Let's start the postseason already. Let's get that banner!
I'm done with the regular season. That's just me personally. I understand there are still things to play for, but I don't need to see more before the postseason.
Each season is a rollercoaster of emotions and stories. Last year saw strife and confusion early, followed by historic success later. This year was a bit of the reverse (to the point where I was waiting for some talking head to start suggesting breaking up the Jays again). But here we are, with five games to go Boston Celtics already have two more wins than they finished with last season.
The last two games have perfectly illustrated the variance this team is capable of. Losing by 19 to the Wizards (without Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma) doesn't even crack the top-10 worst losses of the season. Then they turned around and molly-hopped the NBA-leading Bucks. You can make any prediction about tonight's match against it Utah Jazz and I would believe you. I wouldn't care one bit either and it wouldn't fundamentally change how I feel about this team at this point.
That's why I'm done with the regular season. I understand that the team has more to play for. Playoff seeding is underway. There are playoff rotations and rhythms to get straight as they ramp up for the first round. There's even some coaching and last-minute adjustments and experimenting with “save this for later” game plans.
I also understand that not all fans will feel the same way – especially paying customers. A good friend took his son to his first ever Celtics game. He's a young kid who just started reading CelticsBlog (hi, Elliot!). And of course it has to be the game against the Wizards where the Celtics showed up in body but not in spirit. It stinks for fans like him who won't be able to attend playoff games. But from a macro perspective, there is nothing else to learn from the regular season.
We have seen with our own eyes what the upside is for this team. They can beat any team in the league when they are on. They can lose to any team in the league when they are off. Part of it is just the inherent variance of 3-point shooting luck, but it goes much deeper than that. This team doesn't just take their foot off the pedal, they drop their hands off the wheel, lean back on the headrest and happily cruise into a roadside ditch.
Does the intensity of the playoffs bring this team into focus? Do the higher stakes force players to lock themselves up mentally? We can hope so. I joked last night that this team feels like they are most likely to win a series 4-1, but that a loss would be a 30-point blowout in a game where the Celtics led by 20 at one point. The thing is, you only need to win four games. You might have a stinker or two in there, but the score resets the next play and you move on. Shooters shoot even when they've missed their last 10. This team will think they're the best in the league even if they get blown out the game before.
Ultimately, I think they have what it takes to win the title. While they don't have the championship credentials of being a “playoff switch” team, they know what it took to get there last season. They should remember in vivid detail how bad it felt to come home after falling just short of the mark. You saw how that drove them early in the year. That motivation and focus waned a bit in recent months as the regular season wore on. But last night you could see what happens when they snap back into focus.
Play out the string. See where we end up in the seeding. Let me know who our first round opponent is. Then let's get the playoffs going. I'm ready. Are you?