When the season schedule was announced, the Boston Celtics and their fans circled two big dates on the calender. One was opening night against the new look Miami Heat as the Celtics wanted to make a statement that they were still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. The second one was probably Sunday, January 30th 2011. On that day, the Celtics would be traveling to Los Angeles to battle the Lakers in a rematch of the 2010 NBA Finals. It was their chance to walk into LA, give the Lakers the “remember us?” spiel and get some much needed revenge after the disappointing end to the NBA Finals. With Paul Pierce taking over the game in the second half (32 points) and doing more to help his team win then Lakers star rapist Kobe Bryant, the Boston Celtics mostly cruised to 109-96 win at the Staples Center. Ray Allen poured in 21 points , Kevin Garnett had an 18/13 double-double and even Nate Robinson and Glen Davis had great performances off the bench with 11 points and 13 points respectively. In addition, the Celtics defense held Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to 11 and 12 points respectively, thanks in no small part to the recent return of Celtics center Kendrick Perkins.
So because of this win, this is the biggest thing to happen for the Celtics season, right? The Boston Celtics got their much talked about revenge, they beat Los Angeles on their own turf and Chris Bentivegna gets to laugh in the face of his friend Chris Carr about how the Celtics still dominate the Los Angeles Lakers in the regular season. Everything is perfect in Boston, or so we think.
I hate to break it to everyone, but beating LA on Sunday isn’t as big as a deal as everyone thinks it is.
Let’s get this out of the way first. It’s effing awesome to beat LA. They are our rivals both on the court and off the court. On the court because they are the two winningest franchises in the NBA with more than half of all NBA championships between the teams. Both teams also have had some of the greatest players to ever play the game on their teams such as Bill Russel, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. Because of the overall talent of the two franchises, they have met in the NBA Finals twelve times with the Celtics winning nine of them. The current crop also seem to have a general dislike of each other. Think about it. Do you think you could ever see Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant being buddies off the court? I didn’t think so.
Off the court, mostly with the fans, the rivalry exists because of the polarizing regions the teams come from. The Boston fan-base is a mostly blue collar, white, group who have been hardened by the extreme conditions of the New England weather. The Laker fans are a multi-ethnic group of people who are generally more laid back then New Englander’s. They are not two groups of people that normally get along very well.
But here is the thing. This game did not mean a whole heck of a lot. Sure the Boston Celtics wanted to win this game in order to get their revenge from last year’s NBA Finals. That’s all fine and dandy, but do you really think this game meant a whole heck of a lot to the Lakers? It’s just like during the 2009 season. Do you really think the Celtics really cared that they lost to the Lakers the first time on Christmas Day? Hell no. They knew they were the champions and if everything held together (which it didn’t) then the Celtics would see the Lakers in May and June. For teams both making the playoffs, they really couldn’t care about a end of January game, especially the Lakers who have been more nonchalant than usual this year. Coming off back to back titles, did anyone really expect them to play to their maximum level until the playoffs?
Besides, the Boston Celtics have more pressing matters then the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics sit three games up on the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls and five and a half games up on the Orlando Magic. Don’t you think the Celtics will care a little bit more about winning the games against the Eastern Conference foes they are likely to see in the playoffs? Personally, I think next Sunday’s game is more important then the Laker’s game from a basketball standpoint. Sure, emotionally I would rather beat the Lakers then the Magic, but I would rather establish some confidence against the Orlando Magic and beat them, especially if they are a likely opponent in the second round or conference finals.
So beating LA is always nice, but there is still plenty of more basketball to play. The Celtics can enjoy the victory today, but at the end of the day it’s only January. They have to continue towards perfecting their game in time for the playoffs in April.
Staying healthy wouldn’t hurt either.