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Waiting For The Final Exams

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By all accounts, this season has been a very big disappointment so far.  Of course, all would be forgiven and forgotten if they have a good showing in the playoffs.

I'll use this analogy:  It is like a college course that started off very well.  The material was familiar and good grades came easy.  Then the theoretical student got really sick for a few weeks.  It was rough going during that time, but at least there was a built in excuse.  Then he got back to full health, but things still didn't quite click.  He just wasn't the same because he always felt a step or two behind.  Everything was just a little ...off.  He starts questioning himself and sometimes just throws up his hands and doesn't even bother studying for the next quiz (with predictable results).

Here's the thing though.  He scraped by with good enough grades so that with a good showing on final exams, he can pull off a very good GPA.  You see, the Finals are worth more than half the grade.  He's done well before, so he thinks he can do it again.  He knows it isn't the best plan.  He knows that it is much better to learn little by little over time and develop good study habits so it becomes second nature during the test.  But he's going to do the best he can.  If he focuses very hard and crams for the exam, he's still got a chance.  

That's pretty much how I see this year's Celtics.

So much has been made about "flipping the switch."  I have to admit, I hate everything about that strategy (or excuse).  I mean, I realize that it is a long season.  Expecting a team to give 100% every game for 48 minutes is a touch naive.  On the other hand, seeing a team clearly giving less effort than what is normally expected is pretty much the worst basketball sin that can be committed.  (I mean, cheaters are bad, but at least you could argue that they are trying TOO hard)  So the trick is finding where to draw the line and never to cross it (or at least to keep it to an absolute minimum).

I don't think that this team is having trouble because they don't have heart.  We know from the past that they have heart and pride and swagger to spare.  They might, however, have a problem with focus.  They might be looking at the syllabus and thinking, if the final exam means that much, then the rest of the semester isn't worth working at.  I beg to differ, but I can at least see why they are falling into the trap.

It all comes down to the playoffs.  If Sheed gets on the blocks and grabs rebounds, even Bill Simmons might appreciate him.  If Rondo stays with his man instead of gambling for low percentage steals, maybe there will be less dribble penetration.   If everyone remembers their defensive assignments and makes crisp rotations, maybe the bigs will trust their teammates enough to rotate out in time to stop opponents.  

Oh yeah, and it would help if everyone could remain healthy and find enough left in the tank to play like they are still in their primes.  If, if, if... A lot of "ifs" headed into this offseason.  But there's still that hope.  Better grab some of that Red Bull from Rondo and get to cramming fellas.  The exams are not going to be easy.