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.
Franchise legend Kevin McHale could offer only a verbal shake of his head as he prepared to broadcast last night’s game for TNT.
“They’re just beat up now,” said McHale. “In pulling for Boston, which I do, it just seems like they just could never, ever kind of (get it all together). They lost a couple (to start the season) and then they had that unbelievable stretch where they won everything. And from that point on it just seems like there’s always been something. They haven’t been able to stay healthy enough. If they don’t have Hayward, they need everybody else. They need everybody else healthy. Now Marcus has had thumb surgery, Theis is out. Now you’re talking about Kyrie getting a second opinion, and even if he does come back, is he going to have enough time to get his rhythm before the playoffs? It’s just too bad. It’s just one of those years, it seems like, for them and for a lot of teams. It seems like half the teams in the league are going through this. It’s the same thing with Golden State. Are they going to have enough time to get any rhythm?”
“Danny will do a good job and get those guys going, but it seems like this year, I don’t know. I’m not sure that they can put all the pieces together. But we’ll see. Stranger things have happened. Kyrie comes back healthy, and they win the first round and Smart comes back, you know, we’ll find out.”
According to Celtics legend Kevin McHale, the Cs should head down to the Caribbean and start their off-season in mid-April. The current state of the Celtics, in his estimation, means that real aspirations to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 are meant to be actualized no earlier than next season.
Kev, I’m here to debate your ass (can I say that to a legend? Just this once?).
You have every reason to think that way, but given the resiliency this club has shown throughout this season, the guy holding the clipboard on the sideline, and the state of the conference, I’m surprised you would make this statement so soon.
The resiliency piece is two-fold: Yes, they are regular season games, but against top teams in big spots, even depleted iterations of this Celtics squad find ways to pull out wins. They don’t get blown out very much. If Boston finds itself going up against Cleveland in round two (more on that on “page 2”) they aren’t going to lose by 20 in three out of four losses again. There’s also the resiliency that comes from getting back on the court after injury. To read last rights to the Celtics on March 21st is to assume Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and (gulp) Gordon Hayward can’t come back and contribute before it’s all over. Most of those guys were either part of a 16-game winning streak to start the season, or a 6-1, post-all-star game stretch before the injury bug swept over the Cs like the Black Plague in Europe.
I’m not sure if you remember, Kev, who is holding the clipboard for the Celtics. Brad Stevens can’t make perfect chicken salad out of chicken shit lineups, but he can maximize whatever the Cs put out there for the playoffs, and in almost any playoff match-up, he’s got the coaching advantage. Lebron is not a human, but Brad’s seen the Cavs enough in the playoffs since he joined the league to have a chance to blunt his progress even just a little bit over a seven game series. This is year five for Brad and will be the fourth straight in the playoffs, where rotations matter and in-game decision making is paramount. Assuming resiliency on injuries, I give the Cs a solid chance to get out of the east with Stevens on the sideline.
And finally, Kev, whom do you trust in the East? Toronto went into its House of Horrors last night and lost to Lebron even though his supporting cast might have been less talented than the Celtics current bench guys. Even with Kevin Love back, this Cavs team doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of the Celtics fans the same way it did when Kyrie played in Cleveland. Assuming the Cs get a rested Kyrie back and can manage his discomfort, get Jaylen back at 100% and play long enough to get Marcus Smarts energy –regardless of his rust– don’t you think there’s a chance they can beat these teams?
I rest my case. And, Kevin, I want to give you a chance to walk back your comments from earlier in the week. Just reach out to John Karalis, ask for some time on Rainin’ Js and explain yourself.
On page 2, don’t expect to avoid Cleveland in round two
If you’ve been holding out (realistic) hope that the Celtics could avoid Cleveland in a hypothetical 2 vs. 3 match-up in the conference semifinals, last night was a real blow. The Cavs took care of business on the second night of a home b2b against another playoff opponent, Lebron James again looked like he had no weaknesses and like he felt no fatigue, and the Pacers and Wizards both lost road games to western conference playoff teams.
The Cavs schedule is toilet paper soft to wrap up the season. The only hope here is Philly, which has an even softer schedule and remains a game and a half back. That does, however, bring up the question of whom would you rather see in a hypothetical round two match-up? Philly or Cleveland?
**Also, the Heat have some separation on both sides of that seven seed. Maybe, just maybe, this is all starting to come into focus.
The rest of the links: