Moral victories are for high school teams that start four freshman, three of whom still haven’t hit puberty, the other whose face is covered by a blanket of pimples. They are for middling mid-major college teams that visit Kentucky and stare at opponents who are each half-a-head taller. They are for teams that are over-matched, out-manned and underwhelming.
They should not be for the Boston Celtics, who still start four-fifths of the starting unit that won the 2008 NBA title, came within one win of another championship two seasons ago, and were the title favorites a year ago last week, before Danny Ainge traded away Kendrick Perkins and the fangs of old age struck blood.
A moral victory? For the Celtics? During their third consecutive 15-point defeat? Gag me with a wooden back-scratcher, shoot me in the temple with a pellet gun and throw a 100-MPH heater directly at my gut.
“Every once in a while you lose a game and you have a team-building game. Tonight was a team-building game for us,’’ coach Doc Rivers said (via the Boston Globe). “I’m rarely happy, I’m still not. We lost the game. There’s still no moral victories but that was absolutely a team-builder in our locker room and that was terrific.’’
Okay, so Rivers said there are still no moral victories. But “a team-building game” sure sounds like a synonym.
The Celtics just lost their fifth straight game, their second five-game losing streak this season. Their first extended road trip of the season ended at 0-4, and a vicious, road-heavy March looms like a guillotine standing just a couple weeks into the future. They are two games under .500 almost exactly halfway through the season. Danny Ainge is considering taking a butcher’s knife to the roster, the team he presides over has scored 100 points in a game just four times all season, and only a handful of Celtics have any inkling where they’ll spend next year.
The former world champions are holding a discussion about moral victories. How about some real wins instead? Rather than battling back from huge deficits like the Celtics have done so often this season, how about starting games with a purpose? If the C’s don’t want comebacks to fall short, how about refusing to surrender 30-3 runs in the first half?
Yes, the Celtics stuck together and ground out another gritty comeback. We’ve read this story before, and we’ve even read it with an alternate ending which finished with a Celtics win, which finished with Doc Rivers hopping up and down, Brandon Bass looking like a schoolgirl who just landed a prom date with the stud quarterback, and Kevin Garnett screaming about bar fights and God knows what else. The Celtics promised then that their character was being revealed, that the win would spur them to new heights, that it was a win they could draw from in the future. Yet here we are, less than a month after the bar fight; the Celtics have lost seven of eight and hold just a one-and-a-half game cushion for the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed.
A team-building game, huh? Next time, how about a goddamn win?