Let's not kid ourselves: tonight's game against the Celtics is huge. (And I don't think anyone will argue that the Pistons weren't caught looking ahead a little bit last night.) In preparation for the battle, Jeff from CelticsBlog asked me a few questions about the Pistons, and I did the same to him about the Celtics:
DBB: With the Celtics possibly needing an adjustment period integrating Sam Cassell and PJ Brown into their rotation and the Pistons playing the majority of their remaining games at home, are you worried about Boston losing the top seed? I'm not sure the top seed is actually preferable given the second-round matchup with LeBron that would likely ensue, but are you concerned that slipping to the No. 2 seed might be blow to Boston's confidence that might linger into the playoffs after most people assumed they'd go wire to wire?
CB: Playoff seedings? Hold on, I remember those. I seem to remember them being important for some reason. You'll have to excuse me if I'm out of practice with this sort of thing. Same with the Celtics themselves, to an extent. This group is so new and new to this situation that I don't think they really care about who they play. There is pressure to win, but not because of wanting to go wire-to-wire or to preserve some psychological edge. The pressure to win is ingrained into the very being of Kevin Garnett's soul. Not to mention the overall feeling of all the thirtysomethings that know how few opportunities like this happen.
Doc has been focusing on the playoffs more and more since the All Star break, as well he should. But that focus revolves around preparing Rondo to handle teams gameplanning against him or getting Powe and Big Baby minutes off the bench. Yes, it will also involve getting Cassell and Brown worked into the rotation, and it might cost us some games here and there. But I don't think the team cares if it is the number one seed or the number two. At least not yet. The last couple weeks of the season might tell a different story.
DBB: Jersey-popping: bad-ass or kind of annoying?
CB: Funny question. I think it depends on who's popping and why. To the Pistons and Pistons fans, it must seem like the Celtics are overzelous punks. I'm sure Billups has the attitude of "Whatever, you got a regular season win. Stop dancing around like you won game seven of the Finals. Act like you've been there before, like us."
Well, that's easy for him to say. He's stood on top of the mountain and he's had years to reflect on how much more important that is than the regular season victories. Then again, he's also gotten bitter about not making it back to the top of the mountain and has lost some of that youthful exuberance.
The Celtics (minus Posey and now Cassell) have never been there, so they are just enjoying the ride. Every hilltop is a new obstacle overcome. Year after year these guys have had to face teams like the Pistons knowing that they have no shot at winning because of the pitiful supporting cast around them. Now they can go toe to toe with them and give as good as they get. That's exciting. And yes, that leads to over-the-top celebrations. Oh well.
DBB: I'm just going to copy your last question since it was a good one: what are two good reasons why the Celtics could win the title this year? What's one reason why they might not?
CB: One good reason is the team's age. With so many veterans on the team, they know this is their last and best shot to go into the history books. In many cases, they want it so bad they can feel it. LeBron wants it, but he knows he'll have a dozen or so more shots at it. The Pistons have had it already. The Celtics want it so bad it hurts. That alone counts for something.
Another good reason is simply Kevin Garnett. The guy gets amped putting his socks on. I can't wait to see him when the playoffs start. He's going to be bouncing off the walls and jumping over centers. And have you ever seen the way he looks at his teammates? He looks through you, down to the core of your being and simply wills you want it as much as he wants it. Normally I'd be worried about cliches and hyperbole, but I really don't think there's a way to overstate this. There's just no way Garnett is going to let this team lose. He won't allow it.
So what could derail it all? What is one good reason why it might not work out? I suppose there are a lot of things (a good Pistons team not the least of these) but the thing that I fear the most is injuries. It could be Ray's ankles, or KG's abominal muscles, or Paul's elbow, or some new ailment that we haven't seen yet. A younger team could play through the pain, but at a certain age, you have to be close to 100% to be effective. Ray's shots just don't fall when he doesn't have lift. Paul can't pinbal through the lane effectively if he's limping. KG's abs need to be fully healed - that's why they were so cautious bringing him back.
I don't know if this team will secure the one seed, but I think once the playoffs start, this team has every bit as good a chance to win it all as any other team out there. And they want it more than most teams, so I think that gives them an edge.
Great questions and answers. Thanks again. Best of luck (against every other team) and take care.
And thanks again to Jeff for taking the time to initiate this. (Don't forget to read my A's to his Q's.) I said it before and I'll say it again: Jeff, Bob and the rest of the CelticsBlog crew do an outstanding job over there -- they have a great community of readers, even if they do cheer for the wrong team.