I hate to use cliched boxing metaphors, but they are just so appropriate. This team got knocked down last night. They've been looking kind of wobbly for the last couple weeks and they finally got clocked across the head with a hay-maker from the Bulls. Now the national media is (in some cases gleefully) counting them out. Some examples...
The Celtics may never find a suitable answer for Rose, but looking ahead to a potential Eastern Conference championship series, it should be more disconcerting that the Bulls' defense so thoroughly dominated the game, forcing Boston into an anemic 38 percent shooting from the floor. And like the Celtics of the past few seasons, Chicago did it with rigorous attention to detail and an ethos of toughness that seemed to knock Boston on its heels, even as the game stayed close through the first two and a half periods.
What Celtics coach Doc Rivers sees in the mirror at the moment scares him. And it should. During their four-year run of relentless success, the Celtics have always been the team with no doubts about who and what they were. Until now. The Chicago team the Celtics ran into -- and got run over by -- Thursday night is the only team among the title contenders in the East with a firm grasp of its identity.
He knows this, too: Eventually, the Celtics will have to come through Chicago, through Derrick Rose, to get back to the NBA Finals. Everything’s changed here. The Bulls still respect the Celtics, but the invincibility has been stripped away. Boston’s never seemed so vulnerable to them. The Celtics are wobbly on the way into the playoffs, unsure of who they are anymore, and this season’s MVP is dying for a chance to finish this job – and maybe finish off this Celtics era – in the conference finals. All through Chicago now, all through Derrick Rose.
With all that said, I wouldn't bet against this Boston team. They are just the kind of team that picks itself up off the mat, shakes out the stars in its head, and comes back swinging.
They have a good opportunity to clear their heads with a quick game against the undermanned (and terrible to start with) Washington Wizards. Sometimes the best thing to do is to play another game to get this one out of your system - even if it is a back to back. We'll see.
I'm not losing faith, but there was a clear message from the Bulls last night. They are a really good team that reminds me a lot of our team (defense, unselfish, driven). They are the best in the East for the regular season. It is up to our guys to prove we can still be the best in basketball in the postseason.