GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 12, 2008

Celtics deserve our undivided attention

By Bill Burt

 

They have walked the walk and now it's time for fans — and media — to talk the talk.

As difficult as it still is to believe, the New England Patriots are not walking through that door with the Lombardi Trophy.

Other than a Coco Crisp trade or a catastrophic injury, the Red Sox are, at the very least, a month away from anything of note occurring.

And the Bruins, well, we will get to them at a later date.

From the looks of it, the best news that came out of the pro basketball game at the Garden on Sunday was that the Celtics officially clinched a playoff berth.

That's right, on Feb. 10, the Celtics made the playoffs with their win over the Spurs. The New Jersey Nets, the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed as of today, would have to go 17-14 over their final 31 games (they are 22-29) and the Celts would have lose them all.

As for the Celtics' 39 wins thus far, that already has surpassed win totals of 11 of the last 14 seasons.

As for the win over the San Antonio Spurs, don't get too excited. Their point guard, the straw that stirs their offense, Tony Parker, was missing. Though they had won four straight before their plane touched down at Logan Airport early Saturday morning, new acquisition Damon Stoudamire is no Parker.

But the fact that the Celtics did show up for this nationally televised Sunday afternoon game without Garnett speaks volumes.

We've come to realize this Celtics team, now 39-9, is as good as any Celtics team over the last two decades. But the most comforting change is that Celtics Pride — yes, with a capital "P" — may be back in vogue a lot quicker than we realized.

And Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it starts and ends, apparently, with the guy who wasn't even dressed for the game.

"Through osmosis, they've adopted Kevin Garnett's emotion and focus for the game and I think it shows all the way down the line," said Popovich to the San Antonio Express-News. "They don't want to disappoint him, they don't want to make him angry. They just want to go win."

That is a serious compliment. It is also deserved.

The best part of this Celtics run has been the consistency. They have the third best home court record in the NBA (22-4) and the best road record, 17-5, a prerequisite for winning in May and June.

They have taken care of their division at 10-1 and, most impressive of all, they have obliterated the Western Conference at 16-0, beating every team except New Orleans and Phoenix.

Of course, we haven't been paying attention with both eyes or even one eye. The Patriots got and deserved our undivided attention.

The Celtics, though deserve a little more.

They deserve the support they really have not received and are going to need the next two months, with a five-game west coast trip beginning next Tuesday night in Denver and another five-game trip in March, including the Texas trio of San Antonio, Houston and Dallas and another in New Orleans.

It's hard to say how good or great this Celtics team is. They might be somewhere in the middle.

But it should be fun finding out. After about three months of perfection, it's time to talk about reality and right now that's your Boston Celtics.

E-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com. You can also check out his blog, "Burt Talks Sports," at www.eagletribune.com.