Panic filled the air like Hitchcockian birds this weekend, painting the sky black with dread, as waves descended onto Boston Celtics fans to peck hopes of winning basketball from their weary souls.
Or maybe it just felt that way if you listened to too much radio.
The Celtics served up a nice sorbet of a win Tuesday night, which, for about 20 hours, allows us to forget the taste of that loss in Washington. They didn’t right the ship with this win insomuch as they nudged it back a bit, but still, it’s a step in the right direction. And all it took was doing nothing.
“We needed a day off,” Brad Stevens said after the game. He said it the same way you’d say it on Friday on the way to happy hour.
It’s been a rough month, which presented Stevens with a choice on his flight home to Boston on Sunday. Did he want to get his guys together to fix all the nagging little slippages from the past few weeks, or just let everyone clear their heads and hope that clarity led to something positive?
“I wanted to practice so bad yesterday,” Stevens admitted. “Every part of me wanted to be on the practice floor, but that would have been stupid.”
So the Celtics took it easy, and it paid off.
“It felt good to just sleep in your own bed,” Jaylen Brown said. “We’ve been on the road a lot. You get in some familiarity, some comfortability when we got out there. And we looked more comfortable tonight. So I think it helps a lot.”
Sometimes some quiet time means a lot. Admit it, you’ve gone to the bathroom in the middle of a hectic work day or when the kids are driving you crazy just to sit alone somewhere, anywhere, with that door closed for five minutes. This is is basically the same thing.
“This stretch is real,” Stevens said. “Sometimes (you just need) a good night's sleep and the chance to get back and get some treatment, get your COVID tests, smile a little bit, not worry about anything else that's going out on the outside and just come back together this morning. We talked about moving the ball a little bit, add a few things that we can cut is the key to getting a little bit better. It’s not rocket science and I didn't want to make it that.”
NBA basketball has become, in a lot of ways, rocket science-ish when you consider how advanced defensive strategies and offensive play calling has become. Each year some coach or player comes up with one more thing that raises the level of basketball IQ necessary to win. The more complicated it gets, the more focus teams need.
Boston certainly isn't alone here. They aren’t the only team struggling with changes and playing poorly. That’s why there still isn’t any separation in either conference, and why this win still leaves these imperfect, unhealthy, mediocre Celtics only 3.5 games out of first place. It’s why the panic and dread peddled by some this weekend was little more than disingenuous fear-mongering.
Maybe we should do what the Celtics did and find a little quiet time ourselves, because tomorrow’s emotions might be different than today’s. The crush of games is a half-year g-force test. The Celtics just didn’t want to be on that ride anymore after losing their lunch this weekend.
“I just feel like we got sick of it,” Robert Williams said. “Obviously, we've been in a place the past couple days where we don't want to be there anymore. It's really on us to change it. So I feel like everybody brought a good attitude tonight.”