You may have read the title to this blog and thought that I'm losing my mind - how could you say the C's aren't quite themselves when they have posted 9 wins against 2 losses and even won four out five games last week in a fairly tough schedule?
Well, if you've been watching some of the games recently you may agree with me to a certain extent. After completely demoralizing Detroit for A.I.'s home debut on Sunday, the champs looked like they were firing all cylinders. In the back of my mind (and on blogs and posts) I feared a letdown at home the next night against a decent Raptors team. However, after falling behind, Pierce was able to lead Boston to victory with a big 4th quarter. I figured that falling behind Toronto by double digits at home would be enough of a wake-up call with the undefeated Hawks coming to town. Given that Atlanta took the Celtics to seven games in last year's first round playoff matchup and that they were coming in 6-0 I thought there would be no issue for getting the players amped. But just as quick as I could feel comfortable about my home team, they fell behind early by 16 points. Needless to say, I was frustrated and rumor has it that some small objects were thrown at the TV. Of course, after my mini-meltdown, the Celtics went on a great run to close out the half tied at 51. The second half alone would have been worth the ticket price as the two teams traded blows and baskets for the final 24 minutes. The young Atlanta team shot the long ball amazingly well at just under 60% and off-season acquisitions Flip Murray and Maurice Evans showed a lot of value and proved that this Hawks team is for real. Also having Mike Bibby for a full pre-season to get to know his teammates has been able to help, along with the fact that Bibby is in a contract year. However all of these positives for Mike Woodson and Atlanta couldn't add up to a win as the Truth was able to put his team on his broad shoulders once again and nail a tough jumper over Al Horford at the end to give the ATL their first loss of the season. Had Josh Smith been healthy, this could have easily gone the other way, but who's to say, right?
With the Nuggets coming to Beantown on Friday, I felt good about our chances to win the game and go undefeated for the week. But that's why they play the games - Denver seemed to be in control for most of the game, and I was even taken back by a George Karl team playing defense for the first time since the old Tar Heel coached in Seattle. Once the Celtics got close and KG went down the lane for a powerful dunk late in the 4th quarter I was sure that the home court advantage would kick in and we would cruise to a well deserved win. Turns out that 'Melo, Mr. Big Shot and the Nuggets had different plans.... Denver went on a solid 10-2 run to seperate them from the home team as time wound down and the defending champs found themselves with the first loss at home this season. What I took away from this game is that Denver may have got the best of the blockbuster trade and that the Nuggets will have the confidence they need when they find themselves in the fourth quarter of a close game, whether it be on the road or mile-high at home.
Boston closed out the week with a trip to Milwaukee to face the Michael Redd-less Bucks. Seeing what Richard Jefferson did to the C's in Boston last time around, I figured the game to be competitive but that Doc and the crew would be able to easily take this game. Out of nowhere though, Milwaukee put up 34 points in the final frame to push the battle to overtime. Luckily, Milwaukee no longer has Ray Allen and we do, so combined with Pierce, two-thirds of the Boston Three Party were able to make sure the losing streak stayed at one game. But to give up more than 30 points to the Bucks and let them back in the game has to be disheartening to not only Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau, but for fans as well. I don't know if it was playing five games in seven days, but the Celtics just didn't seem like the Celtics of last year at this point - and that was at a time when they were "figuring out" how KG, Pierce and Allen would mesh and play well together.
Luckily the week ahead doesn't have as many as obstacles with only three games on the calendar, but Boston could be in for dog fight against the Pistons on Thursday night at home. As Detroit showed against the Lakers in giving LA their first loss, they can ball with the best of them, especially with Rasheed hitting from behind the arc and Iverson lokoing more comfortable each game. Looking ahead to Detroit and not paying enough attention to the Knicks for Tuesday's game could catch up with them, howwever, as D'Antoni has his team looking good and they have a winning record and some confidence on their side. No matter what happens with the first two games of the week, the Celtics should be able to end the week on a winning note when they visit old friend Kevin McHale in Minny to play the young Timberwolves and former Celtics great Al Jefferson. The TWolves are a hungry team who are able to stay in most games but the C's should have no problem putting them away.
Well that's it for this rant - let me know what you think