Mike Gorman said yesterday on the Dennis & Callahan show that this year’s Boston Celtics are more unpredictable than any he’s seen in 30-plus years of broadcasting. Which got me thinking: Are the Celtics really THAT unpredictable?
Granted, they have had moments of looking bad in the postseason (think: Game 4, second half) and moments of looking like a juggernaut (see: Game 5, second half or Game 3, second half). But this is the NBA playoffs. Each game is its own universe and teams don’t generally sweep every series, even against inferior opponents. The Atlanta Hawks are a pretty good team and the Sixers are tough, too. This was never supposed to be a walk through the park.
I would go so far as to say that since 2009 (the year Garnett went down with injury but the Celtics remained built in his likeness), this is Boston’s MOST predictable team. Ever since the All-Star break we’ve known exactly what to expect every night. Kevin Garnett will score 17-20 with 8-10 boards and play dominant defense for however long he’s on the court. Rajon Rondo will register at least 10 assists every night and sometimes attack the rim enough to make us all smile. Paul Pierce will score between 15-25, Avery Bradley will provide dogged defense and plenty of backdoor cuts and occasionally make some corner threes, Brandon Bass will hit jump shots (most of the time), and the bench will play its ass off but score about as often as a soccer team. Everybody who steps on the court will contribute in some fashion, because that’s what these Celtics do. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose, but this is NBA basketball: you can’t win them all. Even then, there’s a pattern: If they rebound and take care of the ball, they normally win. If they don’t, they normally lose. They struggle through scoring droughts on most nights, but when they don’t, they play like a juggernaut because their defense is dominant.
Also keep in mind to whom we’re comparing these Celtics, and this is just in the past two seasons. The 2010 team got blown out by 30-plus points approximately 45 times in the second half of the season. Even during its postseason run to the Finals, that team was Jekyll and Hyde like no other. Check out the game-by-game scores from the Eastern Conference semis against the Cavaliers:
Game 1: lost by eight
Game 2: won by 18
Game 3: lost by 29
Game 4: won by 10
Game 5: won by 32
Game 6: won by 9
Roller coaster ride, much?
Then there was 2011, which featured another second-half swoon in which we didn’t know when the Celtics would choose to vomit all over the court, we just knew it would be soon.
For good or for bad, we generally know what to expect from this season’s Celtics. They won’t always win, but I find them to be relatively consistent, at least compared to recent versions.
I still have no idea whether they’ll win tonight. But that’s because this is basketball, even the best teams don’t win every night, the Sixers — despite their lack of a true star — are actually a pretty good squad, and the Celtics — due to their lack of an elite offense — normally need to grind out games but occasionally hit on all cylinders and look beautifully in sync.