Snowed in with the Celtics

Snowed in with the Celtics
February 11, 2013, 4:45 pm
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A storm like Nemo brings out the best and worst in people. And if you spent any time around Boston this weekend, you saw both extremes in action.

That’s what happens when winter hits all at once. After the storm passes, it's time to face real life in The Day After Tomorrow, and two distinct groups of people emerge.

1. The ones who look around at their neighbors and think: “OK, this is a pain in the ass, but we’re in it together."

These people make peace with the fact that there will be certain unavoidable inconveniences over the next few days — traffic, crowded sidewalks, car accidents, longer lines, much less room to breathe — and agree that the only thing that could make it worse is for everyone to start acting like an idiot.

2. The idiots. The ones who look around at their neighbors, flip up their hat and declare: “You see, Billy. It’s like this. You either smoke or you get smoked,” and then proceed to go out about their business like Will Smith in I Am Legend, as if they’re the only human still alive in a post-apocalyptic world. They honk their horns. They steal parking spots. They go into already bare convenient stores and buy enough rations to survive two months on Mount Everest as opposed to 12 hours in a fully-furnished apartment.

I like to think that most of us start out in the first group, but unfortunately, life isn’t all a Liberty Mutual ad. Once a few people stop caring, it triggers a survival instinct in all of us — “Well if they don’t care, I won’t care!."

When enough people stop caring, it gets ugly.

Basketball works the same way, and in the two weeks since the unexpected arrival of winter storm Rajon Rullinger, there’s no question as to which path the Celtics have followed. They are in Group One. They're in this together, and the storm has brought out the best in all of them. It's brought their longest winning streak since December of 2010, and helped them regain their identity as the team that no one wants to meet in the playoffs.

That's because — finally — they are a team.

But I'll get back to the Celtics in a second. First, one more note about life in Boston during and after a major snow storm:

Everyone's drunk.

I don't know what it is. I guess it's because there's nothing else to do. Either way, post-blizzard Boston is the closest thing this city has to Mardi Gras.

I showed up at a bar on Saturday at about 3 pm. On any other Saturday, there might be two or three regulars in there at this time. Today it was packed. The crowd was almost out the door. With a collection of skis and snowboards lined up right outside.

Inside, the bartender was overwhelmed. Mostly because none of his staff could make it in, so he was working the bar by himself (while one chef manned the kitchen). It was a little bit of a cluster, but no one cared. It was a perfect "first group" situation. If you ordered food, you bussed your own dishes. You wiped down the table and left it respectable shape for the next guy. If someone left a mess, someone else cleaned it up. If there was a long line for the bathroom, you just went out and peed in the snow.

OK, that last one is just a pipe dream, but the rest is true. It was amazing. It was just a random group of people co-existing in a typically explosive environment. And all in the name of having fun.

With every major snow storm, we're left with a set of unique experiences that typically sets it apart from the rest. As time goes on, we remember a storm more for what else happened during that time than we do the storm itself.

For instance, there's the storm that hit in December of 2003 and produced one of the most iconic images in Patriots history. There's the storm that hit in January of 2005, on the day of the AFC Championship (the power went out in my apartment, and my roommates and I walked a half-mile in thigh-high snow to find an open bar with cable). There's the storm that hit in April of '97 and pushed back the AP history test.

OK, this is getting too personal. But personally, I'll always remember Nemo for two things:

1. The scene in that bar.

2. Celtics 118, Nuggets 114

Triple Snowvertime!

Is anyone calling it that yet? If so, please stop because it's horrible. But what a game last night at the Garden. The three overtimes alone make for a lasting memory, but the circumstances take it to another level.

First, the storm. The horrible roads. The lack of parking. The limited T service. None of it could stop Celtics fans from turning out on Sunday. For a lot people, it was their first time really getting out of the house since Friday, and everyone was enjoying their freedom.

There are handful of home games every season that just have a different buzz, and last night was one of them. Right from the start.

And that has something to do with this streak. I mean, triple overtime is triple overtime, but triple overtime for your seventh straight win — in the face of all this adversity, against a very talented, young and athletic opponent — is an entirely different story.

As is what's currently going on with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Are they serious right now?

Pierce finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists.

It was his eighth career triple double, but before last night, he'd never picked up more than 13 rebounds or 13 assists in a triple double game. In those seven previous triple doubles, there are only two where he scored more than 27 points.

Statistically speaking, last night was one of the most complete performances of Pierce's career.

Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett finished with 20 points, 18 rebounds and six assists.

It's only the fourth time since arriving in Boston that KG's registered 18 or more rebounds in a game. Two of the previous three came during the very first week of Garnett’s very first season. (He did it twice in his first four games as a Celtic.)

That means that before last night, he’d only done it once in his previous 379 games.

Throw in Pierce's game-tying three, and Garnett knocking out the Nuggets in the third overtime, and even in a vacuum, what these two accomplished last night deserves a separate column.

But when you look what they did on Sunday in association with what they've done these last two weeks . . . what can you say?

Well, you have to admit that they've had some help. Pierce and KG are the lone bartender and the one-man kitchen of the operation — they're the backbone. But right now, it's only successful because other patrons are stepping up and accepting responsibility. The four-guard rotation of Bradley, Lee, Terry and Barbosa is consistent enough that you can count on at least three of them being ready on a given night. Jeff Green is a different player, and the scary part is that he still has room to grow. Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and Jason Collins all contribute at different points and in different ways, but the important thing is that they all have specific roles. There's no more confusion. Everyone's ready to put their BS on the back burner in the name of winning games and having fun.

Of course, there's always a chance that we'll look back a week from now and the previous paragraph will be an embarrassing joke. After all, it's much easier to convince yourself that Pierce and Garnett are still 32 and that Jeff Green is James Worthy (or hell, even James Posey) during a seven-game winning streak. It's also a lot easier to say the right things and be the perfect teammate when everything's coming up Celtics. Who knows how this team will react when they're faced with an inevitable two or three game losing streak? Or worse, another significant injury?

We don't know. But these last two weeks have given us every reason to be optimistic. The team's response in the aftermath of Rajon Rullinger (I'm sorry, that's the last time) has shown what they're made of. When they could have just started honking their horns and stealing parking spaces, they chose to come together.

And last night, that decision was responsible for one of the classic games in this era of Celtics basketball, and one of the lasting memories of Nemo. Or as it will be known in the future, that storm that hit on the weekend of the Celtics/Nuggets triple-overtime game.


Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rich_levine

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