The Illusion Of Dominance

I’m not saying Celtics are now playing as well as they did to start to the 07-08 season. I’m just saying that the 07-08 team played unevenly, too, and that any memories of complete dominance are inaccurate. I also think that a team comprised of veterans sees little to gain from trying to put away a game in the first half. It wastes a lot of energy, and often times doesn’t accomplish the objective. It would be nice to see this team start to mesh and post some sizable blowouts. But the first real test will come between Nov 29 and Jan 20, when the team plays 16 of 22 games on the road. That’s when we will start to see what this team is made of.

via Lex Nihil Novi: The Forgotten Ups and Downs of Early 07-08.

Boston fans are almost entirely devoid of panic. They’re still winning, after all. And as the above article outlines, there’s no reason to play revisionist historian and believe the championship ’08 squad was dominant from the get go. No reason to be concerned until the season really gets going.

This leads to another discussion, however, which is how different things look after you’ve established yourself as “the best.” The ’08 Celtics were taken to the limit by the Atlanta Hawks in a much worse incarnation that what currently takes the floor. Then they struggled with LeBron’s weapon-less Cavs, going again to seven games. From there they took care of the Pistons in six and of course ran the Lakers out of the building in most of their games, even as it took them 6 games.

The Lakers, on the other hand, looked sluggish and lost at times versus the Jazz who were vastly outmatched. Then the infamous Rockets serious which was, to be honest, pretty embarrassing. The number one seed going down by 40 at one point and getting ran out of the building against a team missing its two best players?  But, then, they won, didn’t they? And convincingly in the deciding game, returning the favor and running the Rockets out of Staples. Then, similarly, a more-dominant-than-the-number-of-games win over the Nuggets, and complete control over the Magic.

But last season before Christmas the Celtics looked absolutely invincible, rolling over opponents and people penciled them in for June. Boston fans will, of course, scream “KG!” at the top of their lungs. But Christmas was the point where you first saw that last year’s Celtics wasn’t at the level they needed to be. That was then reinforced when the Lakers won in overtime in February.

So the Celtics could be dominating teams left and right, and if they’re the last team standing in June, no one will remember that they struggled with New York and Philadelphia, that the Hawks rolled them or that Orlando outran them from the start. Just the same, if the Lakers somehow, magically, don’t run away with the title, we won’t look at how beautifully they’rep laying now, but say how you could see the cracks in their armor in losses to Houston and abject annihilations like what Denver did to them, completely obliterating them in every phase of the game.

This is not to say that these games don’t matter. I hate that contention which I hear on a daily basis. If it’s April and you’re looking at traveling to Orlando versus being at home for a Game 7, even after Orlando took care of them in their own house, and there’s a game separating them, they’ll want these wins. If the Lakers are coming into another Western Conference Finals matchup with Denver, and discover that they let the Nuggets win the regular season matchup and in doing so convince them that they’re the better, team, those games will matter. Seeding matters, from who you wind up against (Houston versus Utah, Phoenix versus Dallas), to where the games are played. The trick is to try and determine which games will offer some window to their futures.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.