So, should we feel confident about the Celtics' six-game home stand that kicks off tomorrow night against the Denver Nuggets? I mean, let's be honest here, the C's haven't exactly fit the bill at home this season, have they? Normally, we'd be exuberant about this stretch of the schedule. Six straight games on familiar turf. Six straight games at the Gahden. Six straight games that, by standard NBA norms, the Celtics are expected to win. Unfortunately, their spotty 21-12 home record hasn't exactly instilled a sense of confidence in us, for, more often than not at home this season, a stellar notion of complacency has enveloped this team, and the losses have piled up as a result. Chalk it up to injuries, chalk it up to a veteran-laden roster, or anything else you might like, but point blank, the C's haven't gotten the job done at home thus far.
Fortunately, they have taken care of business on the road - a place where the cheers and shouts of support morph into jeers and unruly taunts. There's no home crowd to fall back on, and no underlying sense that things are simply expected to work out, which is often the case at home in the NBA. The good teams are expected to win at home, plain and simple. And perhaps, since the C's have had no one to fall back on but themselves when they've been away from home, that has contributed to part of their success.
Whatever the reasons are behind it, the mindset that the Celtics have played with away from Boston needs to somehow be channeled back into the heads of the players when they are playing in the Garden. That sense of reckless abandonment, along with the us-against-the-world mantra that helps produce wins on the road was present at home both in 2008 and 2009, yet has been sorely lacking in 2010.
And now, with some stiff competition about to walk through that door, the C's need to be braced with the mindset they played with when they knocked off the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks last weekend.It's easy for the really, really good teams to pick on the really, really bad teams, particularly at home. Well, the C's filled the role of the bully quite nicely when they beat up on the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons, and the New York Knicks, a mere week before jet-setting off to Houston.
Unfortunately, in a convincing handful of games prior to that, the C's failed to pick on several teams their own size. They fell, 108-88, without Paul Pierce, to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, February 25. They lost, 96-89, to the Orlando Magic, back on Sunday, February 7. The Lakers defeated them 90-89, a week earlier, on Sunday, January 31. The Dallas Mavericks crashed the Garden Party, 99-90, back on Monday, January 18. And the list goes on.
In contrast, some of the Celtics' most convincing wins of the season all took place away from Boston. There was the opening game of the season, a 95-89 decision over the Cleveland Cavaliers. There was the Paul Pierce-less effort against the Orlando Magic on Christmas Day. There was the squeaking by of the Kobe-less Lakers on Thursday, February 18. And, most recently, there were the back-to-back wins over Houston and Dallas.
And now, as the C's continue to gear up for the postseason, they are about to welcome in the Denver Nuggets, the Sacramento Kings, the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hopefully the Celtics will welcome these clubs in with nothing short of a sincere sense of utter hostility. For, with the playoffs looming, it would be nice to see this club continue to fine tune its game, re-establish the roles of its essential players, and play with the same sense of bravado that they've displayed several times on the road this season. We applauded their efforts against the Rockets and Mavericks. That aggression, that intensity (particularly on the defensive end), and that sense of calm amidst their opponents' respective runs - we all want to see more of it, for its what we expected to see all along.
And at the end of this stretch, given the competition and the close proximity to the playoffs, if we can deem it a success, then perhaps a warranted sense of hope and faith will be re-instilled in this group.