Conventional wisdom wins Game 1

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

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

BOSTON – From the outset of this season, the Boston Celtics were swimming upstream when it came to getting respect. 

No matter how many wins they racked up, no matter how many upsets they managed to pull off, they were never going to do enough to satisfy the court of public opinion which wanted one thing and one thing only from the NBA: A third installment of Golden State against Cleveland in the NBA Finals. 

The Warriors did their part by running through the West with 12 wins in as many playoff games. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will try to not just stave off elimination tonight, but continue to delay what so many believe is an inevitable Golden State-Cleveland Final.

Boston’s Al Horford understands that while the league this season has seen lots of individual success as well as teams that have overachieved, the thirst for Golden State versus Cleveland remains stronger than ever. 

“We understand that’s what everyone has been talking about since the beginning of the season,” Horford said. “For us it’s just to focus … and play the Celtic way. And just come out here and fight and we’ll take it from there.”

The Celtics did that in Game 3 with Avery Bradley delivering one of the more memorable shots in the Brad Stevens era, a game-winning three-pointer that hit the rim four times before falling with 0.1 seconds to play as Boston squeaked out a 111-108 win.

Boston did a lot of good things in Game 4 and seemingly went into the half sensing that maybe just maybe they would even up the series at two games heading back to Boston for tonight’s Game 5 matchup. 

But Kyrie Irving picked up the slack for a foul-plagued LeBron James, lifting the Cavaliers to a 112-99 win which puts them now just a win away from advancing to the NBA Finals. 

Not only have folks both in the media as well as fans who have rooted for this series to be over, even merchandise sellers like Dick Sporting Goods have anticipated this series as already being over.

“It is what it is,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It’s been like that all year; a lot of guys counting us out. At the same time, we’re trying to put ourselves in position to win each and every game.”

While that has been the goal, it certainly hasn’t worked out that way in this series. 

Despite Games 1 and 2 being at the TD Garden, the Celtics lost both games by a total of 57 points. 

And while they won Game 3 and had the Cavaliers on the ropes in Game 4 before losing, they know their chance to play NBA Finals spoiler is just about up. 

“We know that’s the Finals that everybody wants to talk about, what everybody is looking forward to,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “We understand it. But we work just as hard as these guys. We just have to keep going out there and working. We’re not going to give it to them, and stuff like that. We just have to make it tough on them.”