It's more then official Round One is going to be a fight for the Celtics (AP Photo)
I'm going to take a break from my regularly scheduled Red Sox commentary to chime in on the NBA playoffs (this will be ongoing throughout the NBA playoffs) and more specifically, the Celtics vs. Hawks series. I'll be honest here, I was pretty freaking cocky heading into this series and fully was expecting a Celtic sweep, and after the first two games why should have I thought any differently? But boy, how the tables have turned now as the Hawks seem to be gaining confidence by the quarter, and they're relishing the underdog role to its fullest.
Last nights game had to have been Doc Rivers worst nightmare for Game 4. The Celtics seemed to have complete command of the game early on in the first quarter (Game almost seemed over before it started) only to watch it slip away to the point where they were actually trailing by the end of the first as they watched the Hawks go on a 20-3 run. Now I know the NBA is a league of streaks and runs, but to allow the Hawks to not only claw back into the game in that short amount of time, but to actually take over the game is disgraceful. Then to make it double bad, the Celtics anoint Joe Johnson as the next coming and squander a ten point fourth quarter lead on the road. Like I said, this is playoff basketball, and last night was effectively the Celtics chance to squash Atlanta's hopes and end the series as it swung back Boston's way.
Now it's a whole new series, and it's a best of three. I fully expect the Celtics to bounce back hard in game five and to be lifted along by the Garden, but the Hawks have already done their damage. Now for the sake of not jinxing the series, take all the following as being hypothetical...
If the Celtics win both games 5 and 6 and advance to the second round (remember, this is hypothetical, so please no hate mail) the Hawks have already accomplished more then even what they truly thought was possible. They gained amazing experience and confidence to build on next season. However what they've also done, and this concerns me most, is put an enormous chink in the green armor the Celtics wear. Coming into the playoffs the Celtics were the odds on favorite, and almost seemed like a lock to be slated in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1987. Not so much anymore as the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavs, Detroit Pistons, and Sixers are all noticing this series, and heck all those teams are better then the Hawks, so why shouldn't they build upon what Atlanta's doing?
It honestly looks like the Celtics get flustered when the physicality of the game intensifies, but geez, none of them should expect to make a layup (looking over your way Rondo) like you did in the regular season, this is playoff basketball, and I want the Celtics to start acting and playing like the champions they want to become. The trophy isn't just handed your way, and there's plenty of teams still playing who'll gladly accept it from David Stern that aren't the Celtics.
I'm going to be at the game on Wednesday, and fully expect to have no voice come Thursday. The Garden will once again be transformed into the jungle, and it'll be a tough as nails game. In the end this test the Hawks are giving the Celtics could really harden and prepare them for the fight they still have ahead of them in the playoffs, they just have to be careful that the test doesn't turn into a failure. Great to have playoff basketball with this intensity back in Boston though, it's been too long, can't you tell?