On March 8 2010, the Celtics were well in the midst of a mid-late season swoon that would drop them to their worst season to date in the new Big Three era. Celtics fans were distraught, arguing back and forth about the window being closed, about who was a "real fan", who was too polyanna optimistic vs. who was too gloom-and-doom pessimistic. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce had both been in-and-out of the line-up with injuries, and after a fast start it seemed that the team had lost whatever magic they once had.
In the midst of this, I pointed out what was (to me) incredibly obvious: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are the two best players on the team, and through age/injury neither were enough on their own to carry things like they once had. But TOGETHER, they still made this team as formidable as any team in the NBA. Here was the money section of my post, which I called Sanity Check: The Elephants in the Room
When KG and/or Pierce don't play: Celtics are 9 - 10 with a scoring margin of -0.8.
When KG and Pierce both play: Celtics are 31 - 11 with a scoring margin of +7.1.
Just to complete the sanity check, that win percentage and scoring margin with both KG and Pierce playing would currently be second in the NBA, just behind the Cavs and ahead of the Lakers.
As you might recall, during that postseason the Celtics got healthy and, what-do-you-know, shocked the world by beating up on everyone in the East (including those Cavs) and coming within a coin flip of the title in 7 games against the Lakers (I was at that Game 7, and I still have nightmares about the confetti. But I digress).
Now, it's two years later. The Celtics are two years older. And without the scorching November/December start that the Celtics always get out of training came, this year's team has moved straight to the January/February swoon that they ALWAYS have every year of the new Big Three era. But with that said...the bottom line story is incredibly similar now as it was then. Forget what you heard, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are still the two best players on these Celtics. And, as coincidence would have it, whether they play or not makes a huge difference. I'll even put it in the same format as the 2010 quote above:
When KG and/or Pierce don't play: Celtics are 0 - 6 with a scoring margin of -11.7.
When KG and Pierce both play: Celtics are 15 - 10 with a scoring margin of +4.5.
Just to complete the sanity check, that win percentage and scoring margin with both KG and Pierce playing would currently rank the Celtics among the contenders in the NBA, behind only the Bulls, Heat, Thunder, and Philly and battling the Spurs (+4.7) for the last top-5 slot.
Now, is everything right in Celtics land? Of course not. No matter the situation, the team should be playing better than it is. Plus, the team has obviously struggled during periods of malaise (especially early in the year) in which Garnett and/or Pierce have both seemed to be laboring. But even with all of that, when KG and Pierce both play this team is still one of the best in the league. And if Danny doesn't blow it up, don't be shocked when once again the team suddenly seems to be dramatically better in the postseason. It's not magic...it's just that for some strange reason having their two best players on the court at the same time makes them a much better team.