It's amazing what a four-game win streak can do for the psychology of a fanbase. The Garden gatherers have gone from lining up on the Zakim to lining up pints of Sam Adams at The Boston Sports Grille, as they discuss what a steal the Nate Robinson trade was.
A little shift in perspective and a couple Ray Allen 3-point daggers can temporarily remedy all that ails a panicking fanbase. There wasn't anything pretty about the first 42 minutes of the Celtics' 86-83 victory over the recently reconstructed Washington Wizards. This should have been a runaway victory. KG, Pierce and Ray Allen all should have been watching Scalabrine launch threes while the crowd roared with approval.
Well, that didn't happen but the C's did valiantly fight their way back from the brink of embarrassment. They staved off the Fellowship of the Miserable (hat tip to Rick Pitino) for yet another day and silenced the whispers and conjecture temporarily.
Thankfully, the Celtics' starters woke up and suffocated a young and inexperienced Wizards squad in those last eight minutes. We were a KG floor burn and timeout away from having to read columns in the Globe and Herald that would make you want to cut yourself. Instead of the blowhards on sports radio ranting about how the Patriots and Bruins' personnel moves, you would be hearing about the Celtics' consecutive Bloody Sunday performances.
However, Ray Allen buried those threes and Rajon Rondo came alive and spurred a 20-4 run. Instead of enduring an ego crippling loss, the Celtics are on a 4-game win streak. That win streak could potentially stretch out to seven games when the Celtics arrive in Cleveland next Sunday. That is a nice scenario to hope for.
Optimism can be found anywhere you look for it. While this year's team is old and injury-prone, there are still reasons to be optimistic everwhere you look. Let me give you 10 reasons to be optimistic about the Celtics. Maybe this will help you to stay clear of the Zakim if the C's happen to blow it against the Bucks on Tuesday.
10 reasons why Celtics fans should remain optimistic
10. The Celtics were able to sign Michael Finley for only the prorated veteran's minimum. They didn't have to give up any young talent or future draft picks to acquire him. This is a very solid pickup. Nobody expects Finley to score 20 points per game like he did during his prime years with Dallas. The good news is that the Celtics don't need him to score 20 ppg. Finley was signed to be the ninth or tenth guy off of the bench and provide veteran stability and leadership to the bench. He may be a 37-year-old former all-star but what do you expect from a guy that the Celtics were able to sign as a free agent in March. Finley is gravy and anything he adds is a bonus. He must feel that the Celtics have legitimate championship chances if he is accepting a reduced role.
9. Our bench is Mariana Trench deep. Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Marquise Daniels, Nate Robinson, Michael Finley and Tony Allen comprise the deepest bench rotation in the NBA. Many of these guys could still find starting roles in the NBA. They just need more time and practices to get used to playing with each other. We've seen flashes already where they have bailed out the starters and there is certainly better things to come from this group.
8. Who is that guy wearing No. 34? He certainly hasn't looked like Paul Pierce recently. He has only averaged 12.2 ppg through February and the early days of March. There has only been one game where he scored over 20 points during that stretch. He has been nagged by knee and thumb injuries and is trying to round himself back into all-star form. Pierce's game didn't just drop off a cliff. He has scored over 20 points in 20 games this season and that is without having to dominate the ball like LeBron, Kevin Durant or Dwayne Wade. Now more than ever, Pierce picks and chooses his spots. He knows that he has at least three other teammates that can carry the team on any given night. Pierce, however, knows that it is his job to carry the Celtics on the nights of the biggest games.
7. Say what you will about Rasheed Wallace. He hasn't quite been what every Boston fan dreamt of when they immediately placed him on their NBA 2K9 roster shortly after Gary Tanguay first leaked info on the acquisition. Rasheed has been just about what he was for the Pistons last season if you consider that he is playing 10 less minutes per game this year. His shooting percentages are down because of his struggling from behind the 3-point line but Rasheed Wallace has otherwise provided what he has contributed in each of the last three seasons. One positive development has been Rasheed's return to the post. Wallace has been successful when he has initiated his own offense from the blocks. Now he just needs to continue to park himself on the block and punish his defender.
6. Nate Robinson has been better than advertised. Most people were looking for any reason to disparage Nate and the trade that send Eddie House, Bill Walker and that other guy out of town (just kidding J.R.). Robinson gives the second unit a creative force. Robinson is somebody that can push the tempo and collapse a defense. Before the trade, the second unit would often become stagnant and rely on perimeter jumpers. Nobody could create on offense or take the ball to the rim. Tony Allen was the only player that has any success with driving to the rim but he was always liable to turn the ball over. Nate gives the second unit another dynamic that defenses have to respect. The early bonus that the Celtics have gained from the trade is the fact that Robinson has shot the 3-pointer at an Eddie House-ian clip.
5. The rumors of Ray Allen's demise had been greatly exaggerated. Much has been made about Ray Allen's performance since the trade deadline has passed. Ray has rediscovered the shooting touch that was so much fun to watch in the playoffs last spring. Allen has connected on eight of his fifteen 3-pointers so far this month. If he can maintain any semblance of that shooting stroke, then the Celtics will be a tough team to beat. Watching Ray Allen play basketball on the offensive end of the floor is an absolute treat. Let's just hope that he continues to put on the clinic that he began teaching shortly after the trade deadline passed.
4. We may be seeing the return of the defense. The Celtics have not given up over 86 points in any of their last three games. Each team that Celtics played had been able to score at least 100 points in in their five games prior to these last wins. One sure sign that the defense may indeed have returned to form is the increased amount of blocked shots by KG and Perk. The paint is starting to become a "no fly zone" again. Opponents have not feared the Celtics' defense at all this season but KG is starting to get that spring back in his step on defense, so this may change.
3. The swagger and mean streak seem to be back. Kendrick Perkins has been talking about how the Celtics can't be friendly with other teams anymore. He doesn't want to shake hands anymore. Paul Pierce had a minor dust-up with Steven Jackson and said that he thought that the Celtics could use a little more of that kind of stuff in the post game press conference. When push came to shove last night against Washington, KG and the Celtics became the instigators. KG got into Andre Blatche's face and reduced the previously hot young power forward into a turnover prone player that was looking to only shoot fadeaway jumpers. KG got up in Blatche's face and beat everyone on the Wizards to the floorboards when the Celtics needed to gain possession of a loose ball. Can you remember another time this season when any Celtic has had a crucial sequence like that?
2. It is March and every Bostonian knows what that means. With the return of spring comes hope renewed. Well, who am I kidding. March is renowned for one thing in Boston and that is St. Patrick's day. You have to figure that the luck of the Irish will rub off on their namesake basketball franchise this season and carry them through the regular season and playoffs. May the road rise to meet the Celtics and the wind always be at their backs...
1. Enough of all of this decline business. The Celtics have some older players but let's not act like they are all finished. You hear a lot about how pretty much everyone on the Celtics is performing below their career averages and this must, of course, mean that every player is toast. When you assemble a team like the Celtics with multiple star players, there aren't enough shots available for everyone to average 20 ppg. There aren't enough rebounds available for everyone to grab 10 per game. If everyone of the Celtics' 11 rotation players were scoring at their career average, that would mean that the Celtics would be scoring 145 points per game. There are not enough shots available for everyone to score, so many of the Celtics have had to adapt and find other ways to help the team. Consider this the next time you criticize Sheed, Daniels, KG or Pierce for being half the player that they used to be. These guys will be fine. They are still figuring out how to play with each other seeing that many of their key players have either missed extended time or are new to the team. Things will click with some practice and a few more games under their belts. I just can't wait to see it.