So the Boston Celtics are once again down 1-0 in a best of seven series.
So they lost the first game on their home floor. So what?
The Celtics might be down, but they aren't panicking. And something tells me they'll find a way to fight back and oust the Orlando Magic from the playoffs with or without Kevin Garnett.
That "something" is experience.
Each postseason, every NBA analyst gesticulating on your TV screen mentions it, says how "important experience is this time of year." And most of the time an "intangible" gets so much attention, it's overrated—just something for all the talking heads to blabber about.
But in the NBA Playoffs, as the Celtics have proved in the past two postseasons, experience really can make a difference. It can separate a great team like the Celtics from a young, talented team like the Bulls. Or an untested playoff team such as the Magic.
Just take Game 7 of their epic series against the Bulls, a series that has to go down as one of the greatest of all time, even if Boston is quickly dismissed from the postseason.
In that game, the Bulls' most talented player was rookie Derrick Rose. And while he was good at times—especially in the third quarter—he committed a trio of key turnovers and didn't control the game the way a veteran point guard would.
Boston's Rajon Rondo wasn't any better, but that wasn't too surprising considering he's the Celtics' youngest main-rotation player.
The guys who knew what they were doing, who knew how to handle a Game 7, were the veterans.
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen found ways to get to the free throw line in crunch time and then calmly sank the freebies. They made 16 of 17 free throws and the Celtics as a team converted 30 of 39.
And then there was Eddie House, the sharp-shooter off the bench. He'd been a no-show for much of the series, but in the deciding game, he continued to do what the team asked of him—shoot three-pointers.
And they went in...all four of them. Take away House's 16 points and we're talking about a Bulls-Magic series right now. House has been in the league for eight years and has played in his share of playoff series. He knew exactly what his role was.
Ben Gordon tried in vain to be the strong veteran presence for the Bulls, playing poorly on a bad hamstring in the second half after a quick start. Without an A-plus game from him, Chicago was left to rely on a group of very capable but inexperienced players.
Another Bulls veteran, Kirk Hinrich, came off the bench and played brilliantly. It might have seemed a surprise to the casual viewer, but he understood how to play in such a situation.
Still, the Celtics' veterans—let's not forget the eight points and three rebounds Brian Scalabrine contributed—were too much to overcome, even minus K.G.
Now, after a loss to the Magic, the masses are out saying that Boston desperately needs Garnett to combat the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard. He'd certainly help (obvious statement of the column). But Boston may also win this series without him.
Orlando is on the cusp of greatness. It has a reliable corps in Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu, plus the injured Jameer Nelson. But they're still inexperienced compared to the Celtics, and I expect that to shine through at some crucial point in the series.
Let's not forget—Boston had to survive two Game 7s and win a Game 6 in Detroit to get to the Finals a season ago. Nothing ever comes easy for the Celtics, and it certainly won't happen that way in these playoffs.
They may be exposed as thin inside sans Garnett. Their bench may have off games, as was the case, really, until Game 7 of the first round.
But these Celtics won't get beat mentally and won't let a dire situation negatively affect them.
And that can be attributed, in large part, to that word all the former-players-turned-analysts make sure to mention during each 30-second sound bite:
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