Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And so it begins: Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 7:00 PM. Celtics-Knicks. Game 1.

There is definitely a shroud of uncertainty surrounding this team as they enter the postseason, but I remain confident that they can prevail. The starters will enter the postseason riding the most rest they've had since the season began, and the rest of the roster will be similarly well rested. Shaq and Delonte will presumably be back in action, but even if they're not immediately available, there is plenty for this team to feel confidently about.

The introduction of mass media to the sports world has done much to damper optimism and make all increasingly fickle. Every misstep, every injury and every losing streak is not only documented to a tee, but is analyzed, discussed, dissected and dwelt on infinitely longer than if Internet and television weren't such influential, strong forces. This fickleness has caused us all to become much more pessimistic than I think we should be. The NBA regular season is 82 games long. It is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be ebb and flow: winning streaks, losing streaks, injuries, team feuds, chemistry issues, great victories and head scratching losses. All of that is inevitable. Chicago's season has been painted as the most successful of the regular season, with San Antonio coming in at number two. Chicago undoubtedly experienced great success: Derrick Rose is a superstar and Tom Thibodeau a mastermind of a coach, but until Monday night, the number 1 seed in the East wasn't even firmly decided, that's how close the race for number one really was. 

This Celtics team endured the marathon. They may not have done it in the most graceful of manners, and they certainly didn't finish with the best time, but they made it to the end. Yes, at the onset they wanted to finish with grace and with the best time, but part of being successful is being realistic. They were not able to stay as healthy as they wanted, so adjustments had to be made and it became unrealistic to shoot for number one. That's why the starters sat against Washington. It's why the starters played limited minutes in the showdown against Chicago where they got their butts handed to them. Now, it is a sprint, and because of the adjustments that they made, they are poised to win the race. Now, they rely on their bread and butter. It's the time of year when experience, chemistry and poise are the deciding factors. It's no longer about flash or individual accomplishment, and teams that rely on those things will find themselves at home for summer quickly. 

The series against New York will likely be challenging, physical and tough, but it is a series the Celtics should win if they play their brand of basketball. That means controlling the pace, keeping Amare and Carmelo in check as much as possible, minimizing the impact of their role players and exploiting the Knicks weakness in the half court game and lack of team defense. 

P.S.: Not that you can take much from this regular season finale, but I do contest that it shows the Celtics feature more depth than the Knicks, and that is certainly a valuable asset. 

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