Thursday, February 23, 2012

Youth Will Be Served

So I caught a bit of Celtics-Thunder tonight, which wound up being a thoroughly expected 15-point win for the home team, their 11th in a row in OK City. It's also the fifth straight loss for my least favorite laundry in the Association, who is looking more and more like a fringe playoff team and first round out for the Bulls/Heat machines... and if it goes anything like the middle sections of tonight's game, it will be positively speed-bumpish. OKC was up 27 in the third before the Cs had enough pride to make it respectable, with the cornerstone being a 30-3 (!) run that ran for the better part of a quarter.

Now, there were extenuating circumstances, of course. Rajon Rondo missed the game thanks to his propensity to throw the ball at the refs, and no one is really coming close to the Thunder at home. For a dominant team, the Thunder are a wee bit thin on scoring, and have no dependable low-post presence on offense; they also turn the ball over just enough to keep games from being total rollovers. But their defensive intensity, length and athleticism is up in the Miami/Chicago realm, and in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, they have the two best creators in the game in the half court, and guys that really do run in the LeBron James / Dwyane Wade circles in the open. When they are clicking, this team is scary.

But that's not really what I came here to post about tonight. Rather, it's this: basketball isn't usually a sport in which crushes are compelling. Normally a game gets out of hand due to the combination of good play and bad, and then the clock takes over and the garbage guys come in and it's apparent to all concerned that this one's over, and the garbage minutes hit with a vengeance. Getting to garbage is, in fact, a common trait of really good teams, since it leads to more team harmony (deep bench players getting minutes), greater depth in case of injury, and less wear and tear on your top players -- especially critical in situations like this sprint season.

And there's also this. Basketball is like boxing, in that there's no way to sugarcoat it when you are too old and not dextrous enough to compete... and that 30-3 run was all of that and a bag of hurt for Boston Fan. Paul Pierce used to be able to lock down anyone you threw him at; he had no answers at all for Durant, mostly because no answers really do exist for that man. And yes, yes, yes, the Cs made a run and could still be good in a playoff series or four, Dracula-style, the same way they always are... but five-game losing streaks and 7 of 8, with dropped games to Detroit (twice!) and Toronto don't exactly inspire confidence.

And neither do 30-3 runs on national television, when the opponent is whipping up highlights and basically making you look like the other in a Globetrotter game. I get that OKC can do that to people, but if you see a panic trade or two come from the Cs soon, remember that stretch. And a team that looked old, slow, and hardly at all in the way, really...

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