Conventional wisdom wins Game 1


Conventional wisdom wins Game 1

Conventional wisdom is no friend of the Boston Celtics.

Conventional wisdom had them dead and buried in December. It said they couldnt overcome age, injuries and superior competition. At one time, it slapped them with shaky odds to escape the first round of these playoffs and a follicles chance on LeBrons hairline of sniffing the Eastern Conference Finals. If it was up to conventional wisdom, this column would be about the Red Sox.

Yet, the Celtics are still here. At every turn, theyve greeted conventional wisdom with Ubuntus middle finger. Theyve thrived on the unexpected. On walking a tight rope of opportunity, luck, grit and balls. In the process, weve come to understand that we dont really understand them. That might not seem like an important realization, but it is something, and its all weve got. Weve grown to expect the worst when they should be at their best. To expect success when all signs point to disaster.

And heading into last nights game, that was perhaps the greatest thing going for the Celtics. That they didnt have a chance. That conventional wisdom had dissected this series from every angle and all but guaranteed Miami a spot in the NBA Finals. In this upside-down season, that somehow served as a source of optimism.

Oh, so they dont have a chance? Yes!! That means they have a chance!

But last night, conventional wisdom came out on top. And really, thats the most terrifying thing about Game 1. Not just that the Heat won, but how they won. That everything we saw was what we were supposed to see.

Kevin Garnett was Bostons only reliable option. Paul Pierce struggled to simultaneously handle the LeBron and carry his weight on offense. Ray Allen looked like Allen Ray. Rajon Rondo was at times timid around the hoop and inconsistent with his energy. Brandon Bass struggled on the road. Miami dominated the boards, and the tempo. The Celtics had no depth. When it came to winning time, Lebron and Wade were unstoppable. The two best players on the court. On any court. Last night, the Heat were just plain better than the Celtics. Just like "everyone" said.

Of course, no ones giving up. Boston's come too far and proved too much for one loss to derail our hopes as fleeting as they might be that the Celtics can triumphantly raise that middle finger one more time and crank this already ridiculous playoff run up to ludicrous speed. But Game 1 was a huge win for conventional wisdom. The biggest rival this team has.

Anyway, Ill have a few more posts today on last nights game and what to expect moving forward, but first I wanted comment on the pale, skinny giraffe in the room:

The refs.

Obviously, when a team shoots 39 percent from the field, 28 percent from three-point land and 52 percent from the foul line, theres no room to blame the refs. So we won't, and we're not. Anyone who watched that game and really believes that Dan Crawford, Ed Malloy and Jason Phillips are the reason Boston lost needs to put down the sizzurp and re-evaluate life for a second.

Yes, the refs were awful. Yes, they were a disgrace. Yes, they gave credence to all the sarcastic and incredibly unfunny anti-NBA tool boxes out there. Yes, they made you, an NBA fan, hate the NBA. They made you question why you care about this league in the first place and wonder how an organization that had a referee PLEAD GUILTY TO FIXING GAMES has still so arrogantly done nothing to change the officiating culture.

You know the feeling. You have it every year around this time.

But with all that being said, the refs still weren't the reason the Celtics lost, and in the long run, I think last night's ugly officiating might actually help Boston's cause.

For better or worse (OK, always worse), the NBA is a reactionary league with easily influenced referees. And given the fall out from their Game 1 performance, no one will be surprised to see a shift in the officials' behavior. Sure, the Heat will still be the Heat, but the Celtics are not the Knicks. They're not the Pacers. And this is the Eastern Conference Finals. There's no way the blatant technical foul disparity can go on like this. There will be more consistency in how these teams are treated in Game 2, and certainly when the series moves back to Boston.

