Raptors 114, Celtics 90
In the wake of the terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon on Monday, the Celtics had to find a way to compete in one final regular season game. With their playoff seeding pre-determined, and their players well-rested heading into the postseason, will they be able to harness the positive support surrounding the city in the aftermath of these attacks, or will they fade away?
Some things are more important than basketball. For the first time in the history of the NBA, circumstances necessitated the outright cancellation of a game. The Celtics final home game of the season never took place, mostly out of respect for the tragic events at the Boston Marathon on Monday, while the fact that the game held no significance for either the Pacers or the Celtics playoff seeding sealed the deal. For the first time in NBA history, two teams finished with fewer games played than the rest of the league, and the Celtics may have been fine without playing the season finale in Toronto as well.
The C’s were blown out by the Raptors (34-48) on Wednesday night in a sloppy matchup that color commentator Brian Scalabrine compared to an AAU game because of the lack of defensive effort by both sides. They didn’t intentionally throw the game, but just as the organization and the city made an executive decision to cancel Tuesday night’s contest, Doc Rivers felt that the health and energy-level of his players outweighed the importance of entering the playoffs with the momentum of a victory.
Kevin Garnett did not play, Paul Pierce and Shavlik Randolph sat out the entire second half and Brandon Bass was pulled with over 15 minutes left to play. In fact, none of the C’s starters played over 25 minutes, and Avery Bradley was the only starter to log at least 20 minutes.
It’s clear that Boston is preparing for the upcoming playoff series with the Knicks, as they have been for the past couple weeks. Over the last month the Celts are 5-11, and some might say that they are backing into the playoffs. While that may be an issue a momentum-driven sport like football, professional basketball is built upon the idea that the postseason is an entirely new season.
In order to win the championship, teams have to navigate their way through four seven-game series over a period of nearly two months. In order for this Celtics team to win the championship, they have to coast for the final 15 games of the regular season in order to have their legs for what would be an epic run, so that is exactly what they did.
The only notable thing about their final bout of the season, aside from Jordan Crawford’s continually exciting, if inconsistent play of the bench, was the powerful pre-game tribute that Toronto put on for the victims of Monday’s attack. Across the nation this week, sports teams and arenas have put competition on the back burner in order to demonstrate that they support Boston in these troubled times.
It’s great to see the way rivals like New York and Chicago have shown their support this week, but once the playoffs begin, no one expects the Knicks to hold anything back against their classic foes. However, athletes who call Boston their adopted home may remain motivated long after the opposition has forgotten about these attacks.
On Tuesday, Doc Rivers had his players run through a brief practice, which he said was partially a means to distract them from the chaos that enveloped the city. During that one-and-a-half hour session, ESPN Boston’s Greg Payne tweeted that Garnett was standing motionless in the middle of the floor for an extended period, as he stared at the rafters and contemplated what hanging a championship banner this year might mean for this city.
K.G. is always passionate, always motivated, yet it seems as though he is ready to give it more than his all this time. In what may be the final run for Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics will do everything they can to compete this postseason. The odds may be stacked against them, they will play on the road against higher seeds for two series before likely earning the right for a rematch with the Heat, but it would be foolish to bet against them.
Some things may be bigger than basketball, and bigger than sports in general. However in rare instances, the dramatic events that dwarf athletic competition because of their sheer gravity, can provide the impetus for truly magical performances. Whether the Celtics run in 2013 becomes part of that transcendent legacy, is yet to be seen.