest, the Celtics are supposed to blow out the Cavs. But on the road, with no rest, arriving in Cleveland late on the night before the game, coming down from the emotional high of opening night, and playing against a team attempting to prove the world wrong, the Celtics were supposed to struggle.
Maybe I’m offering the Celtics too many excuses. Maybe I should expect them to take care of business wherever, whenever, no matter how tired and weary they happen to be. But where I’m sitting, a win last night wasn’t just to be expected. It would have been one of the most impressive, mentally-strong wins the Celtics would have all season. So take it easy on them, for now.
But if they lose to the Knicks on Friday: PANIC!!!!!!!