BOSTON – Like most fans, I'm not buying this "just another win" talk that players like to say after we know and they know, that's so not what just happened out there.
Boston’s 110-102 win over Washington on Monday was more than just the Celtics beating a quality opponent (that they can't stand).
It was the clearest signal that we have that maybe, just maybe, this Boston Celtics team is built to do more than just show up in the playoffs and win a few games.
- Highlights: Boston Celtics 110, Washington Wizards 102
- Rozier-Jennings dust-up provides spark for Celtics in win vs. Wizards
- Isaiah Thomas on Wizards: 'Those guys don't like us, we don't like them'
- Stars, studs and duds: Bradley shines at both ends of the floor
- Big second quarter propels Celtics to 110-102 win over Wizards
They were coming off a bad loss at Philadelphia, and playing the second night of a back-to-back.
Isaiah Thomas, the second-best scorer in the NBA, was back after missing two games (knee) but you knew he would be rusty.
Washington, which arrived in town on Sunday, had won two of the three previous games against Boston albeit both were in D.C. with Boston’s lone win prior to Monday coming on the parquet back in January.
And yet for so much of the game, Boston looked like the fresher team, the hungrier team, the one in the mold of the hunter rather than the hunted which isn’t how it was supposed to be considering Boston (45-26) came in with the second-best record in the East while the Wizards (42-28) were right on their heels.
The game became a battle of wills to start, and soon morphed into a Wizards team wilting under the pressure of the moment.
The significance of this game was palatable, each locker room blanketed with the kind of silence that speaks volumes to focus each team had for this all-important last regular season meeting.
And with that kind of pressure on both sides of two teams that we pray will meet in the second round of what would be an epic playoff series, someone had to crumble on Monday right?
Of course the Wizards have time to bounce back and potentially overtake the Celtics for the No. 2 spot in the East, but that seems highly unlikely.
With Washington having 12 games left, nine will be against teams either currently in the playoff picture or just on the outside looking in.
And of those nine games, six will be on the road (at Cleveland; at Los Angeles Clippers; at Utah; at Golden State; at Detroit and at Miami).
Meanwhile, Boston has what many believe is the easiest remaining schedule in the NBA.
Of the Celtics’ 11 remaining games, seven are against teams that have one of the top eight records in the East, or they are just on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
Of those seven teams, five (Indiana; Miami; Milwaukee; Cleveland and Milwaukee a second time) will play at the TD Garden down this homestretch.
And home has been good to Boston lately with four straight wins at the TD Garden, and victories in 11 of their last 12 home games dating back to Jan. 25.
So with the momentum of playing well, a favorable schedule primarily at home and now the extra confidence that comes with beating a good team like Washington, the Celtics have every reason to feel that they are closing in on being at or near the top of their game come playoff time.
"We're getting there, but we have to get better," Isaiah Thomas told CSNNE.com following the win. "We know that."
For Boston to have the kind of season they’re more than capable of having which is to get to the Eastern Conference finals, chances are high that they’ll have to go through Washington to do so.
Monday’s win moved the Celtics just that much closer to securing the No. 2 seed in the East, which means if these two met in the postseason Boston would have home court advantage.
And as we’ve seen in their four game regular season series, that’s a huge factor when you consider the home team has won every game.
Jae Crowder is part of stay-in-the-moment crew on this Celtics roster.
But he knows as well as anyone that if things play out the way they look like they will, there’s a very good chance that these two will meet up in the second round of the playoffs.
“It would be a great one,” Crowder said of a potential playoff series with Washington. “Both teams … you could say we don’t like each other a little bit; good old fashioned battle.”
Which is something we don’t see much of in this buddy-ball era of the NBA where players are more likely to fist-bump each other during the game, as they are to deliver a physical, hard – but clean – foul.
“It never got dirty,” Crowder said of Monday's game. “It never got anything less than basketball. They trash talked every now and then, but it was a clean game for the most part.”
And if the basketball gods do the right thing, we’ll see these two square off again in the postseason.
“If I’m a fan,” Crowder said, “I’d want to watch a game like this.”