While You Were Sleeping
From the Booth
By Sean Grande
Special to Celtics.com
January 2, 2008
By now, you've become familiar with the mantra.
Doc Rivers has perfected it.
His players have followed it.
Even the citizenry of Celtics Nation have been spotted thinking it, heard saying it and read posting it online.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet."
Well, let me say this.
Don't you believe it. Not for a second.
As the Celtics finished an extraordinary sweep of the four-games-in-five-nights West Coast trip on Sunday (and yes, we all realize that Salt Lake City is not near anything resembling a coast, but allow us some poetic license from time to time, will you? It just sounds better), many things are becoming clear.
And one of them is this; Doc is right. The Celtics haven't accomplished something.
They've accomplished many, many things.
Belichickian rhetoric is in vogue, no question. And that's fine. If you wear a hooded sweatshirt or a pullover fleece and your job is, you know, coaching a team.
But in real life, it makes you a killjoy.
Wednesday night, the Celtics will try to become the first 27-3 team in franchise history. And the sixth in NBA history.
Not WNBA history, not Major League Soccer history, not Indoor Lacrosse history. NBA history. A league that goes all the way back to black and white. A league that played its first game under Harry Truman (actually, it was MacKenzie King, Canada's prime minister in 1946. The first NBA game was played in Toronto and who wants to get those kind of e-mails, know what I'm saying?). A league that celebrated its 25th anniversary before any of the current team was born.
In other words, this is kind of big. It's kind of historic. And yeah, it's dare I say...an accomplishment.
It's like Kobe's 81, Reggie's 8 points in 18 seconds or George Costanza's high score on Frogger -- it needs to be appreciated and preserved for posterity.
Because it's an accomplishment. One that doesn't get erased by whatever happens in February...or April...or even in June. The Patriots lose a game these next couple of weeks, and that means they didn't accomplish anything this fall? The first 16-0 team ever? The team that's shattered every NFL record in the book hasn't done anything? Really? There's wisdom in this one game at a time thing, but if you spend this Celtics winter, the one you've been waiting two decades to enjoy, looking up for the anvil that might fall on your ahead, you're going to miss all the cool stuff in front of you.
And my friends, there is no shortage of cool stuff going on right now. Don't blink.
For five nights out West, amid the anonymity that only late night games during a holiday week can provide, the best team the NBA has to offer so far this year got even better. I realize that those 10pm starts (or like, 10:52, welcome back to the wonderful world of TNT) may not jibe with some of your schedules. If say, for example, you have a grown up job and a grown up life, and didn't decide ten years ago to up and join the circus so you could spend your middle-age sitting next to a grown man who quacks.
Just, you know, as a random example.
But if you did have to get up a reasonable hour last week, here's what you missed.
In game one, the Celtics played their best quarter of the year in taking a big halftime lead in Sacramento. Don't think that's a big deal? Ask the Knicks, Nuggets and Raptors what a good Celtics' quarter can be like this year. It wasn't even close to the best Celtics effort of the season, and they still won for the first time in California's capital in twelve years. Easily.
Twenty-four hours later, win number twenty-four. Matching the sum total of the 82-game horror film that was last year, the final fourteen wins of which took 123 days to accumulate (yeah, do the math.) A 37-point night from Paul Pierce poetically, and a real life, nationally-televised episode of 24 we could enjoy during the writers' strike, and almost as inconceivable. (Although I have to say, anyone else wonder how Jack Bauer's cell phone gets service no matter where he is? Mine flashes "Analog Roam" at the Garden, and he's got Chloe downloading schematics of the underground Kazakhstanian prison camp where they're torturing him to his PDA. Whatever.)
Last Saturday night, with half of Boston televisions tuned into the Patriots' date with history, the Celtics were making some of their own. Coming from behind, on the road, against last year's Western Conference Finalist Utah. I hope you TIVO'd it. I actually hope you were listening live on the Celtics Radio Network, but I'm a self-aware man who understands his current place in the landscape. But it may very well have been the game of the year.
And that, kids, is saying something.
The Jazz shot 55 percent against the best defensive team in the league and still couldn't beat them.
Then, the finale. It seemed like all of Los Angeles was lying in wait. After the Lakers beat the Jazz two nights earlier (a game they led by 32 after three quarters by the way), the crowd chanted, loudly, "we want Boston."
Be careful what you wish for. Because on throwback night, with the Laker girls wearing spandex, and Kurt Rambis wearing black-rim glasses, the Celtics went all Kevin McHale on them.
Sunday night at Staples Center, the Lakers were short on fabric (yes, Kwame, those shorts did make you look fat...friends tell friends the truth), short on accuracy (Kobe? 6-for-25? Are you serious? Not even the Mongoose holds the Mamba down like that) and very short on class (if not open field tackling skills. Thank you, Lamar Odom, for bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles, if just for a moment.) The Celtics were short on nothing. Oh, by the way, the Lakers had won 10 of 12, and just blown out not just Utah, but Phoenix as well on that same floor earlier in the week.
Haven't beaten anyone yet? Check. Haven't been through a long road trip? Check.
The best 29-game start in the history of the game's most storied and accomplished franchise? Yeah, check there too.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet?"
Keep saying it, Doc, that's your job and we love you for it.
But just so you know, no one out here is buying it.
FOR THE GEEK SIDE OF YOUR BRAIN...
** >From the league and for the record, the five teams who have started an NBA season 27-3 (final record before 4th loss in parenthesis)
1995-96 Chicago Bulls (41-3)
1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (39-3)
1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers (37-3)
1969-70 New York Knickerbockers (27-3)
1990-91 Portland Trail Blazers (27-3)
And for those of you who were good at "which one of these things doesn't belong here" as a kid, will note that only the '91 Blazers failed to win the NBA Title.
** All season, no one's really noticed Rajon Rondo's shooting. That is until he took over the league lead among all backcourt players in that category in mid-December (he's since dropped to 2nd behind the Jazz' Ronnie Brewer). But here's something I promise you no one's mentioned. And after all, a point guard's job isn't to shoot, it's to take care of the basketball. So how about this one: Rajon's gone 114 minutes without turning the ball over. Entering 2008, his last TO came in the second quarter of the Orlando game December 23rd. Since then, he has also has 17 assists, moving him into the top ten in a category point guards truly love, assist-to-turnover ratio.
** The sweep of the Lakers was just the second for the Celtics in the last 16 years. The other? 2002, when the green stole one in LA (a double-digit comeback in the final four minutes, followed by Kobe's game winner overruled upon further review), then clinched the first playoff berth in seven years back at the Garden against their age-old rivals six weeks later. Thursday was also the C's first back-to-back sweep in the Pacific time zone since 1991.
** The Celtics swept the road trip despite barely outshooting their opponents (44.0% to 43.5%), and shooting better from behind the three point line (44.05% ) than they did inside it (44.00%). The inside-out shooting exemplified best by Paul Pierce, who shot just 26% inside the line, and 61% outside of it (14-23) He also hit 36-of-40 from the free throw line and has knocked down 89 percent from the stripe over the last 15, just in case you were wondering.
** There are no shortage of 'this year versus last year' comparisons worth sharing, but here's one that caught my eye. Last year, the Celtics allowed an opponent to score 30 or more points on 21 occasions. This year, it's only happened twice as 2008 begins. And the kicker, both performances, by T.J. Ford and LeBron James, came in overtime. And by the way, the C's failed to win six straight at any point last year. They've already done it three times this year.