Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Deron Williams had a season-high 35 points, along with nine assists and seven rebounds for the Cavaliers, who fell to 0-7 this season when LeBron James doesn’t play.
The Cavaliers were also without Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, and fell a game behind Boston in the race for No. 1 in the Eastern Conference.
Six days ago, Boston controlled their own destiny. A win over Cleveland last Wednesday, and they’d be in the driver’s seat for the number one seed in the East.
Instead, Boston just flat-out no-showed, got their dignity handed to them in a brown paper bag, and stumbled again the following night in Atlanta.
At that point, they were a game out of first in the standings, and effectively two games back because Cleveland had the tiebreaker.
The Cavs were so excited about that win over Boston, coming as it did after a long stretch of questionable play, that they proudly issued this tweet:
And then a funny thing happened.
The Cavs also lost to Atlanta.
Then they lost to Atlanta again.
And they lost to Miami.
Now we’re right back where we were last Wednesday. Boston can lock up the top seed in the east simply by winning their last game of the season.
Granted, in a seven game playoff series, especially with the breaks that LeBron & Co. will get from the officials (just like all those times KG got away with illegal screens), Cleveland has to be a favorite.
But I’m starting to wonder just how much of a favorite they really are at this point.
Maybe they can ‘flip a switch’ for one game. But can they ‘flip a switch’ for a whole series?
How much did that game against Boston take out of the Cavs? Atlanta rested their starters the following night, and Cleveland’s varsity squad could only manage three decent quarters against Atlanta’s JV’s.
Of course, the real winners here are the Boston sports idiots, who now have a whole smorgasbord of obnoxious opinions to spout out about: If you wanted to drink yourself into a coma, you could do a shot every time someone who can’t even tell you Boston’s record voices one of the following absurdities today:
- They still haven’t won a playoff series
- They got lucky/their record (after 81 games) is a ‘fluke’
- If they don’t make the ECF, this season is a failure
- They’re not better than the Cavaliers
- They should’ve added an impact player at the deadline (or off waivers)
Bottom line: Look at Cleveland, in year three of the second LeBron era. Are they getting better? Will they be a better team next year? Now look at Boston. Is Boston getting better? Will they be a better team next year?
This–depending on how the off-season goes–may very well be the last year that the Cavs are better than Boston. The two teams may well be that close right now.
Page 2: Where the team gets caught watching television
With that game in overtime, Stevens walked calmly into his postgame news conference, remaining outwardly unconcerned about the result. The same could not be said about his team, however.
A Cavaliers loss would leave Boston alone in first place with just one game remaining, and in full control the No. 1 seed. When the locker room was opened to reporters, the two large televisions attached to the wall were off, but players later admitted they had been showing the Cavs game moments earlier.
The viewing party had not ended, though. It had just moved to the privacy of the trainer’s room. When Cleveland’s Deron Williams converted a 4-point play late in overtime, screams of disappointment came from that room. And then after Miami came back for the win, there was applause.
Fortunately, none of the Celtics stuck to the usual clichés about ‘focusing on the next game’, ‘we’ve got to worry about us.’, etc.
Isaiah broke through the script by admitting that landing the number one seed means a lot to him and the team. That makes Wednesday’s game particularly interesting. Especially if Milwaukee’s playing for the fifth seed.
If that’s the case, on Wednesday, Boston will have to go out and take something they want from a team that will be playing for something equally important. They have to learn how to do more than just close out a game. They have to learn how to close out a series, and beating an athletic and desperate Milwaukee team is good practice (there’s a big gap between playing the Raptors in the first round and the Wizards).
Page 3: Where A. Sherrod Blakely thinks this is all surreal
This just doesn’t make sense.
We all knew the Boston Celtics would be a better team than the one that got bounced in the first round of the playoffs last year by Atlanta.
But admit it.
Few not on the Celtics payroll felt this team had a shot at finishing with the best record in the East.
Cleveland is too talented, too star-studded, too veteran savvy, too … they got LeBron James for crying out loud!
And yet here they are with one game left on the regular season docket, and all they have to do in order to finish with the best record in the East is win one more game, against the Milwaukee Bucks, at the TD Garden.
There is a certain surreal feeling to what the Celtics (52-29) are on the cusp of accomplishing when you consider all that has not gone their way this season.
In some ways, the story of this season is kind of “what happened to Cleveland?”
But it’s also a little bit about how resilient the Celtics have been. Their starters have missed a combined 63 games, but the team has not lost more than 3 in a row at any point in the season. The Cavs, whose injury issues have commanded a bit more attention, have only lost 49 games from their starters. And they’re–best case scenario–going to end the season with the same record as the Celtics.
It’s hard to look at where this team is at right now and not be impressed.
Finally: Watch Pierce pass Hondo on the all-time scoring list
The rest of the links
Boston Herald: Celtics notebook: Brad Stevens downplays seeding race | Bulpett: Darn it, with that big first-round draft pick haul, Celtics happy to see big hole in Nets | Division-winning Celtics take their time putting away the Nets
Providence Journal: Celtics Journal: Stevens not talking about playoffs just yet
ESPN Boston: Celtics hop into driver’s seat for top East seed