Not quite all in

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Not quite all in

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

As the Bruins get ready for Game 7 at the Garden, theres a quiet confidence brewing in Boston.

And I mean really quiet.

Like the 18th green at Augusta. High tea at Buckingham Palace. An interview with Rajon Rondo.

But regardless of the decibel level, that confidence does exist. If you polled Bruins fans, I think a majority would still pick the Bs to win this series. Whether theyre making that decision with their heart or their head, it doesnt matter. Boston believes the Bruins can do it.

Its just that no one wants to talk about it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column where I called the Bruins the team that time forgot. Basically, that as the lone team without a parade during Bostons stretch of success, the Bruins are still treated with our old-school mentality. Back when you always anticipated the worse, and the idea of winning was always overshadowed by the fear of losing (again).

So when it comes to games like tonights against the Lightning, it gets a little weird. Theres confidence, yes. Theres no reason to believe this team cant go out there and win.

But theres also no reason to believe they will.

They havent earned that yet. There's no Bruins Swagger amongst fans. You can never assume any kind of victory.

Instead, heading into Game 7, you cant help but consider what happens if they lose. Not only how horrendous youll feel, but: What will the team look like from here? Is Julien gone? Chiarelli? Will Seguin make The Leap? What if Thomas comes back to Earth?

Or most importantly, when will they ever be this close again? How long will it be until the Bruins are one away from the Stanley Cup Finals?

Thats hard to say. On one hand, this doesnt exactly feel like the start of the next NHL dynasty. On the other, who knows? Theyll still have talent. Anything can happen. And thats the mentality well have going into Game 7. Ready for anything.

A win, and I dont know. Its impossible to sit here today and imagine the Boston Bruins playing for the Stanley Cup. Ive lived here too long, and seen so much, that its literally impossible to fathom what it would feel like if the Bruins win tonight and move on to Vancouver. I mean, these are the Bruins!

Still, with a win, theyre only one step closer to the promise land. The toughest challenge still lies ahead.

But with a loss, the ladder snaps and the Bruins come tumbling down. The same place they started, except now the fans are in a little deeper, a little more jaded and less likely to ever believe that the Bruins will end this awful stretch.

But tonight, the belief is still there. Maybe that's the natural feeling when youve got home ice and the best goalie in the game, but when it comes to the Bruins, there's nothing natural about it.

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

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.