Winding down with the Celtics

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Winding down with the Celtics

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the blog! After a week off, I'm ready to roll, and still buzzing from yesterday's game. But before we get to the Celtics, here's one leftover travel-related question:

Is there anything more depressing than sitting in the terminal before the flight home from vacation?

Now obviously, this is relative. I can think of thousands of real life issues Kony, gas prices, American Reunion that are more depressing than waiting around an airport at the end of a great trip, but you have to admit: It's a sad experience.

Technically, you're still on vacation, but at this point, the buzz is just about gone. You've already waited in seven different lines, been snapped at by five different airline employees and been pissed off by at least 25 other travelers. If you're really lucky, you were randomly selected to have a stranger grab your penis!

For me, the worst part (aside from that last thing) is when the plane actually arrives, and a gang of new vacationers emerges from the tunnel. They're all so happy, so excited to kick off their own week in paradise. Most of them can't be bothered with out-going travelers they avoid eye contact like the waiting area is some sort of deranged leper colony but once in a while, you catch someone looking over and laughing like: Haha . . . losers. Have fun at work on Monday!

It sucks. The end of vacation always sucks. And it's during that 45 minutes or so spent sitting in the terminal, when it all starts to sink in. When you have no choice but to make peace with reality, and just hope you can squeeze out a few more happy moments before you officially land back at home. Maybe there's a great movie on the flight. Maybe you won't get stuck next a screaming baby. Maybe there's a tail wind and the plane lands 30 minutes early. You'll take anything! You just pray that the ending's not so bad, and that the great memories from this last vacation are enough to power you through until the next one whenever that might be.

OK, now let's bring this back to basketball and the Boston Celtics:

Right now, we're all stuck waiting in the terminal at Danny Ainge Airport.

It's been an amazing five-year vacation, but the end is near. We know that these Celtics won't win the title, and that whether it happens this week or this summer, the team's headed for a significant makeover and we're all headed for a reality check. We've seen the new teams Miami, Chicago, OKC de-board on the way to their own run at the glory. Some just cruise by without saying a word; others cant help but take pleasure in our misfortune. But either way, there's no escape, and there's nothing else to do but try to squeeze out a few more memories before it's too late.

And as far as I'm concerned, yesterday's loss to the Lakers qualifies as one of those moments.

Of course, you hate to see the Celtics lose. You always hate to see them lose. Especially to Lakers. Especially in a game that Boston could have and should have won. Take nothing away from LA; they got the job done. But the Celtics were up three points (with the ball!) with 1:30 to play. This was their game. And they lost it. And that's too bad.

But tell me something: Does it really matter? Would a win have made you think any differently about where this team is headed? Are the last 1:30 of yesterdays game the difference between the Celtics being contenders or pretenders?

No way.

It's over. Either we've already accepted this, or will spend the next few months sitting in the terminal and letting it all sink in. But while we do, it's worth soaking in every second of what this team gives us. Who knows how long it will be before we see the Celtics and Lakers go at it like they did yesterday afternoon? How long it will be before there's so much animosity between the two rosters and so much history out on the court? Who knows the next time we'll see the Celtics compete on that stage, in that atmosphere?

We don't know. We probably don't want to know. But with a few more efforts and afternoons like yesterday even in defeat the Celtics' inevitable reality will be a little easier to swallow. And maybe the flight home won't have to be so depressing

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

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

BOSTON – The final score on the Jumbotron Friday night said the Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 130-120.
 
But there was a clear and undeniable sense of loss on the part of the Celtics, even if Friday’s victory was their third in a row and sixth in the past seven games.
 
The Celtics (47-26) hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against a Miami Heat team currently among a handful fighting for one of the last playoff slots, but are doing so without Dion Waiters (ankle) who has been instrumental in their surge after an 11-30 start to the season.
 
Beating the Heat (35-37) will require Boston to play better than they did against the Suns, a game Boston won, but in many ways had the feeling of defeat.
 
Yes, Devin Booker’s career-high 70 points was very much a blow – a huge blow – to the pride of a team that takes tremendous pride in its defense.
 
But the sense of a loss came in the form of purpose while playing as close to their potential as possible.
 
The Celtics fell short on both fronts Friday night.
 
Being just one game behind Cleveland (47-24) for the best record in the East, the Celtics understand getting as many wins as possible is the mindset right now.
 
But coach Brad Stevens knows that while winning is important, how the team plays is even more valuable.
 
“Like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”
 
Is this Stevens’ way of trying to motivate his players after a not-so-great performance?
 
Or is he seriously concerned that his team isn’t as good as their record?
 
The Celtics, by their own standards, and to those of us on the outside looking in, know they are a better team than the one we saw on Friday night.
 
Not having Avery Bradley (sick) certainly hurt Boston’s efforts defensively.
 
Still, a Friday night’s game wore on, Booker’s confidence only grew and the Celtics’ desire to shut him down or at least slow him down, began to dissipate like an ice cube in hell.
 
And that’s a problem - a big problem - for a team that has to be connected at both ends of the floor for an extended period of time in order to play at the level their capable of and, most important, give them the best shot at emerging victorious in the postseason.
 
That’s why Stevens isn’t too caught up in the team’s chances of catching Cleveland, or whether they go into the playoffs riding a fat winning streak.
 
“I’m not going to get caught up in winning a couple of games in a row and all that stuff,” Stevens said. “I want to get caught up in playing well. We’ve shown ourselves capable of playing well, we have not sustained it throughout a game. And it’s been pretty consistent.”
 

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.