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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Green spring

At long last, sunshine, blue skies and pollen all around (Gesundheit!)

But the most remarkable part of spring finally arriving in New England is waking up to watch the start of the 2008 NBA Playoffs with the Celtics as a strong favorite to capture their (long overdue) 17th title. (Isiah Thomas getting fired is just icing on the cake.)

Now that's Green.

There are question marks to be sure as the Celtics take the floor tomorrow night against the Atlanta Hawks. The New Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have spotty and unsuccessful playoff experiences. Rajon Rondo is a kid (an impressive one to be sure). Kendrick Perkins isn't going to make anyone forget Robert Parish (but he is far more mobile than Shaquille O'Neal).

I've been slow to fall completely in love with this team -- too many painful memories from Magic and Kareem celebrating on the Garden parquet in 1985 to the tragedy of Reggie Lewis. But this team certainly is special: at 42-win turnaround, best record in the NBA and third-best Celtic record of all time.

Kevin Garnett has been everything advertised and then some. He was indeed the missing piece after the Draft Night deal that brought Ray Allen East with my thoughts running to "that's nice, but it's not enough."

The ability of Garnett, Allen and the once-maligned Paul Pierce to subsume their own egos for the common good has been the key to this remarkable turnaround. The coaching of Doc Rivers plays a large part in that accomplishment.

And let's given ample credit to the most visible link to the last championship. Danny Ainge wasn't content to rest with the two blockbuster deals that brought Garnett and Allen. Bringing in tough veterans with playoff experience like James Posey -- and most importantly Sam Cassell and PJ Brown -- helped sustain the turnaround. (Admit it, how many of you hated Brown's toughness when he toiled for the Knicks, Bulls and Heat?)

The skeptics abound about the ability of this team to handle the higher level of the playoffs. But this is a team that swept Texas. It went 31-10 on the road and dominated the much-touted Western Conference.

This is a team put together with the intention of winning the title. The regular season has simply been a delightful warm-up.

I am mindful of the euphoria that surrounds Boston sports teams give the strength of the Red Sox and Patriots. But since I'm not a fan of either, I don't think I'm caught up in that.

So I'll leave it to a supposedly neutral source, ESPN:

Wake up, folks -- this is one of the best teams of all time, and you might be surprised how easily they roll through the playoffs. I realize this is raining on the parade a bit since everybody is so jacked up about the competition in store this postseason, but I have to warn you there's a chance the Celtics are just going to flat-out destroy everybody.

Boston went 66-16, one of the best marks in league history, but even that mark sells the Celtics short. At 10.3 points per game, they had the scoring margin of a 70-win team. That scoring margin is better than all but three teams since the ABA-NBA merger, and those teams all had Michael Jordan. By contrast, last season the Spurs had a scoring margin of 7.8 ppg, and that was easily the best mark in the league.

Celtics-Lakers in The Garden in June? Works me for. Beat LA!

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