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Emotion Pushes To Razors Edge

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Emotion can drive you to success or right off the cliff.
Emotion can drive you to success or right off the cliff.

Basketball is very much a game of emotion.  Confidence is essential, which is why I don't mind seeing stars walk with a swagger.  Pride can be a good thing, especially when a proud player feels like he needs to prove himself.  Home court means a lot because players really can feed off the crowd and rise to the moment using that collective enthusiasm for that extra push.  But emotion is very much a double edged sword.  It can cut you as easily as it can your opponent.

In a moment of heat, the same fire that drives a player like Garnett to greatness can be what burns him and costs his team.  You would never want to take that fire away from him, but you wince when he takes it too far.  Not unlike the rage that Rasheed plays with.  I sometimes hope that he gets T'd up just to see if he'll channel that energy onto the court (and if not, he'll get tossed and lately that hasn't been such a bad thing).  With that said, in the past he's cost the Pistons at the most inopportune times with that same rage.  Paul Pierce knows full well what can happen when you lose your cool in an early round playoff series.

And it isn't just the fights and technicals I'm talking about.  Runs happen because one team starts "feeling it" and another team gets "back on their heels."  Those aren't technical terms because there's no easy explanation for what happens.  I mean, what is the difference between "playing aggressive" and "playing reckless?"  If the ball falls through the hoop it is the former and if it doesn't it is the latter.  But there's more to it than just that.  The ball falls more often for a team that is on a run, and vice versa.  This is why the best shooters in the world are practically devoid of emotion and unconsciously confident.  Said another way, Ray Allen will tell you with complete certainty that the next one is going down, even if he's missed 9 of his last 10.

But players aren't robots.  They play with that emotion and in many cases it makes them who they are.  It isn't just the stars either.  Look at the emotions that Big Baby showed late in the game.  You need that from him.  You need a few things to go right for him so he puffs out his prodigious chest and keeps hammering away at the opposing team.  But block a few of his "you have no business putting up that shot with 3 defenders around you" shots and he's bound to get down on himself.  I don't need to remind anyone about the crying incident (wait, I think I just did - just don't tell Glen).

On a grander scale I'm a little concerned about the way emotions have swung the momentum of this series.  The Celtics appeared to be pushing a little too hard at first.  They were obviously trying but they weren't getting to any of the lose balls and they were forcing bad passes into turnovers.  Then something clicked in the 3rd quarter and the momentum shifted in our favor.  The crowd rose to the occasion and the wave capsized the Heat.  ...and then "The Skirmish" happened.  The Celtics hung on but that incident knocked the momentum off its tracks.

Now momentum doesn't always carry over into the next game, but sometimes it can.  If you have it, you never want to get rid of it.  And now we learn that Garnett won't be with the team when they take the floor on Tuesday.  By all measures, that could be a very bad thing.  Even in his advanced age he's still a very, very good defender and a matchup problem for other teams to account for.  Oh yeah, and he's still the emotional (there's that word again) leader of the team.  With that said, who's to say that the team doesn't turn around and push even harder with him out?  They might use "The Skirmish" and the suspension and Q's petty comments to drive them to demolish the Heat in game 2.  You just don't know with this stuff.

One way or another, this beats the general malaise that plagued the team in the second half of the season.  The playoffs are everything to this team.  Perhaps to a fault.  They need to push themselves with that emotion right up to the same edge that they might fall off of if they push too hard.  Finding that delicate balance is the best hope this team has of advancing and reclaiming their place among the game's best.