Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Now, right back into the frying pan.
When the Boston Celtics embarked on this current road trip, one got the feeling that when they returned to Beantown it would be nursing a rash of fresh scratches and with their tails between their legs – because this was a team looking to find itself, and that kind of introspective search is often filled with searing pain and demons of failure.
But it had to be done, because the current version of the Celtics is the textbook definition of “Average”, and have the record to prove it.
And so they were off to play the physical Nets in Brooklyn on Christmas day, then catch the red eye to Los Angeles to begin a three games in 4 nights swing through California.
It started off well enough with an inspired victory over the Nets, Kevin Garnett gushing afterwards about the team playing “Traditional” ball, playing “firm”. The Celtics’ became confident and walked into the Staples Center in Los Angeles a team on the rise…
…out of the frying pan…
A couple of hours later they were seared to a crisp, courtesy of a 29 point thrashing at the hands of the the Los Angeles Clippers.
…and into the fire…
Doc Rivers took to joking his way through the post game presser, a familiar disappointed look in his eyes…He spoke of taking solace in the fact that the Clippers had the best record in the league, had won 15 straight and were playing exceptional basketball – and as for his guys and the loss, “You hate those, you don’t have a lot of those,” Rivers bemoaned, “but we had one of those tonight.”
Right. Shrug it off, make it a short memory – and they’d better because they may be out of the fire, but the only place they’re going is right back into a frying pan called the Oracle Arena in Oakland to play the red hot Golden State Warriors, winners of 10 of their last 13 and, with a record of 20-10, are just 4 games out of 1st in the Pacific Division behind the Clippers.
Tip off is scheduled for 10:30pm, Eastern time.
For decades, the Warriors have been a destination of respite for struggling teams playing on the road, a team that was so bad that a win for them was reason for a Gatorade shower. It looked like this season was going to be just a continuation of that, until they caught on fire about a month ago and have one of the best records in the league since.
“We’ve been consistent whether we are home or on the road,” Golden State head coach Mark Jackson said after his squad drubbed the Philadelphia 76ers last night, “We play with an edge, we play with a belief, and now our job is just to chalk them up in the win column.”
And while many have been hesitant to buy into success after so many years of laughable failure, their bandwagon is now gaining momentum quickly.
“We’re just trying to make our own history here,” Forward David Lee said last night, “The biggest thing is that our team is doing this together and we’re continuing to get better and better. I don’t think our best ball’s even been played yet.”
Which is exactly the continuity and attitude that the Celtics have been searching for all season.
The Warriors are doing it with defense and with staggering efficiency on offense, including averaging a whopping 38% from behind the arc. Lee and Stephen Curry, who each average 20 points a game, are the headliners and front men of the franchise, but the supporting cast is what really makes this team tick.
Well traveled guard Jarrett Jack is potentially the most dangerous player in this lineup for Boston. He averages just 12 points per game, but carries the dagger with a propensity to hit the timely three. In fact, both he and Curry shoot 43% from behind the arc, which makes them particularly deadly when considering the Celtics do not defense behind the line well.
Defending behind the line isn’t an issue with the Warriors, however, as they rank in the top 6 in the NBA, and neither is transition defense, which is also among the best in the league, so the Celtics don’t want to get into a running or shooting match with them – rather, they would be best served slowing the pace, setting up their half court offense and running the pick and roll all night long.
In the end, this is a Warriors’ team that can be exploited with patience and discipline, things that the Celtics are still searching for in this season of inconsistent “average” play – and if they want to avoid falling under .500, they must have this game.
It gets a little easier for the Celtics tomorrow night when they travel to Sacramento to take on the 10-19 Kings. If things go well, they can jump out of this frying pan with a little momentum, enough to avoid the fire and to hit the ground running on the rest of their season.