All due respect to Marcus Morris and the rest of his teammates on the Boston Celtics, but the players weren’t the only ones suffering in the void of jubilance that has mired an underachieving 2018-2019 season.
A month ago, the Celtics blew a massive 28-point lead at home to the Los Angeles Clippers in a 123-112 defeat, which followed another winnable game-turned-loss to the Los Angeles Lakers from earlier in the week. Following the defeat to the Clips, Morris dropped a quote that had the Boston media salivating and the Boston fanbase banging their head the moment he uttered it.
“For me, it’s not really about the loss; it’s about the attitude that we’re playing with,” Morris told reporters in the locker room. “Guys are hanging their heads. It’s not fun. We’re not competing at a high level. Even though we’re winning, it’s still not fun. I don’t see the joy in the game.”
Internally, things may have been dreary. But do you know what else isn’t fun? Watching the Celtics lose those games as a fan. Morris creating a hullabaloo while simultaneously amplifying Green teamer’s worst views. Also not fun.
Things did not immediately get better. Yes, the Celtics garnered two wins, including a big (and enjoyable) one over the 76ers, but superstar Kyrie Irving played in neither game and yet was out there hooping for Team LeBron in the All Star game a couple days later.
The Celtics lost their first four after the break, including important measuring stick games against Eastern Conference leaders in the Milawaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. They all lost to the sorry Chicago Bulls who are both tanking and just objectively bad. Irving had his typical media episodes where he said the wrong thing, or said nothing of substance at all.
Following a 115-104 loss at home to the Houston Rockets with all the league’s movers and shakers in town for the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, the Celtics became a popular carcass for the media vultures to pick to death.
Then they took an uber-long flight to San Francisco, had some heart-to-hearts, gambled and became a whole new world. It’s like they had the reset I’m hoping to get from Spring Break in two weeks.
They blasted the juggernaut Warriors 128-95 in their own building playing near perfect basketball. Gordon Hayward had 30 points, seven rebounds and, most importantly, a swagger. Facing a dreaded back-to-back in Sacramento against the upstart Kings and without Kyrie, they won a two-point 111-109 thriller where Jayson Tatum had 24 points and Tatum had the game winner. On Saturday, under the spotlight of national TV, they knocked down their archrival Los Angeles Lakers (solidifying LA’s replacement of the C’s as NBA deadbeat) 120-107 and Kyrie matched LeBron with 30 points.
That is quite the stretch for the team, not to mention the fan. It is hard to say if it is sustainable or replicable. But it damn sure was a blast to follow. Watching them play excellent basketball is fun. Basketball is at its most cathartic in close, up-and down, back-and-forth games like the one in Sacramento. Anytime you can take LeBron down a peg is enjoyable. Reading the beat reporters recap the flight that saved the season (maybe) are a pleasurable read. Heck, just watching this team enjoy itself makes me smile.
The Celtics were considered a heavy favorite to run the Eastern Conference and potentially challenge the Warriors. Seen through that glass, the way the season has actually gone is somewhat of an unmitigated disaster. Bad loss after bad loss. Drama after drama. A painfully obvious aura that something was amiss. This last stretch might have just been that, a stretch[Symbol]a brief window where everything was glorious, but it is really nothing more than a counter-balance to make the season seem measured on the whole.
I really hope it’s not. Basketball is entertainment, but the sadism provided by this season so far isn’t what most fans were hoping for. We wanted winning basketball where our incredible allotment of talent actually realized it and gave us something aesthetically pleasing at the same time.
The Celtics took a beatdown at the hands of the Clippers the other night, but Jayson Tatum didn’t play and Danillo Gallinari and Lou Williams exploded. Losses happen. They need to regain that groove on their flight home, however.
The schedule begets more good times. The Kings are young and feisty, and coming to Boston for a rematch game. The Hawks may not be good in the sense of wins and losses, but Trae Young and John Collins are supremely entertaining. Nikola Jokic is a wizard and the Nuggets are the second-best team in the West. Then it is a rivalry game with the Philadelphia 76ers. I would cape for my guy and human spark plug Kemba Walker, but I understand if one’s excitement teeters after Philly. Still, there are a great many opportunities for the Celtics to play some dynamic opponents. Should they give a proper performance, the potential for high caliber games is terrific and, if they win, the confidence it inspires will mean a lot going into the postseason.
Celtics fans were hype going into this season. A little bit of Okay, a lot, of the luster was lost. That doesn’t mean the viewer can receive a spectacular show this stretch run and regain that hype for the postseason.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.