The Celtics beat the Hawks by 34 points a few hours ago, slamming the door on a series in which, to borrow from Yeats, the best sometimes appeared to lack all conviction while the worst were full of passionate intensity. Seriously, if you're a Celtics fan who knows what to think of this team anymore? This afternoon they stunningly resembled the team who only two weeks ago were prohibitive favorites to win the title; two nights ago they looked an Antoine Walker away from 2005. As enjoyable as today was--and it was surprisingly enjoyable, far more so than I was expecting--there are still an ocean of question marks with this team that seems no less perilous with the LeBrons coming to town on Tuesday. One of these days the Celtics will lose a home game in the playoffs, which means that if they want their season to continue they'd best learn how to win a road game. Seems simple and straightforward enough, you'd think. Winning by 34 is fun (and it could have been more) but you're in a Game 7 against the fucking Atlanta Hawks, for Christ's sake; talk about your pyrrhic victories. Things need to change and change soon, and while it's tempting to look at today's game as evidence that things have finally gotten through to these guys, lord knows we've made that mistake before. The Celtics have arguably the deepest and most talented roster in the playoffs, and it's well past time that they consistently start to play that way.
But enough sturm und drang. The Celtics flat-out destroyed the Hawks today; it was an absolutely ruthless, dazzling performance. Much will be said and written about the C's domination, but I'd like to briefly point out the absolutely stunning degree to which the Hawks simply did not show up for this game. They were overmatched from the beginning and by the second quarter seemed to have visibly quit. If Mike Woodson had saved his job through the first six games of this series that position ought to be reconsidered, as his team appeared colossally unmotivated for the biggest game of their collective professional careers (not you, Bibby). Marvin Williams' absolutely atrocious, suspension-worthy takedown of Rondo even sapped dry their considerable lovable-underdog reserve; at the bitter end these guys came off as surly, self-absorbed and dislikable. The Celtics, on the other hand, played some of their best ball of the year: stifling defense, rock-solid contributions from the usual suspects excepting Ray Allen, who had another troubling night from the field (3-12 FG), and overall brilliant team basketball, unselfish and efficient with a surplus of heart. Probably the most pleasant surprise was Kendrick Perkins, who logged a double-double (10 and 10) and generally played like a grown-ass man.
Cleveland. LeBron. Tuesday. Make no mistake, this one's going to be a series. Hopefully in the next forty-eight hours I can convert my hesitation to excitement; in the meantime I just feel oddly glad to be here.