Friday, January 27, 2012

The Orlando Magic Let The Monsters Live

So about a week ago, I had real hope that time had finally ran out on my least favorite basketball team on the planet, your Boston Celtics. They had just lost to the Suns at home, losing Rajon Rondo to injury in the process. They were 5-9, losers of 6 of their last 7, and even their five wins were weak, seeing how they had only beaten terrible teams (Detroit, Washington, New Jersey and Toronto), and were 1-3 on the road, meaning that they had frittered away many of their home games already. They were out of the playoff picture, and competing with teams like Cleveland and New York (i.e., folks with a little more hope in terms of returning players and/or hot rooks) for the last spot.

I had such dreams. A sub .500 Boston team, in-fighting from the Old 3, the entire New England area forgetting all about them in the wake of their football team, hockey club and impending baseball season, and the rare and wonderful sight of an NBA year where I didn't have to watch that laundry at all.

And then... they won a game in Wasington where Paul Pierce came up big late. Well, OK, everyone beats the Wiz; you can't get too worried about that. They still didn't have Rondo, it was going to be oh... Orlando. Who scored a franchise-low 56 points in the first truly encouraging game for Celtic Fan all year, as Rondo-replacement Avery Bradley went full-court on every play on PG Jameer Nelson, and more or less willed his team to win through sheer, unrelenting and tireless effort. Dammit. Then tonight, in the return game in Orlando, the homeown Magic were up and rolling... until Nelson went down with an injury, the big lead got wiped, and the Celtics left town with another big win. They are 8-9 now, very much alive in the #7 seed, in the rear-view window as the most credible divisonal opponent to my Sixers, and absolutely relevant.

They've also found money in Brandon Bass, who gives them a better alternative than Big Baby Davis; only the Celtics win when another team signs away their talent. Bradley has earned burn for the rest of the year, and will keep Rondo fresh later, along with keeping him from coming back too soon and reinjuring himself. The injuries have gotten them to force-feed Mikael Pietrus into longer minutes, and he's doing really good things for them. Chris Wilcox and Marquis Daniels look credible now, so in the blink of a week, they've developed a bench. There's still time for the week to turn ugly with road games in Indy and Cleveland, but they've got That Look about them again. and with a 5-game homestand to start February, things are going to get closer in the East with a quickness, and above .500 soon. They are going to be fine.

Oh, and once they are above .500, and get back Rondo? It's going to go well for them. The sprint schedule aids teams with defensive intensity who caan take advantage of a lack of prior scouting and practice, since their schemes are fairly unique. It's also aiding teams with true home court advantages, and so long as the Celtics are winning and on the rise, they will get that as well.

And to think, we were so close to joy. Orlando, I hope you lose Dwight Howard now, and that you get back as little as New Orleans has for their superstar. You deserve it, for letting these basketball vampires out of the crypt. (And no, I won't consider it even better if my Sixers take them out later, because I'll still be *watching the Celtics.* You never let Dracula out of the coffin. Or the Celtics get into the second half of the year with hope.)

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