Celtics

The team that time forgot

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The team that time forgot

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Last night, while the Bruins and Canadiens did battle in Montreal, Dumb & Dumber was playing on Encore.

At the same time, Celtic Pride was playing on Starz.

I know this because I got sucked into both of them.

Even though the Sox were on the other NESN, and the NBA Playoffs were on TNT, whenever there was a break in Bruins action (time outs, intermissions, that time the refs ran off to accept an unmarked briefcase from the mayor of Montreal), I was back and forth between those two movies.

I couldnt help it.

My obsession with the first movie needs no explanation. The second? Whatever. I know Celtic Pride isnt great, but it came out when I was 16, and it was about the Celtics. Of course I was going to watch it over and over and over. Now, it has a special place in my heart. What can I say?

I. LIKE. IT. A. LOT.

I . . . I . . . I desperately want to make love to a school boy!

Wait, what I meant was . . .

Oh right, the Bruins were on, but I kept on getting lost in those two movies. Reciting the same lines, laughing at the same jokes. For one night, it was like the '90s all over again.

I didnt realize the symbolism in this until the game was over and the Bruins were once again on the verge of playoff heartbreak.

You see, the '90s were a difficult time for Boston sports fans. Its the only decade (since the city picked up four teams) that didnt produce a title. At the time, local teams were almost always the underdogs. Or worse, they were just never the favorites. They were average, middle-of-the-road teams. They were streaky and inconsistent squads that sporadically gave you a reason to celebrate, but far more often left you heartbroken. They really tested your faith.

Obviously, that changed with the Patriots first Super Bowl, and since then, the Celtics, Sox and Pats have taken off to a level of performance and expectations that were once unfathomable.

But the Bruins are still stuck in that '90s mentality. Through all the changes this city has undergone, the Bs are still right where they were. Still experiencing the same growing pains, and leaving Boston with the same stomach pains.

The Bruins are the team that time forgot. A living history of everything Boston sports fans endured throughout that decade, right up until the ionic moment when Jason Varitek split the uprights.

This can be both good and bad.

For instance, unlike the Celtics, the Bruins are a team thats still building towards greatness, instead of holding on to whats left of it. When we look ahead, its excitement. With the Celtics, its indecision and fear.

Unlike the Red Sox, the Bruins dont have the unfair financial advantage. When they win, theres nothing to say except: Theyre the better team. Other teams cant cry poor, only weak or stupid. And that's fine. That's sports.

Unlike the Patriots, the Bruins dont have that unhealthy expectation of winning every single time they take the field (or ice). They dont have the nationwide legions of haters, and bad blood stirred up by Spygate and whatever else people are complaining about. Outside of Montreal, the Bs are never really the bad guys.

The Bruins are almost the only team in this city that you can still root for without somehow feeling like youre the bad guy. Not that anyone's losing sleep over the fact that other cities hate them, but theres a certain enjoyment that comes with the Bruins experience, and not enduring that constant loathing from the rest of the country. You can root for the Bruins the way you used to root for all Boston teams, before becoming at least somewhat jaded by success and lofty expectations. (Can the Cs win 70? Can the Sox win 100? Will the Pats go undefeated?) Honestly, it's refreshing.

But with that '90s-style, guilt-free experience comes other nostalgic feelings.

Disappointment. Emptiness. Helplessness.

Will they ever figure this out? Is this ever going to happen? How can they finally get over the hump and break free from a time and place that the rest of Boston left in its dust so long ago? Why does it always have to be something? Never smooth; never according to plan. Just an emotional roller coaster followed by a head-on collision and ultimately tragedy.

What will it take?

For starters, a win tonight at the Garden against Montreal. Without that the Bruins remain stuck in neutral for yet another year. Can they do it? Sure. They can always do it.

But I'd still keep an eye on those movie channels. Just in case we need a diversion from disaster.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”