If occasional meltdowns in the NBA weren’t inevitable, the Boston Celtics should be undefeated.
Look at the Celtics’ four losses: The first was a second-half failure against the Lebron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers. The next was a fourth-quarter breakdown of execution, against the Dallas Mavericks. The third was an embarrassment at the hands of the Kevin Durant-less OKC Thunder, and the fourth (and most recent) loss was to the Raptors — yes, the miserable, now 6-11 Raptors.
Had the Boston Celtics not fallen apart on those four separate occasions, their record would sit at 16-0. Which is why Glen Davis lost his ability to speak our language.
“We don’t know no English,” Glen Davis told the Boston Herald. Read that sentence one more time, with the eyes of an English teacher. Clearly, Davis wasn’t lying. “All we know is ‘kill.’ That’s it. No more English. Switzerland. That’s all we know is ‘kill.’ Kill, kill, kill. That’s our mentality. That’s how we have to be the rest of the season — not taking Toronto for granted, not taking Cleveland for granted. No days off. We should be undefeated right now.”
No more English. Switzerland. All the Celtics know is kill. Words that would make me far more comfortable if I hadn’t seen the Celtics play these past couple seasons, if I hadn’t seen them play down to competition like a sympathetic big brother. Don’t get me wrong, I would obviously invite a killer instinct. If the Celtics brought back the 2008 “blow teams out by as many as we can” mentality, I’d be the happiest man on earth. I just don’t see it happening.
These aren’t your 2008 Celtics. They aren’t hell-bent on proving themselves as winners to the world, and, maybe more importantly, themselves. Those Celtics were wired differently. The Big Three had never won a championship, and spent every night demonstrating themselves worthy of a title. The opportunity to thrash teams was new, and it was exciting, and it was so much fun. The Celtics, that year, weren’t just thrilled to play elite teams — they were thrilled to play every team. Being able to slap teams around was something the Big Three had never done before, and it was exhilirating. They attacked each game like Clubber Lang — the Celtics weren’t just another fighter, they were a wrecking machine. And they were hungry.
Their new squad was like a new Christmas toy. It was something to fiddle with, to enjoy, to obsess over. But before long, the novelty of a Christmas toy goes away. The Celtics grew used to smoking unworthy teams. They won a championship, and no longer had to prove themselves every night. They were champions, and nobody could take that away from them. But that hunger to win every game by thirty? That undying need to prove themselves every night? It wasn’t there anymore, and I doubt it will return. The Celtics have proven themselves champions. They don’t have to pounds sub-.500 teams into the ground anymore to convince the league’s followers of their abilities.
At one point, the only word the Celtics knew was “kill.” Kill, kill, kill. But killing, maiming every opponent in their path, no longer holds so much importance. The Celtics will be title contenders when the playoffs roll around, and that’s all that matters now. The time to prove themselves every night has passed. Now, the Boston Celtics have only one goal, and that’s to win a championship.
I agree with what you’re probably thinking: the Celtics can still win a championship while attempting to steamroll every opponent on the schedule. But at the end of the season, when everything’s said and done, a regular season loss to the Toronto Raptors will be forgotten.
There’s only one thing that can make this season a success, and it’s not a 70-win season, and it’s not accumulating forty blowouts of the league’s worst teams, and it’s not becoming the Eastern Conference’s first seed. It’s a banner, dummy.
And no matter how many times the Celtics stoop to their competition in the regular season (and I assume it will happen, at least periodically, throughout the season), I trust them come playoff time. That’s when the Clubber Lang mentality returns. That’s when the wrecking machine comes out of the closet. That’s when the Celtics forget how to speak English and remember only one word: