So the Celtics are now once again the favorites to the win the NBA title? Because they put a wounded animal out of its misery quickly and without incident? Is that all it takes these days to restore one’s standing in the NBA community? A simple mercy killing?
Had the Knicks been playing at full strength this weekend, I would understand some of the congratulatory back-slapping going on in Celtic Land this morning. And had the Celts been able to dispatch CarMare in four, I would be the first to raise a glass and toast the newly-annoited NBA favorites. But the Celtics didn’t sweep a fully-staffed team from New York and to pretend otherwise does injury to both truth and fair analysis.
So rather than bask in the Celtics sweep, I am simply exhaling today, relieved that a potentially difficult obstacle was easily cleared. And thankful that Boston’s mastery over the Knicks was not the slightest bit smudged. But I am hardly surging in confidence. And that is because I recognize that playing Amare at 80 percent and facing the Knicks without Billups is not appreciably different than beating the Pacers or the Bucks. And truthfully, if the Celts were just coming off a sweep of the Bucks, I don’t think I would clearing my June schedule just yet.
Now this is not to say there wasn’t anything positive to glean from this series because that is not the case. Most importantly, this series proved that Rajon Rondo is healthy, is motivated and is capable of playing at a high level even though his NBA-muse is no longer around. And we got a taste on Friday of what this Celtics team can do when Rondo is getting the ball to his teammates at the right time and place. For those who didn’t see it, that demonstration was frightening. Finally, we saw some encouraging signs from Jermaine O’Neil and got a glimpse this weekend of what happens when this club defends and rebounds. Add it all up and there are reasons to be more encouraged today than ten days ago.
But all that HAS to be weighed against the competition. And personally, I don’t think there would be nearly as much to celebrate this morning if Billups had been around to nail threes and Amare had been healthy enough to dominate, as he did in the second half of game one. If that makes me a curmudgeon, so be it. But I just don’t see how this sweep can’t be heavily discounted. Given that, I am not ready to offer any toasts just yet.