BOSTON – As I watched the Celtics melt into a big old puddle of who-knows-what-the-hell-that-was last night at Chicago, I was angry.
This should not be happening.
Sure, it’s just one of 82 games.
But there is no way they should be getting throttled like this to Chicago, the team with the worst record in the NBA (now 6-20) for whom, let’s be honest...losing advances the Bulls' goal this season, which is to be in the best position possible to land one of the top picks in the draft.
The more I thought about it, the loss wasn’t what upset me the most.
I was pissed off mainly because they got beat down by a bad team, which says more about my expectations for this team and the expectations of most Celtics fans, than anything else.
Those expectations are sky high these days, and for good reason.
Boston (23-6) has the best record in the Eastern Conference after owning the league’s best record overall following a historic 16 consecutive wins, which is the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
Kyrie Irving has been a one-man highlight reel all season. Jayson Tatum has been better than anyone predicted. Jaylen Brown is a more rounded offensive player, Aron Baynes has been awesome, Daniel Theis...the list of reasons why optimism for this team is so high is a long one.
That kind of success, with such a young core of players, is rare.
So, to see them get thumped 108-85 by the Bulls was jarring to say the least.
But as I skimmed the calendar to see how many more days could I blow off Christmas shopping before rush delivery wouldn’t get to places in time, I was reminded that the Celtics season is more than a third of the way complete.
And we’re talking about their first blowout loss of the season?
It was disappointing for all involved, for sure.
But the fact that we’re this far down the road in this season before having to overreact to a bad loss, speaks to the growth of this team under Brad Stevens.
Let’s put it this way.
Boston’s first beatdown this season came in Game No. 29 if you’re keeping track at home.
The latest the Celtics’ first loss by 15 or more came under Stevens prior to this season? Game No. 14 in the 2015-16 season.
They got crushed 121-97 in that game by an Atlanta Hawks team led by some dude named Al Horford.
If there’s one characteristic of Stevens teams that has carried on from one team to the next in his five seasons in Boston, it's their competitive spirit.
They may not have been the most talented teams, but you knew his guys were going to scrap and claw while suffering through a few setbacks – some worse than others - along the way.
But this season is different.
Even with Gordon Hayward going down with a season-ending (we think) left ankle injury, Boston has shown itself to be a resilient bunch by winning at a ridiculously high clip.
And in doing so, their success being undermanned has created a set of expectations that they can come back from any deficit and find victory.
But the real comeback for fans was the sobering back-to-earth reality of Monday’s loss, a game in which a team that has been as successful as the Celtics this season can lose if they’re not careful.
Still, we’re talking about the team with the best record in the East getting handed its first blowout loss of the season - in December.
Since 2008, only three other Celtics teams went this deep into the season before suffering their first loss by 15 or more points.
And of those three teams, two of them (2008 and 2010) went on to the NBA Finals.
Disappointed with the loss to the Bulls still?
But knowing how the Celtics have finished in recent years when they’ve avoided the big beatdown for as long as they have this season, it’s a little easier to move on from whatever-the-hell-that-was we saw last night in Chicago.