More than regular seasons

987085.jpg

More than regular seasons

For all the success and happiness that Boston experienced during our run of seven championships over 10 years (which already feels like 100 years ago), there was one negative aftereffect that still lingers to this day: We dont care as much about the regular season.

In so many ways, thats understandable. After all, over that decade of dominance, we pretty much saw everything. We saw teams cruise through the first 16, 82 or 100-something games and then choke when it mattered most. We saw teams sleepwalk through the regular season, and become heroes when it was all on the line. We saw mediocre teams have legendary postseasons. We saw mediocre teams have despicable postseasons. We saw mediocre teams have mediocre postseasons. But either way, the general takeaway was this:

The regular season is kind of . . . blah.

Its a mindset thats typically most pressing at this time of year late-January or early February when the Patriots are recently finished, the Red Sox are barely a twinkle in our eye, and all we have are the Bruins and Celtics, not even at the mid-way point of their seasons, winning and losing games that weve already convinced ourselves wont matter once the real season gets under way.

In sense, thats a good thing. Its given us a healthier perspective on sports and life. In general, it's helped make us sane. Temporarily, at least. But in another sense, where's the fun in that? What's the point of investing so much time and energy into a team when you spend the first few months shrugging your shoulders at every turn: "Eh, it's only January. It doesn't matter."

But while our instincts still err on the side of regular season insignificance, with every passing championshipless year, you can feel tides starting to turn. Combine that with a few extenuating circumstances, and in 2013, we're faced with what will likely be the most telling winter season in recent memory.

First of all, the Bruins just started. They've only got 48 games now, 46 games to make a statement, become a team and prove themselves worthy of all the preseason hype.

The Celtics are 40 games into their season, with 42 left, but find themselves in the exact same place. Their season may as well start now.

Of course, we've seen this before with the C's. They're probably the biggest reason the regular season has such a bum rap around here to begin with. But in the past, there was a least a broader body of previous work. A stretch of time when the Celtics flexed their muscles against the NBA's best, and showed that somewhere underneath all the apathy, their potential is real.

You can argue that this year's team delivered that with three straight wins over Indiana, New York and Atlanta. You can argue, once again, that their recent struggles have coincided with another Avery Bradley injury, and that once he's healthy, everything will be fine.

But you listen to Doc Rivers who believe it or not, has much firmer grasp than you or I on where this team headed and fine is the last thing that comes to mind. Doc's about ready to blow a gasket. Not to mention, the old "just wait until the playoffs" mantra doesn't have the same ring with the C's currently in line for a first round match-up with Miami.

But whatever, even with all the urgency and panic (at least with the C's) surrounding Boston's two winter teams, we still can't completely shake the lessons learned over a decade's worth of success. Even if the playoffs started today, and the Celtics did have to play the Heat, could you ever count them out?

I mean, obviously some people would. I'm sure Shaughnessy would deliver another predictable and thoughtless column, and all the experts would pick the Heat (with good reason), but no one in their right mind would say that Boston's regular-season struggles eliminates them from having postseason success. We all know how much things can change.

But for once, it might be nice to not have to count on that.

To see the B's and C's undergo a winter to remember, and provide actual evidence for optimism heading into the real season. Instead of just forcing us to fall back on recent history and blind faith.

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

Blakely: Blown call didn't cost Celtics the game Saturday vs. Blazers

Blakely: Blown call didn't cost Celtics the game Saturday vs. Blazers

WALTHAM -- You won’t find the Boston Celtics blaming anyone but themselves for Saturday’s 127-123 overtime loss to Portland. 
 
But they certainly didn’t get any breaks down the stretch from the referees, who made a huge officiating mistake in the final seconds of regulation. 

RELATED

Following a Celtics miss in the game’s closing seconds, Blazers guard Damian Lillard wound up with the ball but was stripped almost immediately by Marcus Smart, who put the steal back in for a lay-up that would have given Boston a one-point lead with 10.8 seconds to play. 
 
The ruling on the floor at the time was a foul against Smart. But officials later determined as part of their report on the final two minutes of the game, that the foul against Smart was an incorrect call.
 
“It just pisses you off, doesn’t it?” Crowder said. “It just pisses you off. I don’t like it.”
 
Crowder, like a number of players I have spoken to about this particular subject, is not a fan of the league releasing the information. 
 
And his reasoning, like his NBA brethren, is simple. 
 
There’s no recourse relative to that particular game if the officials in fact got a call wrong. 
 
So for their purposes, the transparency that the league is seeking, while just, doesn’t do them a damn bit of good when it comes to what matters most to them. Which is wins and losses. 
 
“It’s over now. It’s too late to confirm it now,” said Smart who told media following the loss that the steal was clean. “The game is over with. It is what it is; on to the next game now.”
 
Smart added that having the league confirm the call was wrong is frustrating. 
 
“They come back and tell you they miss the call, but it’s over now,” Smart said. “We’re on to the next game. It’s like they shouldn’t even said it. But I understand it; they’re trying to take responsibility and show they made a bad call. We appreciate it but at that time as a player it’s frustrating. That possibly could have won us the game.”
 
But as Smart, coach Brad Stevens and other players asked about it mentioned, Boston made so many mistakes against the Blazers and played so uncharacteristically for long stretches that it would be unfair and just not right to pin the game’s outcome on one bad call late in the game. 
 
“It happens,” said Stevens who added that he’s never read a two-minute report other than what he has seen published by the media. “There were plenty of things we could have done better.”
 
He’s right.
 
That blown call didn’t cost the Boston Celtics the game. 
 
Their play did. 
 
The Celtics turned the ball over 21 times that led to 34 points, both season highs. 
 
They couldn’t contain C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, two of the league’s most explosive guards who combined for 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting.
 
Boston allowed Myers Leonard to score a season-high 17 points. 
 
Certainly the bad call against Smart was a factor. 
 
But it would not have been an issue if the Celtics had done a better job of controlling the things they could have controlled, like defending shooters better, making smarter decisions when it came to passing the ball and maybe most significant, play with a higher, more consistent level of aggression around the rim. 

Bradley, Green and Jackson to miss Celtics' game Tuesday against Wizards

Bradley, Green and Jackson to miss Celtics' game Tuesday against Wizards

WALTHAM -- The team flight to Washington for tomorrow night's game against the Wizards will be a little lighter than the Celtics would like. 
 
Boston continues to be cautious with Avery Bradley and his right Achilles strain injury. Coach Brad Stevens confirmed that the 6-foot-2 guard won't travel and will sit out for the seventh time in the last eight games. 

Stevens added he didn't anticipate Bradley returning to the court anytime this week, which means he's likely not to return until next week's game against Detroit on Jan. 30. 
 
Bradley won’t be the only Celtic not making the trip for health-related reasons. Gerald Green and Demetrius Jackson are both not traveling due to sickness. 
 
However, the Celtics did get a bit of good news on the health front. Jonas Jerebko and Tyler Zeller, both having missed games with sickness, will take the trip to D.C. with the rest of their teammates.