KG's intense confidence is back - and that's bad news for the rest of the NBA.
A big part of this is the play of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and, most recently, Kevin Garnett. I know, I know. In my last post, I decried the Big Three's collective ability to lead the team to playoff success. At the time, Paul was banged up and playing somewhat meekly. RayRay couldn't find the bottom of the hoop. And KG looked like he'd have been better off playing with a walker. However, after witnessing them dismantle the Denver Nuggets this evening, I take it back. Tonight, they played like a team possessed. A team I'd not seen all winter. A team that could potentially stack up nicely against some of the best in the East.
Now, before I get ahead of myself, I will clarify that this was just one game. A somewhat brutal home stand still lurks, culminating in the last regular-season match-up with the Cavs. They play a streaking Milwaukee team in an away-home split, with the Bulls sandwiched in-between, to finish the season. Some tough games, for sure. But, if they can keep playing with the energy and tenacity they displayed against the Nugs, they'll do well. Come the third week in April, the Celtics are going to be in prime position to make a deeper run into the playoffs than anyone expected.
Not to be overlooked in their recent resurrection is the play of the reserves. Bench contributions have gotten the Celtics back to the point where they're scoring over a hundred points per game and, with a renewed dedication to team defense, have held many of their opponents under triple digits. Nate Robinson, Glen Davis, and Michael Finley have each stepped up their game and given the Celts a spark at key times. The reserves seem to be capable of holding a lead when the starters need a rest, which gives Doc some flexibility and keeps the energy flowing. But the greatest advantage they provide is taking some of the pressure off Pierce and Co. The Truth hadn't been as evident after the All-Star break, when he suffered some minor but pesky injuries. He now looks completely healthy and has regained that deadly first step. Ray Allen has been drilling some big shots the past few games, and it looks like the ice has returned to his veins. And I can't put into words how differently Kevin Garnett has been playing. That knee looks strong, his vigor has returned, and he once again looks fierce. I still want to see him play this way a few mores times before I say he's 100%, but I like what I see. Add all of this to Rajon Rondo going off for a triple-double tonight, and the team racking up 30 assists, and you have a formula for success. It's pretty amazing to witness a turnaround like that, against a Western Conference powerhouse like Denver no less.
Suffice it to say, my spirits are soaring in light of the potential the Cees have shown lately. All I really wanted to see was something. Something that told me it would be worthwhile to keep watching, to keep investing hope in what I began to consider a hollow dream. I'm certainly not making them the favorite to win it all or anything nutty like that. But I do feel a confidence in them I hadn't felt since the start of the season, when everyone was healthy and the team was firing on all cylinders. And I can tell they feel that same confidence in themselves. They trust one another to do the things that make teams great -- pass the ball, help each other out on D, and keep the team's fire stoked. Are these not the tenets of Ubuntu?