16 Games

Sixteen games separate the Boston Celtics from title 17 and the ash heap of NBA history. Or, to be more precise, 16 wins. It has been an exhilarating season, an historic season, and a record-breaking season. But for most of us, the season will be largely remembered as a failure unless the green brings home the goods.

My question of the day is which Boston Celtics team will we see in the playoffs?

No, no. Not the good Boston Celtics v. the bad Boston Celtics. I fully expect the team that beat the elite teams during the regular season to show up almost every night from April 20 through June. The bad Boston Celtics, the team that lacks cohesion on defense and turns the ball over at an alarming rate on offense, may bungle a game along the way, but that happens, even to a team as great as the 1985-86 Boston Celtics.

Instead, my question focuses on whether we will see the team that comes out like a house afire, energizing the crowd, and vice versa, a team that then proceeds to build a 20-point lead in the first twelve to sixteen minutes.

Or will we see the team that comes out a little more low-keyed, preparing for a knock-down, drag-out, four-quarter street fight?

I remember being initially disappointed with the energy level the Celtics brought to Ali-Frazier I. Having witnessed the string of blow-outs that preceded the first Celtics-Pistons bout, and having witnessed how Celtics players and fans fed off of each other during the early minutes of those blowouts, I was expecting the Celtics to beat the Pistons 144-87.

It didn’t happen. The Celtics lost in a close one.

The game was still instructive.

Looking back now, we see that the Celtics weren't necessarily flat coming out of the gate so much as they were preparing for the long haul. It's a different mind-set than one attempting to deliver a TKO in the first half, and, quite frankly, probably the mindset you want for the playoffs.

The Spurs demonstrated in Celtics-Spurs II that getting out to a quick lead isn't all it's cracked up to be. It immediately gives your opponent an objective to rally around, and gives them almost the entire game to accomplish it.

Contrast the business-like, even-keeled approach with the image we might have of KG walking the floor boards at 2 a.m. before playoff game #1 this year. Coaches and teammates like to say that KG's intensity level is more or less bearable until we get within an hour or two of game time, at which point, look out. A different KG emerges, the one who expects to dominate from the opening tip.

Now watch the above video, and you realize that come playoff time, that two-hour pre-game metamorphosis gets stretched out a bit.

Thus, we will have the cool-headed, business-like approach meeting the relentless, white-hot intensity of Kevin Garnett. The Gah-den will be pumped. KG will be pumped. The Celtics will be pumped.

I will be curious to see what happens.

My guess is we will see efforts at early TKOs at home in rounds one and two, and a more business-like approach on the road and in the Finals.

The next 16 wins should be fun to watch unfold.


FLCeltsFan said...

I don't think I have ever been this nervous going into a post season. Back in the 80s I was almost spoiled and expected them to win. It has been so long and I am so excited and nervous at the same time. I expect the focus and intensity from this team to be through the roof and the noise at the Garden should be seismic... after 20+ years, we have a contender!!!!

Lex said...

I am extremely pumped. My level of confidence is just a notch below 1986.

The talk of bynum, odom, Gasol and Kobe makes me a little nervous. But that's a ways off, and I think we can handle them any way.

This team still hasn't played it's best ball.

Not one member of the big three has played their best ball.

Bring it on!!

I'm ready.

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