I've been saying it all season: The Boston Celtics are not contenders yet. However, in their Christmas day trouncing of the Brooklyn Nets, the C's gave us a little present by showing their true potential and looking like a championship team.
Through their balanced, efficient offensive attack and defensive prowess, the Celtics looked nearly unstoppable in easily handling the talented Nets.
What's more is that the win seemed virtually effortless. The Celtics didn't need a massive performance from anyone. In fact, no player scored over 20 points on either team.
This was a credit to both the Celtics balanced attack on offense and their defense on the other end to contain scorers like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, none of whom scored over 15 points or shot better than 50 percent.
The past couple games, the Celtics had needed incredible showings from Paul Pierce just to compete (40 points against the Cavs and 35 against the Bucks) and even his performance against the Bucks wasn't enough to get a win.
This made me wonder how the Celtics could ever be a great team if transcendent play from Paul Pierce wasn't even enough to beat a team like the Bucks.
Well, this past game managed to make all of my worries subside and reminded of me the true power of this Celtics team: They are not dependent on one or two star players.
Against the Nets, the Captain, Paul Pierce, only scored eight points, as did Kevin Garnett. The Celtics had only two starters score in double digits, while the Nets had four starters in double digits, and yet the C's still dominated.
In any given game, the Celtics have ten different players that can be the leading scorer, making them incredibly hard to defend, especially when every player plays well.
On Tuesday, the bench, led by Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green, scored 43 of the team's 93 points while the starters chipped in the other 50.
As a whole, the team shot nearly 50 percent and managed to take 13 more shots than the Nets.
The C's also held Brooklyn to nearly 20 points below their season average of points per game by allowing them just 76 points.
For the Celtics, it was their best defensive showing of the season and a real step in the right direction—that direction, of course, being towards their old defensive ways.
All season, the C's have had a lackluster defense compared to previous years, and some were beginning to wonder if the defense was ever going to come along.
Finally, it seems that it is here. Just about a week before the return of defensive ace Avery Bradley, the Celtics defense we've become accustomed to decided to show back up, as did the balanced and efficient scoring that makes this team so offensively potent.
Granted, this defense, balance and efficiency doesn't make any highlight reels, but it does win games and ultimately championships.
And if the Celtics can sustain this level of parity and productivity, then they will finally become a contending team again.