There’s a myth I’d like to put to rest, a myth the Boston Herald’s Gerry Callahan tried to pawn as truth today.
According to Callahan, the ’09-’10 Boston Celtics proved that the regular season doesn’t matter. Not to the veteran Celtics, at least. You, Gerry, you’re wrong. (Boston Herald)
On this, the first day of February, the Boston Celtics have the best record in the Eastern Conference and the second-best in the NBA, and while it may not be the biggest shocker of the season, it is certainly an upset. The truth is we didn’t expect the Celtics to go this hard for the first three months of the season because the Celtics didn’t have to go this hard. They had nothing to prove.
Last season they went on the road in the playoffs and knocked off Cleveland and Orlando, and then they pushed the Lakers to the brink in the Finals. Sure, they went 27-27 after Christmas. Didn’t mean a thing come playoff time.
The regular season “didn’t mean a thing come playoff time?” Oh, boy. Where do I start?
First, there was the blown 13-point, second-half lead in Game 7. It’s difficult to fathom the C’s losing a 13-point lead at home, in front of a crowd attending in order to support Boston’s cause. Had the Celtics won more regular-season games last year, Game 7 would have been in Boston. There, the Celtics would have found it far easier to build on that 13-point lead.
Then, there is the matter of how — in Game 7 — every bad habit the Celtics built during the regular season came back to haunt them. Miserable rebounding? Check. Shoddy fourth-quarter execution? Check. Inability to close out teams after building a big lead? Check. The regular season doesn’t just serve as a horse race with teams jockeying for playoff position; it’s also when teams build habits. And even though the Celtics bucked those bad habits through most of last year’s playoffs, they came flying back at the worst possible time — Game 7. (Which, I’ll again add, the Celtics played on the road because they didn’t win enough regular season games.)
Sure, the Celtics beat Cleveland (back when that actually meant something) and Orlando on enemy soil, without homecourt advantage. But that’s not the time-tested way to win a playoff series. The Celtics, I’ll admit, showed that winning on the road is doable. But it’s also the more difficult path, and one that severely limits a team’s margin for error.
Which is why it’s so frustrating to see the Celtics lay an egg in Phoenix, or in Washington, or in Detroit. Getting past Miami, Orlando and Chicago in the East will be tough enough. Getting by them on the road, without homecourt advantage, just makes everything tougher. If the season ended today, Boston would have homecourt advantage in the East, and homecourt advantage against any potential Finals opponent except San Antonio. They’re on pace for 63 wins, which would be quite an accomplishment, especially considering the injury problems that have plagued Boston’s second unit. But Boston’s performance against sub-.500 teams leaves a lot to be desired, and could end up seizing the Celtics’ homecourt advantage.
Thankfully, the Celtics don’t share Gerry Callahan’s line of thought. (Boston Globe)
“We know that moving forward we can’t have any hiccups,” said Ray Allen. “We’ve got to take care of business against everybody. We want to beat everybody. I don’t look any differently at anybody. I know that we are more focused in those games, but as the season progresses, we have to beat everybody.”
Things have to change. The Celtics need to start taking care of business against the league’s lesser teams.
“We learned our lesson last year as a group that looked ahead,’’ Pierce said. “I thought that was the reason for our record, then when the playoffs came, we were able to turn it on, but we’re trying to play for home court. If we had home court last year, who knows?’’
If the Celtics had home court last year, who knows? We can never tell for sure, but rest assured:
No matter how close the Celtics came to defying all odds, home court, and the regular season, do matter.