Not a winning effort

197883.jpg

Not a winning effort

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

BOSTON After six weeks of uninspired basketball, the playoffs were supposed to serve as an immediate wakeup call for the Boston Celtics. But when the curtain went up on Sunday, the Cs merely hit the snooze bar, and spent the better part of the night stuck in a familiar nightmare.

Their All-Star point guard was inconsistent. Their Hall of Fame shooting guard struggled to find rhythm. They were sloppy with the ball and wasted key possessions. Their bench was non-existent, and at many keys moments, so was their defense.

The truth is that for most of their Game One battle with the Knicks, the Celtics were the same team thats struggled since the deadline. The playoff alarm sounded, and they couldn't be bothered. And had any number of things played out differently over the final quarter hell, the last 21 seconds Boston would be a very different place this morning. Bruins fans wouldnt be the only ones lining up at the Zakim Bridge.

Instead, Ray Allen happened, and now the Celtics are up 1-0.

Sure, it wasnt pretty, but style points dont count for much in the NBA playoffs. Regardless of how they got there, Boston still achieved what fellow contenders like the Lakers, Spurs and Magic couldnt. Their homecourts still intact. Momentums on their side. Meanwhile, the Knicks are stunned, and left to wonder if they just let their best chance to steal the series slip away.

Now, Bostons seemingly in control, but as much youd love to get lost in Allens heroics and Carmelo Anthonys failures and celebrate the Celtics win with no strings attached, its also hard to ignore the gory details of their performance:

Although he played better in spurts, Rajon Rondo didnt break out the way everyone expected, or dominate in the way he needs to. The playoff spotlight didnt bust Jeff Green out of his shell, or bring out Big Babys familiar magic. There were still long stretches when the team looked like it was put together that afternoon. The Cs have lost confidence in Nenad Krstic, still have no answer for Amare Stoudemire and are now counting so heavily on Jermaine ONeal who despite an unbelievable performance, still hasnt shown that his body can survive the rigors of playoff hoops.

The fire, chemistry and cohesiveness that we all assumed would return with the start of the playoffs wasnt completely there, and at the end of a long, hard-fought night, the Celtics still only proved that theyre good enough to barely beat the Knicks at the Garden. And that was never even in question.

Despite any general pessimism heading into the postseason, beating New York was always the expectation. The problems, questions and fears were about Miami and Chicago. And despite Sundays win, those fears still very much exist. Boston can take solace in its 1-0 lead its certainly better than the alternative but it did very little to raise expectations or soothe fears that Banner 18 is slipping away.

At least for today.

But moving forward there obviously is reason for optimism.

In an ideal world, the postseason switch was supposed to be an easy remedy to Celtics problems. They were going to just show up at the Garden, see hordes of media, the playoff decals on the court and snap back into shape. But in retrospect, that attitude probably didn't do justice to what the NBA Playoffs are all about.

In reality, you don't just show up playoff ready. You don't just step onto the court, a year later, and snap right back into that mentality. You have to live it. You need to struggle. We saw it all around the league. Game Ones are a crap shoot. All bets are off. Everyone's feeling it out.

Players need to independently remember: "Oh, that's right. I forgot how different this is." Teams, if they're going to succeed, need to collectively have that moment when they come together and realize: "OK, this is for real now. Let's make this happen."

Last year, the Celtics didnt officially arrive in the playoffs until Kevin Garnett shoved Quentin Richardson in front of Miamis bench. That was the moment when the Celtics switch officially flipped, and they never looked back.

On Sunday night, only a few feet from where that season-changing altercation took place, Ray Allen drained a dagger that Celtics fans can only hope will have the same effect.

Boston was at the brink of disaster. Not that a 1-0 is remotely insurmountable, but for all this team has gone through, the way they'd played up to that point and the overriding tension surrounding the franchise after trade, it's hard to imagine them responding well to a Game 1 loss. Especially one lost in that fashion. It would have been bad.

Instead, Ray Allen happened, and now the Celtics are up 1-0.

Now, the Celtics have had their moment. They've gone through the playoff ringer, and should come out awake and ready to play on Tuesday.

If not, at this point, its hard to imagine what might do the trick.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Isaiah Thomas still unsure whether hip will require surgery

Isaiah Thomas still unsure whether hip will require surgery

WALTHAM, Mass. –  Isaiah Thomas said it will be at least another month before he and the Boston Celtics will know for sure if he’ll need surgery on his right hip or an alternative means of treatment.

“Take it day by day and whatever happens in the next four to six weeks, then go from there and attack that as is,” Thomas said on Friday.

Thomas took a hard spill on his right hip against Minnesota on March 15, and re-aggravated the injury during Boston’s second-round series against Washington. The Celtics’ medical staff treated the injury for several weeks, but the pain began to increase and the potential risk of it becoming a long-term problem only grew.

MORE CELTICS

 

In the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to Cleveland in the conference finals, the hip began to severely limit his play which was evident by him scoring two points in the first half of that game while missing all six of his shots from the field.

The Celtics medical team examined him at halftime and determined that in the best interest of his long-term health, he had to be shut down for the rest of the playoffs.

Needless to say, that did not go over well with Thomas.

“They had multiple people come in and talk to me about what’s more important,” Thomas recalled. “I definitely wasn’t trying to hear that at that point in time.”

Not only because of his competitive nature, but also because the Celtics were in the Conference finals for the first time since 2012.

“Conference finals, that’s the biggest stage I’ve ever been on,” Thomas said. “To not be able to go back out there in the second half … was painful; it hurt me.”

Now Thomas finds himself having to be patient and allow his body to heal up, realizing the big picture – his future – has to take precedence over what he’s accustomed to this time of year which is to take a couple weeks off and get right back in the gym to start working on his game and prepping for next season.

Not only is this a big summer in terms of him getting his body right, but he’s also eligible for a contract extension.

When asked about an extension, Thomas quipped, “That means more money? I’d love that.”

He added, “if it don’t happen, I'm the last person to be bothered by that. I know everything happens for a reason. So when my time comes, I know … God will bless me.”

The two-time all-star will earn just $6.26 million in the final year of the four-year, $27 million deal he signed in 2014 with Phoenix.

While being hurt isn’t ideal when talks center around an extension, Thomas isn’t overly concerned about his contract status and whether or not it changes this summer.

“That time will come. Whatever happens, happens,” Thomas said. “I’ve proved myself. The world knows what I bring to the table. I can’t do anything to control anything else. Whatever happens this summer with contracts, it happens. If not, we’ll wait until next summer and see where we go.”

While his contract status may be unclear, there’s no mistaking that Thomas wants to stay in Boston long-term.

“Boston has changed my career, changed my life,” said Thomas who came to Boston via trade in February of 2015. “I’d love to be here long-term and win championships here. As you guys know it’s a business; anything can happen. And I know that, I understand that. I would love to be here. This has been everything to me.”