I’m done with the regular season. That’s just me personally. I understand that there are still things to play for, but I don’t need to see any more before the postseason.
Every season is a rollercoaster of emotions and storylines. Last year there were struggles and confusion early on, followed by historic success later on. This year was a bit of the reverse (to the point that I was waiting for some talking head to start suggesting breaking up the Jays again). Yet here we are, with five games left and the Boston Celtics already have two more wins than they finished with last season.
The last two games have perfectly illustrated the variance that this team is capable of. Losing by 19 to the Wizards (without Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma) doesn’t even crack the top-10 worst losses of the season. Then they turned around and mollywhopped the NBA-leading Bucks. You could make any prediction at all about tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz and I would believe you. I also wouldn’t care one bit and it wouldn’t fundamentally change what I think of this team at this point.
That’s why I’m done with the regular season. I understand that the team has more to play for. There’s playoff seeding on the line. There’s playoff rotations and rhythms to get straight as they ramp up for the first round. There’s even some last-minute coaching and tweaking and experimenting with “save this for later” game plans.
Also, I get that not every fan is going to feel the same way — especially paying customers. A good friend of mind took his son to his first ever Celtics game. He’s a young kid who’s just started reading CelticsBlog (hi, Elliot!). And of course, it had to be the game against the Wizards where the Celtics showed up in body but not spirit. That stinks for fans like him that won’t be able to attend playoff games. But from a macro-perspective, there’s nothing else to learn from the regular season.
We’ve seen with our own eyes what the upside is for this team. They can beat any team in the league when they are on. They can lose to any team in the league when they are off. Some of that is just the inherent variance of 3-point shooting luck, but it goes much deeper than that. This team doesn’t just take their foot off the pedal, they drop their hands from the steering wheel, lean back on the headrest, and blithely cruise into a ditch on the side of the road.
Does the intensity of the playoffs snap this team into focus? Do the higher stakes force the players to lock in mentally? We better hope so. I joked last night that this team feels like they are the most likely to win a series 4-1, but that one loss would be a 30-point blowout in a game where the Celtics led by 20 at one point. The thing is, you just need to win four games. You can have a stinker or two in there, but the score resets the next game and you move on. Shooters shoot even when they’ve missed their last 10. This team will believe they are the best in the league even if they get blown out in the game prior.
Ultimately, I think they have what it takes to win the title. While they don’t have the championship credentials to be a “flip the switch in the playoffs” team, they do know what it took to get there last season. They should remember in vivid detail how bad it felt to come home after falling just short of the goal. You saw how it drove them early in the year. That motivation and focus waned a bit the last few months as the grind of the regular season wore on. But last night you could see what happens when they snap back into focus.
Play out the string. See where we end up in the seeding. Let me know who our first round opponent is. Then let’s get the playoffs started. I’m ready. Are you?