1) Seeds Of Springtime
Beyond the sweet sensation of Piston pummeling, the result of last night's contest put the teams on new paths. Had Detroit won, the rest of the season would have been a steel cage Hillary/Obama fight to the end; but that didn't happen. With only 23 Celtic games left the Pistons are now 5 back in the loss column and also lose the head to head tiebreaker.
The race is not over but the big lead will surely change philosophies for both clubs the rest of the way: Detroit won't kill themselves on the now longshot cause of gaining the top seed. They will prepare their squad for the playoffs, continue to play their bench and make certain their starters are healthy even if it costs them a few games. This allows Boston to do the same.
Other than that homecourt advantage in the conference finals, there's no reason for Detroit to attempt a late season sprint. Looking ahead to potential playoff matchups, I don't think the Celtics have all that much preference about who they play in the second round, whereas the Pistons probably do: They want to avoid Cleveland. The Cavs beat them last year and wore them down the year before. Detroit can out-poise Toronto or Orlando, but they have no magic wand to use on the Cavaliers. So they're probably just as happy to sit in the #2 spot and deal with the Magic, rather than fight like hell when the reward is a rematch with LeBron James.
3) As For Boston
I mentioned before on RealGm that the Cavs recent trade helps Boston in a potential showdown. Specifically Drew Gooden could go outside defensively against KG and take him outside on the other end. Ben Wallace is still too short and now too slow to deal with Garnett.
You can't discount LeBron. He can beat anyone himself, but Cleveland is a little less scary to Boston now.
There's a long way to go before the playoffs but odds are in the second round Detroit will take on Orlando and the Celtics will face the survivor of Toronto/Cleveland.
Bob came over and watched the game last night. This is not new. For decades Bob's come over and watched Celtic games. You know what was really nice? Bob and I haven't seen a game in March that had any sort of remote championship implications for two decades. Of course we're not alone. None of the great green nation has. But last night me and old Bob sat there and thoroughly enjoyed the Celtics putting a headlock on the league's best record. We talked about bygone days and watched Rondo slam it through. We remembered Bird and Hondo as Perkins grabbed his 20th board. While KG racked up his Celtic high in points we gleefully speculated about May and June.
May and June. They play basketball in May and June— REAL PLAYOFF BASKETBALL. Championship ramifications. The long sought holy grail of the 17th banner is there in the distance. Me and Bob? We were happy. I bet the rest of you are feeling a lot of joy now too.
5) That March Schedule
Back in November and December Celtic critics claimed the 29-3 record was an illusion. "Wait until March," they said. "The Celtics will get theirs in March." These ill-informed miscreants were referring to the stretch of games from March 14th to 22nd. Six games in nine days featuring Utah at home and a brutal road swing against San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and New Orleans...
6) Health and Depth
...A funny thing has happened since November though. The Celtics have gotten deeper and better. Powe and Baby have emerged as a dangerous energetic tandem off the bench. Rondo can now cancel out a player the caliber of Chauncey Billups. Perkins can outplay McDyess. The Celtics will soon incorporate Sam Cassell and PJ Brown. Ray Allen has found his stroke. Garnett is healthy. Pierce is passing. The team is deep and it's hungry.
I look at the upcoming schedule and all I can think is, "Wow, it's gonna be tough for those other teams."
I keep bringing up Doc. He's coaching. I mean REALLY coaching. He's managing all these powerful personalities, adding another in Cassell, and the team just keeps getting stronger. The young guys are all markedly better players than they were four months ago. Everyone's on the same page. This team is beautiful to watch, and Doc deserves as much credit now as he did blame the last few seasons.
8) Cous and Pete
Which brings me to this: Earlier in the year the formerly and justifiably cantakerous Bob Cousy was rhapsodic in discussing the merits of these Celtics. Recently even Peter May has joined the ranks of the converted. He wrote a KG for MVP column and just seems giddy about this team. It's almost surreal.
9) Sing a Song For Those Owners
Wyc, Steve, and the rest of the ownership really deserve some congratulations. They always said they'd fork over the dough when it mattered, and they have. They paid for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, for House and Posey, and now they've brought in Cassell and Brown. It turns out they're anti-Paul Gastons. The team has come first. None of this could have happened if they heisleyed around at this critical moment. After all those cheap years in the 90's all I can say is, "Thanks guys."
10) Eye Of The Needle
Only one western team can fit through that tiny opening that leads to the NBA finals. I have no idea which one it will be. San Antonio and the Chris Wallace fortified Lakers look the most formidable right now, but I wouldn't fully discount Phoenix, Utah, Dallas and New Orleans. There's a lot of time between March and June. The beautiful thing is, the Celtics will be favored in the second round. Then if they take care of business only Detroit and the one team from the west will remain. It will not be easy but the Celtics are very capable of winning those two series, and if they do banner number 17 will finally rise.