And if it was going to take a game like last night's to bring that issue into the spotlight and alter the way this series is officiated, at least it came on a night when the Celtics had no business winning in the first place. At least their best effort wasn't wasted. And hopefully now, when the Celtics do give Miami their best shot, we won't have to worry about four extra and unnecessary free throws making the difference.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win


Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win

BOSTON –  This is not where Al Horford thought he would be right now.
Back in May, the Atlanta Hawks had just been swept out of the playoffs by the soon-to-be NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Horford was a free agent-to-be who was confident that he would be back in Atlanta and the Hawks would retool by adding to their core group which he was a major part of, and they would be back to making another run at it this season.
First there was the draft night trade of point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. 
And during Horford's negotiations with the Hawks in July, they were also negotiating with Dwight Howard and ultimately signed the Atlanta native to a three-year, $70.5 million contract. 
Before the Howard deal was complete, the Celtics had already made a strong impression on Horford during their presentation to him. 
So the choice was pretty clear.
Return to Atlanta and potentially have a major logjam up front with himself, Howard and Paul Millsap, or join a Celtics team that’s on the rise where his five-tool skillset – passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and making those around him better – could be put to great use on a team that’s clearly on the rise. 
Horford chose the latter, giving both himself and the Celtics exactly what they wanted – stability and a chance to win at the highest of levels.
The first shot to see how this basketball marriage looks on the floor will be tonight when the Celtics kick off the 2016-2017 season at the TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets. 
The preseason isn’t the best indicator of what’s on the horizon now that games count, but Horford’s presence was undeniable.
Boston’s starters which includes Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, each finished with a positive, double-digit plus/minus in the preseason. 
“He just makes the game so much easier for all of us,” Johnson told “He can do so many things out there at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be big for us this season.”
And his impact can be felt both on the floor and inside the locker room, similar to what he brought to the Atlanta Hawks.
“With the way that I go about it is, I’m trying to win,” Horford told “I’m gonna work, put in my work, try to help guys get better not only on the court but off the court as well. That’s how I carry myself.”
 And it is that approach to the game that has made his transition to the Celtics a relatively seamless one. 
Horford holds many fond memories of his time in Atlanta, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart. 
But he’s a Celtic now, coming in with the same single-minded focus that drives this organization to continue pursuing the only thing that truly matters to them – an NBA title. 
"Even though I’m leaving a lot behind, as a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”

Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation


Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation

BOSTON – You’ll have to pardon Terry Rozier if he doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look about him when he takes to the floor tonight for what should be the first of many meaningful stretches of playing time.
You see, being harassed with the defensive pressure of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart while trying to become a pest to Isaiah Thomas (which I’m told Rozier is frequently in practice), has instilled in Rozier the kind of confidence that’s not easily shaken.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Celtics aren’t freaking out about the departure of Evan Turner to Portland this offseason and more recently the sprained left ankle injury to Marcus Smart that’ll keep him out for a few games.
When it comes to filling those two voids, all eyes will be on Rozier.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next guy has to step up,” Thomas said. “Terry has shown he’s ready for that opportunity. He’s worked very hard this summer. I’m proud of him. I’ve been in that position before. He’s been waiting for that opportunity. He’s ready.”
Rozier had an impressive run during summer league as Boston’s best player. And in training camp, he hasn’t let up in being one of the standout performers.
It has led to the second-year guard being exactly where he thought his hard work in the offseason would take him to, and that’s a prominent spot in the Celtics’ rotation.
And in doing so, Rozier knows it’ll likely mean taking some minutes from his veteran teammates like Isaiah Thomas who he credits for always being there to help him grow as a player.
“I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too,” Rozier told “Getting his (Thomas’) minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
It certainly looks like it for Rozier who has shown growth in just about every phase of his game since he was selected by Boston with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
There were many who questioned Danny Ainge’s decision to draft a guard so high when he already had Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart in the fold.
But Rozier has shown the promise that Ainge saw in him coming out of Louisville.

Now it’s just a matter of Rozier getting the kind of minutes and producing, that will ultimately validate the trust and faith Ainge and his coaching staff showed in selecting Rozier.
For Rozier, not being looked upon all that favorably is just par for the course when it comes to his basketball career.
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was when I came here; that’s fine. They’ll fall in love with me and my game sooner or later.”