If you read my game recap from last night’s comeback, you know I spent hours drooling about Boston’s second-half effort. I raved like a guy who had just seen Mila Kunis in person, panting and exulting and salivating at the glorious sight. But seeing Mila Kunis in the second half was made even more special because I spent the entire first half staring at Rosie O’Donnell.
At halftime, Doc Rivers repeatedly insinuated that his Celtics were soft. They had allowed easy shots all half, and had gotten very few good looks of their own. At one point, Carmelo Anthony began to dribble off a pick-and-roll. But who needs a pick-and-roll when your defender gives you the baseline and there’s absolutely no help whatsoever? Jeff Green ole’d ‘Melo to the hoop, Nenad Krstic was still trying to hedge the pick-and-roll that never happened, and Kevin Garnett decided not to waste his energy stepping across the lane to keep Carmelo from dunking. I immediately blamed Krstic, because that’s what I’ve begun to do—when Ray Allen misses a shot, it’s Krstic’s fault. When Paul Pierce allows a rebound to fall to his opponent, freaking Krstic should have done something about it. And when Carmelo strolled in for an uncontested dunk, it was definitely Krstic’s fault, even though (rationally) I knew there was nothing he could have done about it.
There was a lack of urgency in the Celtics’ play that was troublesome, a lack of urgency that has become more and more frequent as the season passes by. How this team looks so listless in one half, then world beaters the next, I’ll never understand. They get waxed by the Houston Rockets, then look horrendous against the Hornets for one half, then completely dominate the Hornets the next, then get murdered by New York for two quarters, then spend 24 minutes showing the Knicks who their daddy is. It’s a roller-coaster of emotions, and we fans no longer know whether we’ll see the Celtics who can turn Marco Belinelli into Larry Bird or the Celtics who can turn Carmelo Anthony into Jiri Welsch.
“That’s what I’m saying, it can’t be like that,’’ Kevin Garnett told the Boston Globe. “It can’t be a situation where you do well against two teams and then come out and not do well against one team. Our thing since I’ve been here has always been consistency. I said that if we are going to be a great team, a team of fire, we are going to have to be a consistent team. Until the new guys get our schemes, that’s going to be the challenge. That’s where we’re at right now.
“In order to be a good team, you can’t have those letdowns.’’
“We’ve been fighting ourselves somewhat the whole year,” said Ray Allen, and I get the feeling he’s not just talking about the Von Wafer-Delonte West brawl. The Celtics have been fighting off age, boredom, injuries and assorted other ailments which led to last year’s 27-27, “Cool Runnings-without-the-cheers-and-good-vibes” crawl to the finish line. For the most part, they’ve done well. They’re tied for first place in the Eastern Conference, would have home-court advantage against any team but San Antonio if the season ended today, and have already matched last season’s win total. But still, they’re missing a certain consistency—they’re missing that Cobra Kai, “put him in a body bag, Johnny” killer instinct that marked the 2007-’08 Celtics.
“Something about this team, we have an extra gear,’’ Paul Pierce told the Boston Globe. “We know when we have to turn it up. Sometimes maybe going to the ground, that’s what it takes. I’d rather us start the beginning of the game like we’ve been thrown to the ground, but hey, this is a veteran team that knows how to push a button and get a win.’’
Wouldn’t it be better if that button were always pushed on?