In the past if the Celtics had given up a third quarter lead, they would hang their heads and fail to do the little things that was necessary to get back in the game. Last night in Dallas, they dug down defensively and harassed Dirk Nowitzki into a critical turnover when the game was still in doubt.
You saw the return of Paul Pierce, who for the past few months looked like a man who couldn't figure out how to play the game with limitations.
Father time has robbed the core players of some athleticism; for players like Paul Pierce it has become more of a cerebral game. Where once they could go around, through or over their opponents they now have to do it by the numbers: fake, find the angle, and lean more on their teammates to get open.
Though he can't explode to the rim like he used too, Pierce has started to attack the rim with force and as a result his whole game has benefited. Last night in his post game presser Pierce mentioned that he really should't have been playing at all. This was a startling revelation since the Captain had been saying that injuries weren't an excuse, that they just need to hunker down and pay attention to detail.
Health is a major concern for all NBA teams, but when a team is touted to be a major contender those injuries can cause a lot of doubt to creep into their thoughts and play. The Celtics have been one of those teams who have been using patchwork schemes to mask the fact that their stars were not well.
At various points on any given day, Kevin Garnett could be seen dragging his leg like Igor following his masters bidding. Pierce moved like he was playing by the numbers and Ray Allen finally exhaled and has been playing lights out basketball since the trading deadline.
Doc Rivers would give them their orders and they would execute for awhile, but eventually the team concept would disintegrate into individualistic play. This was probably a result of the players bristling about the rumors that they lacked confidence and were no longer contenders.
Celtic fans are hesitantly optimistic because they have heard the rhetoric and want the team to turn down the attitude and raise their level of play. Through it all Doc Rivers has maintained that he likes his team and he sees them getting closer to what he envisioned them to be.
The Celtics as presently constituted need the "big three" to play smart, aggressive basketball in order to be more than a first round success story. Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkin have returned to their role of supporting cast with added benefits. The team now trusts them to make the right decision and invites them to explore their offensive limitations.
Yes, Rondo and Perk are still not able to carry the team but they are gaining the experience and knowledge that is needed to ease the transition years when Pierce, KG and Ray-Ray have retired.
The Boston Celtics have for now seemed to have answered the thorny issue of consistency that has been hounding the team since Christmas. They are now a game a head of the Atlanta Hawks and hope to maintain that position or make a push for second place in the Eastern Conference.
Celtic fans can look into the heart of the Green and see that the Celtics have finally landed on solid ground; look further and you can see joy has returned to Celtic-land because the crotchety-grizzled veterans are starting to regain their confidence and are looking for redemption.
This article is also posted on Northstationsports.com