Every time you think this Boston Celtics season has hit rock bottom, a sink hole opens up and down we go further into the abyss. It has been particularly hard for us diehard optimists because, well, we’ve died the hard way — grasping for straws, clutching at silver linings, and pinning hopes on “when everyone gets healthy for the playoffs.”
That dream was further crushed when Jaylen Brown was counted out for the rest of the season. Make no mistake, winning a championship was a longshot at best. Something was going to happen to someone. Be it a lingering issue that re-surfaced in the worst time or a brand new injury. Too many people have been hurt too many times this season for the stars to magically align for them to all be healthy at the same time for the most important games of the season.
And I’m sorry, but I have to point out too that even if “everyone was healthy,” there’s no guarantee that things would have gone much differently in the playoffs than it has all year. I don’t understand it. I can’t see why this collection of talented players haven’t fit together right all season. You can pick your favorite scapegoat if you like, but in a parallel universe somewhere this team is as good as they looked in their best moments.
And there have been great moments this year. The problem is that too often they’ve been very closely coupled with terrible moments. Very often in the same game. You don’t get a 32-point comeback overtime win if you aren’t down 32 points to start with. Jayson Tatum probably doesn’t need to score 60 points if the rest of the team had remembered to show up before halftime.
I feel like a lot of the positives that I can pull from this year have been focused on individual performances. Tatum has been mostly great. Brown has been mostly great. Robert Williams III transcended a nickname. Payton Pritchard was found money. Aaron Nesmith pulled an all nighter studying and somehow learned NBA defense. But it never seemed like these events happened at the same time.
Far too often the collective spirit of this team was lacking. Blame it on fatigue, injuries, all that if you like. But if they were too tired to start well against the Heat, how did they find the energy to make it a close-ish game at the end? Do they age like Benjamin Button?
So now we play out the string and (likely) see what the play-in game tournament is like. That should be fun (in the sadistic way that this year defines “fun”). If we survive that crucible, we will get the privilege of trying to play spoiler to one of the top-3 teams in the East. I can already hear the narratives haunting my dreams.
“Embiid exorcises his TD Garden demons.”
“KD talks about the time he almost signed with Boston.”
“Jeff Teague clinches series with 40 points in blowout win.”
Soon it will be over, one way or another. This shortened and condensed season that somehow has felt like the longest year ever will mercifully come to an end.
Well, a lot of blame games, finger pointing, and demands to overhaul everything, I presume. And for once I’m entering into the offseason with a pretty blank slate. The list of people I consider untouchable dwindles by the day. But there’s plenty of time for all of that later.
For now, I’m just chalking this one up to karma. We were in the Eastern Conference Finals 3 out of 4 years. So sometimes you just have to live with years like this one (and 2018-19).