The Raefinator goes for 18, 10, and 3


Hey, they could easily be 4-0, you know. They also could easily be 1-3. But the Celtics are 2-2 after four games, having eked out a 90-88 victory last night over the Trail Blazers. And we know what Bill Parcells would say: You are what you are.

Doc Rivers might have been passing out the hemlock after this one had his fellows blown yet another late lead and left the FleetCenter with a distressing L. In fact, he said he turned to one of his assistants with four minutes left and the outcome very much in doubt, and said, "We need to win a game like this because it's happened twice already."

   No further explanation was necessary. The Celtics had blown an 18-point, third-quarter lead in their season-opening loss to the 76ers. They blew a 6-point, fourth-quarter lead two nights later in a loss to the Pacers. Last night, they led by 20 late in the first half against an at-first dispirited group of Oregonians. They needed every one of those 20 to win it at the end after Darius Miles led a late charge for the losers, which necessitated a Paul Pierce winner at the buzzer.

It's still impossibly early to tell what we have here. But the Celtics have shown more good than bad over these four games, despite the .500 record. "I've seen a lot of good. I really have," said Raef LaFrentz, who had one of those this-is-why-I'm-here kind of games with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots.

The Celtics have had maybe three bad quarters out of 12. Statistically, they are among the best shooting, best passing teams in the league. They absolutely obliterated the Knicks Saturday night; if that was the first time you saw the Celtics this season, you'd be rescheduling your June meetings. They blew out the Blazers in the first half last night, building a 20-point lead to the point where you wondered if Portland coach Mo Cheeks was going to ask for the Mercy Rule.

They looked terrific. They moved the ball. They made their shots. The second unit came out and continued the onslaught. "They were awesome," Rivers said. He wasn't guilty of hyperbole. They were terrific.

This is how it might look for three or even four quarters at some distant, unknown point. That's the plan, anyway. When that time comes, or if that time comes, the Celtics might actually be relevant again. (This was the second straight sub-14,000-attendance home game.   Rivers said he can see it coming.

"We just have to get used to winning," he said. "It's a process. We've got to get into focus and think we're going to win. Now, we're hoping. We have to cross that line. I don't know when that will happen, but it will."

Last night, the Celtics got late-game heroics from a dentally challenged Pierce. They got a heady game from Gary Payton, who had consecutive big plays out of a timeout after it looked as if the Blazers might have finally taken control. Mark Blount was able to pretty much stifle Zach Randolph down the stretch, holding the Maximum Blazer to no baskets and 1 point in the final 5:13. (No one could stop Miles, who, at one point, was 9 for 9 in the second half, almost all of them of the Flying Wallenda variety.   The Celtics even rebounded well. That constitutes a news bulletin on most nights. They wore out the Blazers on the glass in the first half, which, Rivers said afterward, was vital to the victory. (The bench rebounding totals at the half were 13-1 for the Celtics.) The final rebounding advantage was 40-39 against a team that entered the game as the No. 5 overall rebounding team in the league. (The Celtics were 28th.   "There's a lot of good," said Payton. "We should be 4-0. But we're not. I still see a lot of positives, but we can get better and we've got to focus on that, see if we can play more like we did in New York."

Unfortunately, those nights don't come around that often in the NBA. There are going to be a lot more nailbiters like last night's than 30-something-point routs on the road. They've got the expansionistas from Charlotte coming in tomorrow night, so a first step over the .500 mark seems not only likely, but realistic.

Yes, you can quibble about giving up big leads. But the Celtics have played four games and in three of them they've had leads of 17 or more points in the second half. You've got to be doing something right to get to that point - and the Celtics have done it in three of their four games.

"We're doing a great job getting the lead," Blount said. "But we're not doing a very good job keeping the lead."

No, they're not ready to challenge Detroit, Indiana, or any of the teams out west. But it's only been a week or so and, I believe, it was Rick Pitino who said, "a long journey begins with a single step." They've played one team with a winning record. They've played one road game. Still, you can look at 2-2 in more than one way. And, by doing so, it's hard not to come away right now seeing more good than bad. And that's not all bad.

No comments:

Follow by Email