How Nostalgia Bias Has Ruined This Season for the Celtics
This past week Kevin Garnett hosted what may be the greatest Area 21 episode since it’s inception; he was joined by Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and Glenn Davis and it was replete with laughs, stories, and pure emotion. Since the debut of Area 21, basketball fans everywhere were wondering when Garnett was going to host a Boston Celtics reunion and we finally got one. Yes, there was no Ray Allen, but that was fine because the heartfelt explanations as to why Ray was not there and how every single one of those players felt about the dead-eye shooter jettisoning them for the Miami Heat made for great television. However, because everyone has such great memories of the way those guys played and about the 2008 NBA Championship in general, people forget just how difficult the road was to the 2008 title. They were far from sweeping every round and by no means manhandled their opponents on the way to the title. Rare is an easy title run, but people have seemingly forgot just how difficult their path was and the nostalgia bias from 2008 has ruined the 2017 regular season and postseason for Boston Celtics fans.
Haters Gonna Hate the Regular Season
The loudest complaint about the 2008 Boston Celtics at the time was how it was going to be impossible for the team to come together and win a championship in their first year. They destroyed the competition in the regular season and entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed while everyone still uttered, “wait for the postseason when everything gets tougher, then we will really see what they are made out of.” Back in 2008 people wiped away the importance of the regular season because it did not fit their narrative. Apparently now grabbing a No. 1 seed was an easy task and only the postseason mattered.
This season was more of the same. First it was, “well the Celtics are only going to be a four seed.” Then it turned into, “well, just wait until the Raptors and Wizards leap-frog them for second.” All of a sudden, when it was apparent neither one of those teams could get past the Celtics the mantra became, “well, they cannot hold on to the No. 1 seed.” Of course, that motto went down the tubes so the regular season ended with, “the Cavs did not want the No. 1 seed, and it is not important anyways, just wait for the postseason.”
The Postseason is Actually Pretty Hard
In 2008, the Celtics opening round opponent was the Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics took care of business at home, going up two games to none, but the Hawks battled back to even the series by holding serve. The Celtics took a 3-2 series lead by issuing a 110-85 beatdown, but the Hawks… the No. 8 seed… forced a Game Seven with a 103-100 victory. The Celtics though remained tough and issued one of the loudest, “enough of this,” baby-powder slaps in Game Seven with a 99-65 stomping to take the series. The No. 1 seed was taken to the brink in 2008 in the very first round, but not much is made of that footnote almost a decade later.
Obviously the 2017 team is different and looked awful in their first two games against the No. 8 seed Bulls, but four wins in a row (including three on the road) ended that dog fight and propelled them to the second round.
In the second round the 2008 Celtics faced what would become a familiar foe in LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Once again it was the home court advantage that would prevail. Boston went up 2-0, Cleveland tied it 2-2, Celtics won at home to push it to 3-2 before the Cavs pushed it to 3-3 to force a Game Seven once again. Unlike the previous series, this Game Seven turned into a heavyweight battle with both teams throwing constant haymakers, but the Celtics landed the final couple of pivotal punched and eked out a 97-92 win despite 45 points from LeBron.
Now in the second round of 2017, the series against the Washington Wizards has followed a similar formula. The Celtics held serve at home to go up 2-0, the Wizards demolished them in D.C. to tie the series before the Celtics returned the throttling in Game Five to go up 3-2. The vast majority of talking heads in both 2008 and 2017 belittled the regular season and the importance of home court advantage, but it seems like winning the regular season and playing that extra game at home was and is of the utmost importance.
Stop Enjoying Nostalgia, Start Enjoying This Team
The 2008 Celtics settled down and defeated the Detroit Pistons 4-2 and did the same to the L.A. Lakers in the Finals to grab their title, but their Round Three Game Three victory against the Pistons was their first road win of the playoffs that year. If the 2017 Boston Celtics, the best road team in the Eastern Conference, can pull out the win against the Washington Wizards on Friday night they will do something the 2008 could not do through the first two rounds; close out a series on the road. If the 2017 iteration does wrap up the series in D.C. they will have actually finished off their first two postseason opponents on the road. The 2008 team needed seven games in each of their first two series. So far, the 2017 version has not needed more than six.
Do not get it twisted. This 2017 team is NOT the 2008 team. There MIGHT be one hall of famer on the squad whereas in 2008 there were three clear cut guys who would later get enshrined in Springfield, MA. However, what this year’s Gang Green has pulled off has been even more impressive because of the lack of sure fire hall of famers.
They are led by a 5’9 dynamo of a point guard who can seemingly score at will or turn into a pass-first guy when the team needs it, a defensive stalwart who has turned into a devastating two-way player who is finding a knack for late series heroics (Avery Bradley had the best game of his career in Game Five against the Wizards after being the best player on the court in Game Five and Game Six against the Bulls), and the best passing stretch four/five still in the playoffs who has proven in every single game this postseason his max-money contract was more than worthwhile. This is a fun (and infuriating) team to watch precisely because they more than likely do not have a single guy on the roster who will end up in the Hall of Fame.
In the day and age of super star teams, the 2017 Boston Celtics are proving that a team compiled of random parts can still make some noise if those parts actually fit together well. Watching the Area 21 segment and looking at KG, Truth, Rondo, Perk and Big Baby (and no Ray Ray) it struck me that the 2008 squad had more troubles at this point of their postseason despite eventually grabbing their title run. The 2017 Celtics might lose their next two games to the Wizards. They might beat the Wizards and get trounced by Playoff LeBron and the Cavs in the next round. Any number of different things might happen, but I know one thing; the 2017 team has been counted out every step of the way this season and while everybody might remember the 2008 team as a juggernaut, I will not let nostalgia bias sway me and I will enjoy the Celtics these playoffs because you never know what is going to happen and you will never know how you might think of them a decade from now.