Celtics

Tomorrow tells the story

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Tomorrow tells the story

You can't get wrapped up in yesterday when tomorrows all that matters.

I think I heard that once in an Oasis song. Or maybe it was Kanye. Or maybe it was whispered sweetly into Rachel McAdams' ear during some awful romantic comedy. Or maybe it was something Michael Caine said at the end of Mr. Destiny. Or maybe I just made it up.

OK, I made it up. But the words ring true on this absolutely beautiful and completely miserable Friday afternoon.

Lets face it: Yesterday was tough. Yesterday was impossible.

Yesterday was a reminder of how helpless the Celtics are, and the entire NBA is, when the best basketball player in the world plays like the best basketball player in the world. Its really that simple.

Yesterday was about LeBron James. Not the LeBron James hes become, but the LeBron he was supposed to be. The LeBron James that was not only admired, but almost universally loved by fans, players and coaches around this league. The LeBron James who was supposed to change basketball forever and for the better, before a big head, fragile psyche and a boat load of bad advice turned him into Alex Rodriguez in a tank top.

Today and if the Celtics fall short again tomorrow well talk about last night as a lost opportunity, but Im still not convinced that opportunity existed. I dont say that to let the Celtics off the hook, because lets be honest: That was a brutal effort. Considering who they are, where they were and what was on the line, last nights performance was an insult. Not to us, but to themselves. If last night was truly the last time we see the Big 3 together on the parquet, its a legitimate shame to have them go out like that with so much at stake and so little to show for it.

But regardless of how much better the Celtics should and could have played, they werent the story. It was LeBron. He was unstoppable. He was legendary.

But heres the thing about last night: It was last night.

And while LeBrons performance was powerful enough to keep us in awe up until tomorrows tip off, right now it means very little. It does nothing to alter his legacy or reputation, because unless he and the Heat can pull off not one, not two, but five more wins this season, the story on LeBron is staying put.

Instead, as great as it was, LeBrons transcendent performance is currently floating in limbo alongside the no-call on Rondo in overtime of Game 2, Wades missed three-pointer in overtime of Game 4, Pierces step back three and Rondos brilliant tip pass in Game 5. Right now, LeBrons 45-point outburst is merely one of a number of things that have led us to this point, the importance and historical significance of which will be entirely determined by the events of tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night.

Everything is tomorrow night. The results will affect the way we remember every aspect of these last six games, of the last two years of this rivalry, of the last five years of this historic era of Boston Celtics basketball. That may sound like hyperbole, but I promise you that it's not.

Can the Celtics do it?

Come on, thats a stupid question. Of course they can do it. If you dont believe the Celtics can go down to Miami, reverse the fortunes of Game 6 and shock the world one more time, then you're believing all wrong. You know nothing about this team, the resilience of champions, the level of grit, balls, fortitude and obscene levels of pride and skill that go into a Hall of Fame career, into making it this far in the first place. You dont know how much this team loves and cares about Doc Rivers, about each other, about their fans and about themselves. You didn't see the tears running down their faces in the moments after that Game 7 loss two years ago in LA. The feeling that they'd blown their last chance to separate themselves from the hordes of one-hit championship wonders and into another stratosphere of NBA history. As individuals, and more importantly, as a team.

Honestly, if you don't think the Celtics have a chance tomorrow then click off this page right now and never come back to this web site.

OK, I just talked to my editors. They want me to say you're always welcome back. But let me reiterate that you're missing the point: The Celtics can do this.

The question of "will they?" is obviously far more important, but unfortunately beyond our control. Anyone who tells you that they know what will happen tomorrow is lying. They're probably the same people who wrote the Celtics off after Game 2, who wrote the Heat off after Game 5, who spent the last two weeks mapping the Spurs' victory parade, and the last two days doing the same for OKC. The same people who repeatedly look ridiculous but are somehow the only ones who don't remember.

Sometimes you just don't know. Sometimes believing is all you've got.

