My son’s flag football coach has this great saying that I’m totally going to steal for future use. When he sees kids hanging their heads, he emphatically tells them, “so what, now what?” The idea is to take in the lessons that mistakes teach you, keep your head up, and learn from them for next time. The focus isn’t on the results, but the process of learning.
This ridiculous Boston Celtics team has had so many “so what, now what?” moments that it boggles the mind. I won’t bore you with yet another season recap or a blow-by-blow look at each round of the playoffs. Just close your eyes and picture a moment when the Celtics have been down or coming off a loss, especially when they’ve been written off by the media. Typically speaking, they’ve come out focused, motivated, and at times, dominant.
They’ve done this so many times, that the logical question isn’t “how did they find that resolve to fight back?” The better question is “how did they get themselves in this mess to begin with?” It just doesn’t make sense that a team that looks as good as they do at their peaks can look as bad as they do in their valleys.
Which leads us to another question. How long can they keep getting away with this seesaw act? For months now the answer has always been “long enough to survive and advance.” But this is The Finals and there’s no more room for error down 3-2. The next loss would be the last of the season.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not mentally prepared for offseason talk. I don’t want to dive into the narratives that will follow this team if they come up short. On the flipside, I’m emotionally exhausted. So I can only guess at how physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted the team is at this time. The end is in sight though. Just two more games, so you might as well back up the cliché truck and dump them all out on the floor.
To me this boils down to a very simple formula: you are what your record says you are. If this team is truly an NBA championship contender, they’ll show it by winning the next two games. If Jayson Tatum is ready to be considered one of the top-5 (or so) players in the game, he’ll show it in the next two games. Similar story for Jaylen Brown (who has been more consistent than Jayson in The Finals but still very much not consistent enough). This very special defense has a chance to go down in history as the driving force behind a title. But if they all come up short, nothing will be proven and most of this will relegated as a footnote next to the accolades of the Golden State Warriors dynasty.
They can still do this. If there’s nothing this team has proven to us time and time again, it is that they have the ability to bounce back quickly from losses - even self inflicted losses. That is a very weird mental toughness but it is a kind of mental toughness. They believe they can recover and win. I’m not going to doubt them now.
Celtics in 7.