I have no thoughts about this game.
Hi, Oliver Fox, professional Celtics writer here. Yes, you read that right. Despite the title of this article being “Lessons from Celtics-Thunder,” I, in fact, have come up with no lessons to speak of. Sorry to disappoint. Article over.
Perhaps that was a bit dramatic. Maybe a better way of phrasing it would be that I have no significant thoughts to add to the prevailing interpretations from Tuesday night’s loss, of which I have identified as:
- The third quarter was killer. Can’t be doing that, but good fight and comeback in the fourth quarter
- Jayson Tatum guarding Shai Gilgeous-Alexander down the stretch was a cool Tatum moment
- The Thunder are an awesome young team, super happy for their success
- Bad Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday game
I consumed my daily dose of local and national NBA media Wednesday morning and tended to agree with pretty much all of that. Yet, when brainstorming for this article, I searched and searched for an angle that I could exploit, any nuance that I could add to the discussion beyond the core four that I heard all over the place.
But I’m sad to report I came up empty. Even more alarming was how my creative synapses just weren’t firing for this one, and I began to panic that I had lost my fastball already. Why didn’t I have some Emily Dickinson poem to use? Maybe a Star Wars movie? The hit ABC show Lost?
Something about this game made my reaction unusually mild. I wasn’t upset, nor able to cling to silver linings. It was a super exciting game, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t as captivated as I should have been.
After a period of meditation and deep self-reflection, I decided that the only noble thing to do would be to try to figure out why that was. What was wrong with this game?
I’m still not sure, because otherwise I wouldn’t have written that whole soliloquy about not having any thoughts. But as for what was wrong, here’s what I came up with: this wasn’t a Celtics game, it was a Thunder game.
I have a lot of cousins, so sometimes I just have to accept that I’m not going to be the main character at family gatherings. Maybe my little cousin just founded an engineering club and won a national award. Maybe my older cousin just got engaged, or maybe my even older cousin just got divorced.
Sometimes, we’d show up at Thanksgiving and it would be someone else’s party. It’s not a bad thing, but I could tell pretty quickly that what was going on in my life just simply wasn’t as cool as what was happening with my cousin’s newest divorce and/or wedding. Every party has to have side characters, and that’s what the Celtics were Tuesday night.
Everyone at the NBA dinner table on Wednesday wanted to hear about what the Thunder were doing. Beating the Celtics is a major accomplishment, and everyone was ready to give them their flowers immediately afterward. They’ve been a great team all season, but people rarely pay attention until you beat the best.
And the Celtics are the best, currently. No matter the result, this game couldn’t really go “wrong” for the Thunder. If they lost, that’s understandable. The Celtics had the full complement of their forces, so no one would really blame them if they couldn’t get it done. But a win is a full-on party, complete with a home crowd going nuts and a media coronation.
I was happy for the Thunder, and I have no historical reason to dislike them. But the win-win situation, combined with an awesome game from the official low-key-underrated-actually-an-MVP-candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, made any real Celtics stories take a back seat.
The Celtics aren’t an old team, but they’ve been around the block. In the last three years, their expectations have gone from “promising” to “serious contender” to “prohibitive title favorite,” an ascent that not a lot of teams can claim. But the Celtics are also on a level where every loss is surprising.
You’d think that would be nice, but it actually kind of sucks. Winning would have been cool, but I knew that it wasn’t ever going to be as cool as a Thunder win. It was a pretty watered-down emotional experience, and I’m a sucker for the emotional storylines.
Or maybe I’m just jealous. Who can tell?