It's March again in Boston.
As the weather begins to break, basketball catches its second wind and kicks into high gear.
It's no secret that the Celtics are limping their way toward the playoffs with injuries galore—Kevin Garnett's knee, Scalabrine's head, Rondo's ankle, Big Baby's ankle...
When it rains, it pours in Beantown.
Despite the injuries and the 4-6 slide Boston is on, the No. 3 seed in the East is perfect for the C's. We want Philly. Not that we want an easy win, but rather, getting healthy is more important than being the top seed.
Dwight Howard and LeBron James will have a harder time in facing the bottom two teams in the playoffs.
I am not an advocate of losing, but if losing at the right time means we win at a better time, then let's do it.
All year long, the sportscasters on every network talk about who is the No. 1 team in the NBA, and no one ever disclaims that playing cohesively and trusting your fellow teammates might be far superior to winning every non-important game.
During this 10-game stretch where Boston has just four wins, the C's have learned more about who can step up and take over as the leader when KG is out.
Last season, the C's went into the postseason feeling invincible, and this year, they at least understand and respect the fact that role players are the reason you win.
Michael and Scottie had Steve Kerr and Craig Hodges (some obvious All-Stars), yet the great players always realize that "Player X" is always better than "Player Me."
Fortunately for us, the Celtics are predicated on this fact. They know that the sum of the parts equals the whole, and as anyone can plainly see, when one of the cogs in the wheel is missing, defeat is always close at hand.
All season long, everyone on the Celtics knew that anyone could get injured at any time, and someone else would ultimately be called upon to step up. But if Rajon Rondo (who, by the way, just had two consecutive 20-plus point games) gets hurt, this team cannot and will not win.
Yes, KG is the motivating voice of this team and Paul Pierce the heart and soul, but Rondo is the life blood of this team. All the other parts are there, but if he's not on the floor for an entire game, you can bet your last red cent the C's will be as lifeless as a 50-pound boulder.
Last night, we clinched the Atlantic Division Championship. In lesser cities, that would be a big deal—maybe confetti, or balloons, or even a small parade.
Here in Boston, it barely gets a mention. If it's not a championship banner, we don't want it. It has nothing to do with it not being a prize worthy of notice, but the focus is on the bigger picture—namely, the championship picture.
In an interview with CSN Sportsnet, when asked about how the recent injuries would affect the team in terms of home court advantage, Pierce highlighted the fact that they're a veteran team in some respects, and one that shouldn't need to rely on that.
Now, home court advantage is nice and does have its selling points, but to be a champion, you have to get it done at home and on the road.
In the playoffs, every win counts. So, I could give you stats till your eyes went dry, but the bottom line is winning at any cost.
These injuries have presented themselves at a rather opportune time, in that it will give the C's coaching staff a gauge to measure the real potential that certain bench players have when the game is on the line.
I say "opportune" because, being so close to the playoffs, it not only helps players like Marbury, who started the game at shooting guard, get his legs underneath them, but even the more established bench players like Glen Davis and Leon Powe get opportunities to further their skills coming off the bench.
Everyone will be held accountable, and no one will be left wondering how to close out a game.
If there's one thing this streak of losses has instilled in these players, it's toughness. That mental aspect that winning teams have, when you lose close games to teams that aren't nearly as good as you.
A depleted lineup and a close loss might be okay for some, but there are no moral victories here—just winning and losing—plain and simple.
In the week to come, expect some NBA bracketology and a breakdown of the matchups. Until then, rest assured that higher powers know exactly what they're doing, and that come playoff time, there will be no early exits.
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