Believing that tomorrow night, with everything EVERYTHING on the line, the best that these Celtics have to offer will once again be on display.

And hoping against all hope that the best of LeBron James is nowhere to be found.

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

Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

That Celtics win streak was dope. Let’s map out an even longer one that probably won’t happen. 

Nobody’s actually expecting them to keep the pace they’ve established with their recently concluded run. Still, with 63 games remaining, there’s still time for the Celtics to have up to three win streaks of even longer than 16 games. So, because it’s the holidays and the holidays are all about positivity (fun move you’ve probably picked up from movies: You can say “the holidays are all about _____” and just put in whatever you want and it will work), let’s map out the next win streak. 

MORE CELTICS:

A big part of the Celtics’ 16-gamer (and get ready to say “duh”) is that they were better than a lot of the teams they beat. But they also beat one team that was without question better than them and beat a few teams that could certainly beat them on any given night. 

Here’s a rough breakdown of the 16 games: 

- Even if they didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, nine games were against what could be classified as easy prey based on their rosters and how those teams were playing: The 76ers, the Knicks, the Kings, the Hawks twice, the Lakers, the Hornets, the Nets and the Mavericks. 

- Let’s say that the Heat (whom they played and beat during the streak before Miami snapped the streak Wednesday) and Magic weren’t perceived pushovers, but rather unremarkable opponents. 

- Four games were against what one could call worthy opponents for the Celtics: the Bucks, the Spurs (though they were missing Kawhi Leonard), the Thunder and the Raptors. 

- Nobody was ever pretending the Celtics were actually better than the Warriors. 

So that breaks the 16 games into one game against an unequivocally superior opponent, four against worthy opponents, two against unremarkable teams, and nine joke books. 

Of course, there are several variables that can be thrown into that, such as the fact that the C’s beat one of the aforementioned good teams (Toronto) without Kyrie Irving and nearly lost to two of those trash teams (Charlotte and Dallas). You can’t predict injuries just like you shouldn’t predict win streaks, but let’s take all the information we have and try to find the next one:

STARTING FRIDAY

Friday vs. Magic (trash; probable win)

Saturday at Pacers (unremarkable; potential loss)

A back-to-back after a holiday with the second game on the road against a team that’s been way better than expected? I don’t like the sound of it. 

Nov. 27 vs. Pistons (worthy opponent; potential loss)

Are they overrated? Maybe, but Pistons currently hold the second spot in the Eastern Conference. Whether it’s the Pacers or the Pistons, I think this short stretch prevents a speed bump. The streak might have to wait. 

STARTING NOV. 30

Nov. 30 against Sixers (upgraded to unremarkable based on recent play; still win)

Remember: The last streak started against the Sixers. Hopefully, Kyrie pays that fans’ way to Boston for a halftime reunion. 

Dec. 2 vs. Suns (trash; win)

Dec. 4 vs. Bucks (worthy opponent; win)

Celtics aren’t losing to those sons of guns twice at home. 

Dec. 6 vs. Dallas (trash; win)

Can you get revenge on a team for almost beating you? Yes. The Celtics will. 

Dec. 8 at Spurs (worthy opponent; win)

Until I see Kawhi on the court, this one is a win. 

Dec. 10 at Detroit (worthy opponent; win)

The Pistons play the Spurs, Bucks and Warriors the three previous games. They’ll be all tuckered out. 

Dec. 11 through Dec. 23 (mix of unremarkable and trash opponents; seven wins)

Dec. 25 vs. Wizards (worthy opponent; win)

Terry Rozier becomes a household name with a Christmas performance for the ages. 

Dec. 27 at Charlotte (trash; win) 

Dec. 28 vs. Houston (worthy opponent; win) 

Dec. 31 vs. Brooklyn (trash; loss)

The Celtics are 0-1 the days prior to holidays this season. The streak ends at 18. 

THE REST OF THE SEASON

We'll assess it then, but for now, let's say undefeated (including playoffs).
 

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

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