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Taking Celtics Pride To a New Level

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Okay, maybe not a wholly new level.   The sixteen championship teams this franchise has fielded and all those who were there to see them might have something to say about that.

But this isn't really about comparison.  Because we know that there is a long way for this team to go in order to prove themselves beside the greats of all time.  We know that for the most part, that work will have to be done from mid-April through the end of June.

But those days are still a ways away, and the truth remains that there is any number of ways in which that part of this campaign could play out.  A big part of the joy of this season has been being able to keep that ultimate goal in mind while soaking in the surrealism of the moments as they come.  

These last two nights have provided one collectively enormous moment of glory to bask in.  By regular season standards -- or otherwise, as there hasn't been much postseason success to write home about as of late for the green -- wow.  This is as proud as I have been to be a fan of our beloved Boston Celtics in a long time.

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Somehow, these last two games seem to have encapsulated everything there is to love about this team.

That they are a team.  There was no finger-pointing or dissension in the face of early-game adversity in both San Antonio and Houston.  Nope, these Celts simply went out and chiseled away deficits before turning fans' frowns upside-down and should-have-been-losses into wins.  And James Posey's lengthy pre-game hug routine may have become the stuff of legend on Tuesday night when TNT cut to him hugging Kevin Garnett as the Big Ticket headed onto the floor, cut away for several seconds and had time to cut back for several more seconds of Posey embracing and encouraging KG.

That they aren't afraid to face adversity.  Wins on consecutive nights in San Antonio and Houston.  A 22-point comeback.  A 20-point blowout the next night.  A chance to be the first team to sweep the Texas trio on one road trip since 2001 (bring on the Mavs!).

That they have grit.  It's what defense is all about.  Thirty-eight second-half points for the Spurs in San Antonio were evidence of that.  So was a stifling third quarter in Houston, in which the boys in green held the Rockets to 16 points and forced six turnovers.

That they have desire.  It showed when the Pugnacious Papoose was wrestling offensive rebounds away from the Rockets in the fourth quarter of a blowout.  And when James Posey not only made an absurd save diving out of bounds but also got back into defensive position to prevent allowing an open shot from the left corner when the Rockets recovered the loose ball.  And oh yeah, it showed when a team that has already clinched its division and knew it had three more tough games to play on this road trip didn't pack it in and give up after a miserable start in San Antonio.

That they have chutzpah.  Sure, KG's emphatic "Tank this!" dunk in traffic with two minutes left in a 20-point game in Houston probably wasn't necessary.  But it sure added a heck of an exclamation point to a great night.

That the players seem to love this just as much as we fans do.  Sure, it's a sad commentary that this might actually be the exception rather than the rule in 21st century professional sports, but there seems to be no doubt about how much this team cares.  It was evident from Pierce's delirious celebration of the aforementioned KG slam, just as it was evident when Sam Cassell and Eddie House leaped up for a gigantic chest bump (we haven't seen Eddie jump that high on the court all year)  after Cassell's trey put the Celts ahead to stay in San Antonio on Monday night.

That they keep working and aren't satisfied.  When Kendrick Perkins received a beautiful pass for on the left block for what should have been a wide open dunk, he somehow fell back into his chronic habit of putting the ball on the floor and then going up, which led to the ball getting blocked out of bounds.  A month ago, this would have led to anguished screams from the fan base, and at some point this season it still might.  But instead on Tuesday, many of us could only say something to the effect of "Yeah, that's my pet peeve with him right now, but I feel really greedy nitpicking with this guy right now after how far he has come over the past month or two."  Yep, for the first time in his Celts career, it feels like we're all playing with house money with Kendrick Perkins.  Because he keeps working to get better.  For that, he deserves credit.

That even as they become the favorites in the East, they still have their own underdog stories to tell.  Namely, Leon Powe.  Watching the feel-good story from Cal dominate the league's second-ranked defense might have been the highlight of Wednesday night.

That they have no fear.  Sam Cassell is ice with the game on the line.  The man has cojones.  'Nuff said.

That they have that magic factor.  From the "luck of the Irish" St. Patty's Day comeback on Monday to Robert Horry missing a big shot at the buzzer to Paul Pierce's unbelievable count-it-and-one contortionist lay-up in Houston to the third quarter in which they just obliterated the Rockets out of nowhere, this team just has it.  Yet at the same time...

...these C's are human, too.  Our season-long hero, Kevin Garnett, stopped all our hearts and nearly gave away the San Antonio game in the process when he failed to use a timeout and inbounded directly to Bruce Bowen with less than three seconds to play on Monday night.  Eddie House consistently drives fans crazy with his gunning tactics.  There isn't enough room to slip a credit card under the feet of the Infant when he, um, jumps.  Rajon Rondo had to be separated from Rafer Alston at the start of Tuesday night's game because sometimes, 22-year-old man-children have their emotions get the best of them, albeit just for a few seconds.

And yet all those flaws have left us smiling.  KG's because his turnover didn't come back to cost the C's, and because, well, he is the savior of our beloved team, and it would be hard to begrudge him one loss anyway.  Eddie's just because he is Eddie.  Eduardo Casa.  Gunner.  The Runaway Mouth.  Because He might be the most animated dude on the team, because he has a ton of energy, and because we know that every now and then (see: down 85-81 with less than two minutes left against San Antonio), the man is going to nail that big shot (probably from deep) that helps send us all home happy.  The Newborn's because it's impossible not to love the energy the Terrifying Toddler brings on a nightly basis, and if a 289-pound ball of energy doesn't have the world's greatest hops, eh, so be it.  Rondo's because it's nice to see the franchise point guard has some spunk.

And all the rest because the flaws on this team might well be the only way we can actually began to believe that this is real.

Because everything else that has happened this season seems like it can't possibly be so.

Yet, somehow, it is.

Whatever happens come playoff time, this Celtics team has earned our hearts and our thanks.  For giving us days like this.  And for making these days the norm, all the while never making them routine.

Just keep soakin' it all in, folks.