This is what happens.
I’m not saying that we’ll have a series, but right now, we’ve got a series. As the C’s stunned LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, one thing became explicitly clear: There is no such thing as momentum in the NBA Playoffs. Up until the plot-twist Game 3, kids in and around the Greater Cleveland area, had their parents take them to Jostens to have their replica championship rings sized.
Most Yeti Microphone podcasters will agree that this Celtics squad has nothing to prove. The world expects Cleveland. And honestly, there is still no debate as to which team has the best player on the floor, but the bitter taste from the first two games from The Garden, has at least temporarily subsided. For Brad Stevens to take a basketball team that had just been thrashed in one of the most crushing losses in playoff history, and go to the hotel room with a W, should dispel any musings on momentum. These guys are the best in the world at what they do, and like any other pro athlete, that short term memory allows the team to stay focused lest it run out of tomorrows.
So, a rose-colored piece this is not. This is a Celtics team I’ve admired from the standpoint of grit and moxie. They have some real players, a big-ish three, and a pedigree that allows them to believe in themselves more than others, perhaps. The aforementioned big-ish three, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Isaiah Thomas, will all be free agents come summer, meaning Danny Ainge is about to give those Verizon minutes a workout.
Any series is less about talent, momentum, or even margin of victory. Matchups in the regular or postseason, are about attitude. You never want to get into a series where the outcome is considered a foregone conclusion. I mean this team has already surpassed expectations in putting on a clinic of resilience and resolve. Every team will be confronted with injuries and shakeups in the starting five, and injuries, as we’re seeing currently with Thomas, and out west, Kawhi Leonard, of the San Antonio Spurs. But, in the case of the Celtics, they’ve had to endure personal tragedy as well.
On both the East and West, the Spurs and Celtics are considered interlopers, stops along the way to the inevitable Warriors-Cavs rubber match. When you think about it, that’s got to take a toll on a young, supremely talented athlete, like what you might find in Boston. Blowouts don’t really matter in sports. Yes, it titillates the fans, and initiates a torrent of tweets, posts, gifs and memes, but as the adage goes, they all count for one. The pressure shifts to the team that delivered the haymaker, and could play close to a perfect game.
The longer this series goes on, the more Tyron Lue and Brad Stevens will have to use proverbial muscle memory to figure out just what it was that led to their respective team’s success. With such a dynamic game, matchups and strategies are in a perpetual state of flux. The Celtics have grabbed the spotlight for the first time in a while, and I reckon they will stay there for years to come. Conversely, the Cavaliers have the best player in basketball, his name is LeBron James, and he likes to display more than just a modicum of boredom for being in the Eastern Conference Finals. Add that to his highly pedestrian Game 3 performance, and propensity for arguing with the media for no reason, and you, the amateur sleuth, may have just cracked the code as to why this series in interesting again.
What comes next will be what to watch for. It’s Game 4, no one from either team has to go home, not even in an Uber or Lyft, and the team in this series that is just considered good, could get a hell of a lot better tonight. This series is about to get more intense than a game of NBA Street Volume 2 for the Gamecube. And we fans will reap the benefits.