For more than three months, the Celtics have been the toast of the NBA, racing off to a league-best 41-9 record at the All-Star break.
But since then, the Cs have gone cold, losing their third game in a row last night to a revamped Suns team in a game that reminded at least one observer (commentator Hubie Brown) of a rivalry game from the rough-and-tumble 1980s, rather than the more recent trend of the kinder-and-gentler NBA where every player is "Fav 5s" with everyone else.
Last night's mano-a-mano battle between Kevin Garnett and Amare Stoudemire was reminiscent of Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis:
But unfortunately for Boston fans, last night it was the Celtic (KG) who was knocked down; Amare went for 28 (don't forget, the Suns only scored 85 as a team) despite absorbing a flagrant foul (from Big Baby Davis) and dishing out a technical (for bumping KG after a vicious spin-dunk):
Despite a tremendous team defensive effort (including holding the Suns, the second-best scoring team in the league, without a field goal for more than one whole quarter), the Cs looked like a AAAA-level opponent playing in the major leagues. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were a combined 5-for-25, and more troubling they were held in check by a Suns that is not known (ex. Shaq) for defense (#25 in opponents' PPG).
GM Danny Aigne elected (so far) to stand pat with a team that is built to win now. Unfortunately, the other NBA title contenders are also looking to win this year, and some of them have gambled more than the Cs have to make it happen.