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What can Celtics fans take away from the 2010-11 season?
Forget, for the moment, that Boston Celtics fans like me were doomed to see the team's championship hopes go down in flames in the playoffs. Not easy for Cs fans, especially considering that it might have been the last time we'll see the big three together (if Kevin Garnett(notes) retires). Nevertheless, it's worth considering the Cs' 2010-11 season on its own merits to get some idea of what we can expect later this year.
In the run up to last season, you could count me among Cs fans as excited as ever to see what looked to be a promising try to reclaim the NBA title. While nothing could replace the feeling of seeing the Cs essentially go from worst to first after the disappointments of the 2006-07, I'd never been as optimistic about the team's chances as I was last year.
When the Cs failed to beat the Lakers after being one game away from victory in the NBA Finals, some saw it as the last shot for the current era team. I saw a group of starters still at the top of their game, a future hall of famer in Rajon Rondo(notes), and the addition of Shaquille O'Neal(notes) as more than enough reason to be optimistic.
By the time Christmas rolled around last year, the Celtics had more or less lived up to expectations, once again proving to be the kind of dominant force they were at the same point in 2009. After beating the 76ers on December 22nd, the Cs were 23-4 with a 14-game winning streak. From the first game of the season on, when Glen Davis(notes) went toe-to-toe with LeBron James(notes) and Dwayne Wade in an 88-80 win, to topping the Bucks and Bulls in back-to-back OT games, the Cs had basically proven that they could outmatch any team in the NBA.
Well, almost any team. The Dallas Mavericks, sitting in much the same spot in the Western Conference as the Cs were in the East, had beaten the green machine 89-87 in the eighth game of the season. It was their only meeting of the season in 2010, with Dallas outscoring the Cs in all but the third period. Despite keeping Jason Kidd(notes) scoreless, Dirk Nowitzki(notes) and the Mavs' bench proved more than a match.
No less frustrating though arguably less meaningful was a loss to the Toronto Raptors on November 21st. It was a one point margin (101-102), and seemed to mean next to nothing in the grand scheme of things, but seeing the Cs' defense essentially go to sleep against the reliably hapless Raptors counts as "frustrating." I was there at the rematch at TD Garden five days later, and was more than a little disturbed when the Cs allowed the Raptors to score triple digits yet again, though the Cs won 110-101.
I know, those two games will hardly register for many fellow fans, so why mention them? The loss was one of only four the Cs had until December 22nd, and in both games, the starters were able to run up a healthy lead that was then squandered by the bench. If there were chinks in the Cs' armor showing, it was the inconsistency from the second unit.
The team never did better than 5 straight wins for the rest of the season after giving away an entire second half to the Orlando Magic on Christmas, and 2011 was definitely less kind to Cs fans. Shaq's nagging Achilles injury kept him out of the equation, and of course there was the infamous departure of Kendrick Perkins(notes).
Let it be known that the Cs had already had a shaky few months before the February 24th trade involving Perk, and they went on to a 5-game winning streak immediately after. If anything, the final month of the season proved that a team which was already plagued by injury problems (not the least of which was the absence of a reliable center) was more delicate than Danny Ainge likely realized. 2011-12 might really be the big three's last real shot at another title, bur I wouldn't bet on seeing the same kind of early season dominance we've seen for the last three years.
Taurus Londono has lived in Massachusetts for over ten years. His time at UMass Amherst made him a Celtics fan for life.
Stats from Basketball Reference
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