John Hollinger made a statement in the Daily Dime that had me thinking today:
For Boston, the key was dialing up the intensity after coasting through the final month and a half of the season. The Celtics came out strong on both ends, doubling Joe Johnson on the first possession, holding the Hawks to four fast-break points and getting a bounce-back game from Paul Pierce (22 points) to cruise to the easy win.
It is hard to argue with the fact that they were coasting for the last few months. And after taking the Hawks out easily in games 1 and 2, it seems pretty clear that they let their guard down for games 3 and 4. So does game 5 mean that they've throttled it back up to full speed for good? Or do we need to worry about this team's focus from now on?
Part of what really gets me is how familiar these questions are. Except, I'm used to hearing them surrounding the Detroit Pistons. They are famous for turning it on and off, which ultimately bit them in the butt last year when it took too long to turn it back on. That's the primary fear here. Will the Celtics be able to keep it turned on all postseason? I thought that the answer to that would be obvious after watching the team blitz through the regular season. I guess I just underestimated the intensity of the playoffs. Perhaps I wasn't the only one.
We're counting on Doc for a lot of this. I would argue that preparing this team emotionally is more important than the X's and O's. We know we have the better players. All they have to do is execute. To execute they have to have focused confidence. Sure, a lot of that has to come from within each player. But Doc has to steer the ship. He's done well with this all season. But like his team, his performance will be evaluated in the playoffs.
Here's hoping they find a way to jam it into full speed and leave it there the rest of the year. Let up just a little now, and it could be "wait till next year."
Tomorrow isn't a "must win" situation. But it is a "show me" situation. I want to see them not let up. I want to see them close this out.