The Celtics are done.
You have no idea how much it pained me to write that sentence. You have to understand - I was literally born with a Bird jersey in my crib. My first word was "b-ball." My mother said that the only person she'd leave my father for is Danny Ainge. So writing that sentence felt like ripping off a band-aid that covered my entire chest. Akin to getting a paper cut on your tongue. Almost as bad as being stuck in an elevator that had Nickelback songs on a loop. Painful. Excruciating. Troublesome. The admission that my beloved C's are done, cooked, kaput...well, let's just be glad I pay a therapist to help me deal with these issues.
Now, I know that the C's are currently ranked 4th in the East, and very well could end up at 3rd by the end of the next week. And yes, most of the team's core owns a championship ring, and nearly all of them have significant playoff experience. They even have all the ingredients for playoff success - strong guard play, a take-it-to-the-rim scorer, sound team defense - but it doesn't matter. The very short-lived dynasty will go out with a whimper this year. And it absolutely kills me to say that.
The C's started their season like championship contenders. After 28 games, the Celtics sat at 23-5, with wins over Cleveland, Utah and San Antonio. Rondo was playing like a top 5 point guard, Pierce was on, and Kendrick Perkins was grabbing rebounds at a strong rate. Still, you could see signs of an impeding fall, even then. Ray Allen shot 25|PERCENT| from three in the month of November. Garnett clearly looked broken down, even at the start of the season. 15 of those 23 wins came against teams that would not be in the playoffs as of today.
Since then? 26-24. Boston has lost 12 losses in games that they've led by at least five at halftime. " Allen has his worst three-point shooting, and consequently scoring, year since his rookie year. In fact, the C's Big Three of Allen, Pierce and Garnett are all averaging their worst scoring numbers since their respective rookie years. If that's not a giant red flag to fantasy owners, I don't know what is. And don't even get me started on Rasheed Wallace.
This day of reckoning may not come in the first round, especially with Andrew Bogut gruesomely dislocating his elbow and Miami serving as a decently favorable matchup. The second round, however, is an entirely different matter. Boston is 0-4 against Atlanta and 1-3 against Orlando. Even when they beat a top team, like the Celtics did Sunday against Cleveland, they do things like "blow 22-point leads in the fourth quarter, causing Celtics fans like myself to take up drinking combatively as a hobby. The team looks tired, old and listless more often than not, and especially last night against the hopeless Knicks. I sadly expect things to get absolutely ugly in the second round for the Celtics, and to look even worse next year.
Ah, next year. Frankly, there is very little in the way of encouraging signs for Celtics fans or fantasy owners. Garnett may have been fantasy's biggest bust this year, especially given his ESPN Average Draft Position of 21. Fantasy owners won't make that mistake next year. Unfortunately, the Celtics will, as he's on the hook for $40 million over the next two years. Ugh. Allen's contract is up at the end of this year however, and if he does return to Boston, it will almost assuredly be in a reduced role. Pierce averaged 11.7 points per game in February, and is looking as beaten down as he has his whole career. Fantasy owners have hope in Rondo, but are still maddened by his wildly inconsistent scoring numbers. Rasheed? Perkins? Bueller? This could get ugly.
I know, I know, I should be happy with my 17 championships and shut up. And don't get me wrong, I am. I wouldn't trade anything for that 2008 championship. But to watch players who so very recently brought me such joy go out with such a whimper...well...I'm glad I have that therapist on speed dial.