Conventional wisdom wins Game 1


Conventional wisdom wins Game 1

Conventional wisdom is no friend of the Boston Celtics.

Conventional wisdom had them dead and buried in December. It said they couldnt overcome age, injuries and superior competition. At one time, it slapped them with shaky odds to escape the first round of these playoffs and a follicles chance on LeBrons hairline of sniffing the Eastern Conference Finals. If it was up to conventional wisdom, this column would be about the Red Sox.

Yet, the Celtics are still here. At every turn, theyve greeted conventional wisdom with Ubuntus middle finger. Theyve thrived on the unexpected. On walking a tight rope of opportunity, luck, grit and balls. In the process, weve come to understand that we dont really understand them. That might not seem like an important realization, but it is something, and its all weve got. Weve grown to expect the worst when they should be at their best. To expect success when all signs point to disaster.

And heading into last nights game, that was perhaps the greatest thing going for the Celtics. That they didnt have a chance. That conventional wisdom had dissected this series from every angle and all but guaranteed Miami a spot in the NBA Finals. In this upside-down season, that somehow served as a source of optimism.

Oh, so they dont have a chance? Yes!! That means they have a chance!

But last night, conventional wisdom came out on top. And really, thats the most terrifying thing about Game 1. Not just that the Heat won, but how they won. That everything we saw was what we were supposed to see.

Kevin Garnett was Bostons only reliable option. Paul Pierce struggled to simultaneously handle the LeBron and carry his weight on offense. Ray Allen looked like Allen Ray. Rajon Rondo was at times timid around the hoop and inconsistent with his energy. Brandon Bass struggled on the road. Miami dominated the boards, and the tempo. The Celtics had no depth. When it came to winning time, Lebron and Wade were unstoppable. The two best players on the court. On any court. Last night, the Heat were just plain better than the Celtics. Just like "everyone" said.

Of course, no ones giving up. Boston's come too far and proved too much for one loss to derail our hopes as fleeting as they might be that the Celtics can triumphantly raise that middle finger one more time and crank this already ridiculous playoff run up to ludicrous speed. But Game 1 was a huge win for conventional wisdom. The biggest rival this team has.

Anyway, Ill have a few more posts today on last nights game and what to expect moving forward, but first I wanted comment on the pale, skinny giraffe in the room:

The refs.

Obviously, when a team shoots 39 percent from the field, 28 percent from three-point land and 52 percent from the foul line, theres no room to blame the refs. So we won't, and we're not. Anyone who watched that game and really believes that Dan Crawford, Ed Malloy and Jason Phillips are the reason Boston lost needs to put down the sizzurp and re-evaluate life for a second.

Yes, the refs were awful. Yes, they were a disgrace. Yes, they gave credence to all the sarcastic and incredibly unfunny anti-NBA tool boxes out there. Yes, they made you, an NBA fan, hate the NBA. They made you question why you care about this league in the first place and wonder how an organization that had a referee PLEAD GUILTY TO FIXING GAMES has still so arrogantly done nothing to change the officiating culture.

You know the feeling. You have it every year around this time.

But with all that being said, the refs still weren't the reason the Celtics lost, and in the long run, I think last night's ugly officiating might actually help Boston's cause.

For better or worse (OK, always worse), the NBA is a reactionary league with easily influenced referees. And given the fall out from their Game 1 performance, no one will be surprised to see a shift in the officials' behavior. Sure, the Heat will still be the Heat, but the Celtics are not the Knicks. They're not the Pacers. And this is the Eastern Conference Finals. There's no way the blatant technical foul disparity can go on like this. There will be more consistency in how these teams are treated in Game 2, and certainly when the series moves back to Boston.

And if it was going to take a game like last night's to bring that issue into the spotlight and alter the way this series is officiated, at least it came on a night when the Celtics had no business winning in the first place. At least their best effort wasn't wasted. And hopefully now, when the Celtics do give Miami their best shot, we won't have to worry about four extra and unnecessary free throws making the difference.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
But six?
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.


And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan


Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

BOSTON – As expected, the NBA has fined Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for using “inappropriate language” toward a fan at the Friday night game in Philadelphia.
The incident occurred at halftime as Irving and his teammates were heading to the locker room, trailing by four. Boston went on to win 102-92 for their first victory of the season.
A fan yelled, “Hey, where’s LeBron?” to which Irving replied with a lewd suggestion to the yeller.
The Celtics practiced on Saturday with Irving addressing the incident.

When asked if he had any regrets about the incident, Irving replied, “Hell no. Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s social media platform we live on.
Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”
When asked about the incident on Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not seen the video but was aware of it.
“People make mistakes; hopefully learn from them and move on,” Stevens said. “There’s a right and wrong. And if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it and that’s that.”

It was the second such fine levied by the league in as many days. 

New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 for "inappropriate language" toward a fan when the Pelicans lost 103-91 at Memphis on Wednesday.