Boston has shown their mental toughness by overcoming injury concerns to three-fifths of their starting lineup. The second unit was put to the test by winning without Garnett, Pierce and Rondo. They still own the best road record in the NBA and are mere percentage points behind Cleveland for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics were reeling with back-to-back losses to the Clippers and Golden State both, under .500 teams. Those same aforementioned teams gave the defending champs Los Angeles Lakers fits. The Lakers dominance over the other L.A. team ended Wednesday night. Baron Davis morphed into a basketball player for one game and the Clippers rode him to a rare victory.
Danny Ainge carefully constructed this team to match-up well with the dominant teams of the NBA. They started off their season by exorcising the demon that was Quicken Loans Area, a.k.a the home of "The Anointed One."
It started with the preseason matchup in Cleveland that the Celtics won. It was no big deal, after all preseason games mean nothing. Teams rarely utilize in-season game plan; instead they will try to work on situational rotations.
Opening night saw the Celtics with a different mindset, evidently LeBron and the LeBronnaires thought the C’s losing ways would continue. The Celtics struck quickly and often leaving a staggering Cav’s team in its wake. It was the first notch on their to-do-list. They continued to win on the road but suffered disturbing losses at home.
Christmas Day brought was considered a lump of coal for the Celt’s inadequacies on the home front. News of Paul Pierce’s strange infection injury caught them by surprise. They now faced a possible embarrassing loss without KG and Pierce in a nationally televised game. Boston simply flexed its defensive muscle, held Dwight Howard to five field goal attempts and dispelled the Magic.
Cleveland, L.A. nor the Magic could have weathered the storm under such scrutiny without their major stars. Item No. 2 on the to-do-list, serve notice to the NBA that their sum is greater than the measure of their parts.
Boston has lost six of its last 10 games, but is still in the top three in the standings and can still get home-court advantage. The next step is to beat a team that has no fear of the green ever since they first met in the Playoffs off 2008.
The Atlanta Hawks have been able to do what the Bulls could not do; bring the lessons of their playoff losses against the green to every matchup. The Hawks ravished the Celtics at home in November, they pummeled Boston on the boards. Al Horford went as far as to say that Boston doesn’t like it when other teams push back.
The Celtics will have to find a way to overcome the Hawks in Phillips Arena, dubbed "The Highlight Factory" because Kevin Garnett is still nursing a sore knee. if they do win without KG, that to-do-list will get smaller and smaller.