Here we are again, trying to make sense of a bad playoff loss where the Celtics did much of the damage to themselves. And yet there they are, three games away from winning a championship. The dichotomy of those two true statements is all part of the package with this team.
The clichés are all true and relevant. Boston is a rollercoaster team with pendulum swings from game to game and sometimes, quarter to quarter. Everything gets amplified to 11 in the playoffs and even more so in The Finals where every move and countermove is dissected under a microscope on sites like this one.
It has gotten to a point where this team can sometimes be predictable. The Celtics don’t always handle success very well. Instead of pressing their advantage, they seem to lose focus and slip into bad habits. Here’s what I wrote heading into Sunday’s game:
This exactly the kind of game where the Celtics do take a step back and struggle. Also the Warriors are real good.— CelticsBlog (@celticsblog) June 5, 2022
I was hoping for the best, but mentally preparing myself for pretty much exactly what happened.
I’ll pause for a moment and give credit to the Warriors for being really, really good. Draymond did Draymond things. Steph did Steph things. The core of the Warriors championship years is still here and still very worthy of being on this stage once again.
I’ll also point out that this era and the style of play has something to do with the momentum swings. We are seeing teams rely so heavily on the 3-point shot, that shot making variance has tremendous impact on the outcomes of games. Even more, it has an impact on the flow of the games themselves. In the past, a 15-point lead in the 3rd quarter would seem insurmountable. Now you see teams go on a 10-0 run in the span of 2 minutes and everything flip flops.
With all that said, the Celtics can be their own worst enemy and it was all the usual suspects: turnovers, lack of ball movement, missed assignments, etc. At times they seem like a cruise ship that has gone off course. It takes a lot of effort to slow it down and turn it in the right direction and too often it is too late to save the game. That’s not necessarily a knock on the adjustments made by the coaching staff. I think for the most part, they do a great job of identifying the trends, and making the right changes to the game plan. But there’s something emotional or psychological that happens to this team that I’m not at all qualified to analyze or pretend to understand from the outside looking in.
Maybe that’s just sports. Maybe I’m falling into the myopic trap of assuming that my team is different or special. Certainly since the dawn of the seven-game playoff series format, we’ve seen momentum swings from one team to the other. This is probably why coaches like Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka preach the gospel of “don’t get too high or too low.” As a fan I find that nearly impossible, yet I demand that my favorite team follow that guideline without deviation.
All we can do is buckle in and wait for the next swing. At least in this case we know that we split the games in Golden State and the next two are in Boston. We won’t talk about the fact that the Celtics haven’t always found great success at home this postseason because I’m trying not to think about that. The TD Garden crowd is going to be on full tilt and hopefully so will the Celtics.
After Game 1 there was an undercurrent narrative of “what else can the Warriors do against this team?” Turns out the answer was “play better.” Golden State was not as bad as they looked in the 4th quarter of that game. The Celtics aren’t as bad as they’ve looked in either of the 3rd quarters. This series has a very good chance of being a long one, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.