As the stench from Monday’s 114-90 stinker to the Los Angeles Clippers becomes a more palatable aroma with each passing day, it serves as a reminder of just how important a healthy roster can be.
Not having Jae Crowder around certainly helped make for an easier go of things for the Clippers, just like not having Blake Griffin available when these two met in February aided Boston in its 139-134 overtime victory.
With the playoffs around the corner, a closer inspection of the Celtics’ victories shows they have a handful of quality wins with many aided by a fortuitous break (or illness of a key player on the opposition’s roster).
Boston’s 100-85 win at Oklahoma City on Nov. 15 featured no Kevin Durant.
On Feb. 27, Boston knocked off Miami 101-89 against a Chris Bosh-less Heat squad.
A 116-96 win over Memphis on March 9 came about with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley out with injuries.
And there were others on that list, for sure.
But injuries are a part of the game. That’s why you build a roster that’s deep as possible. That’s why … you’ve heard the spiel from coaches and players before who try to explain what simply amounts to catching a team at the right time.
In doing so, what happens when they face a talented team that’s at full strength?
And while it’s great to pile on a few wins regardless of the opponent or how depleted their roster may be at that time, the Celtics have to be careful as to not put too much stock in such wins.
That’s part of what makes them a bit of a postseason wildcard in the East.
You like their style of play, the fact that they battle most nights until the bitter end. And that has allowed them to win some games against elite teams.
But far too often, those wins over the NBA’s top teams have come about when those teams were short-handed.
The strides that this team has made, while clear indicators of progress, are not far enough along to where you feel great about their chances of knocking off one of the top two seeds in the East.
And part of that uncertainty stems from the fact that most of Boston’s best wins this season, came about when teams were not at full strength.
Of course the counter-argument to that is that Celtics haven’t exactly had a clean bill of health this season, either.
But comparing a few games missed by Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder doesn’t equate with Toronto playing without Kyle Lowry or Memphis missing its top-two big men in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, or the Miami Heat playing without perennial all-star Chris Bosh.
Boston has shown it can hold its own with anyone and under certain circumstances, take down any foe as well.
But can they do it when it matters most, the playoffs?
That remains to be seen.
But what we do know is this.
This is a team that has beaten most of the teams that they were supposed to, and could do the very same to teams that on paper at least are more talented.
They’ll just need a break or two along the way which as we’ve seen, they’ve been pretty good at making the most out of when the opportunity has presented itself.