Well, you can't say that the Celtics didn't play hard for this one. They did.
Unfortunately, playing hard isn't necessarily related to playing smart. And, even more unfortunately, they ran into a Chainsaw Massacre by the name of Kyrie Irving.
Irving scored just 20 points less than the entire Celtics starting five, whirling, shooting, upfaking and driving his way to 40 points. He was joined by Tristan Thompson who scored 21 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block and 1 steal.
Kevin Garnett did all that he could, scoring 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 vicious blocks, 3 assists and 1 steal as did Rajon Rondo getting yet another near-triple-double scoring 17 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. Paul Pierce did his level best, but currently, that level sits somewhere between minor slump and catastrophic draught. He scored 12 on 3-15 shooting, but because he is that rare star that can "give the game what it needs" even when he's ineffective in one category, he also racked up 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. Jared Sullinger continues to make Danny Ainge look like a genius with each new game. Sullinger scored 12 points and pulled own 10 rebounds and added 1 block.
It's become clear that teams no longer fear the Celtics and perhaps it's been clear for a while and only the most ardent (that would be me) of fans believed otherwise. In any case, it's also very clear that if this team is going to make any kind of worthwhile push this year, it's going to be the hard way. Unless, that is, they begin to play smarter basketball.
This will depend, of course, upon whether the team can suck it up and listen to Coach Doc Rivers and learn to trust each other within the prescribed system. As it stands now, they're like a bunch of rec league all-stars who meet at the gym from time-to-time with a new player to work in here and there. The will is there, the chemistry is still getting its ankles taped in the locker room.
Don't get me wrong...I still believe in these C's. I still think that, if they can learn to play free and smart, they can make a strong challenge for the Conference Finals and beyond. Why? Because they have a tremendous amount of firepower in Garnett, Pierce, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Rondo, Brandon Bass etc.; have a developing phenom in Sullinger; a handful of the League's best individual defenders in Garnett, Avery Bradley, and Lee and, though I hear the chorus growing louder with every loss to say otherwise, but also one of the League's best coaches in Rivers.
The million dollar question on the table is: Will they do it this year and if they do, will it be the names on the roster that you see today?
Tale Of The Tape