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Anderson: Thursday shows night and day difference between B's and C's

Ty Anderson
November 16, 2017 - 6:52 pm

There’s a conflict in Boston. That’s nothing new.

But it’s not just between the Celtics and Warriors at TD Garden on Thursday in what has emerged as the most anticipated regular-season game in recent NBA memory, or the Bruins and Kings on the other side of the country late Thursday night. It’s actually between the city’s two winter placeholders: The Bruins and Celtics. And it’s a fight that the Bruins, fittingly enough, appear to have no real chance of winning this season.

Through 17 games, the Bruins sit at a mediocre 6-7-4. Much of that comes back to the straight-up ridiculous injury issues the Bruins are playing through, of course, but a losing team is a losing team in the eyes of the casual Boston sports fan. The Celtics, meanwhile, are an NBA-best 13-2, and playing perhaps the most interesting and exciting brand of basketball we’ve seen out of any Brad Stevens-coached squad.

Again, it’s just not a fair fight if you’re a New Englander looking for something to invest your energy in in between Patriot games and Giancarlo Stanton rumors.

Their schedules have not helped, either.

Through 15 games, the Celtics have gone head-to-head with the Bruins six times. Nobody knows this better than yours truly (the man they assigned to cover both the Bruins and Celtics), really. The ending of tonight’s C’s-Warriors game will likely collide with the beginning of the B’s-Kings game at the Staples Center, too, so make it six and a half if you want.

It’s also akin to having to choose between a night at the amusement park or a root canal. Even for an absolute (and idiotic) hockey diehard like myself -- I could probably name every member of the hapless 2005-06 Bruins, while my go-to ‘good-bad’ Celtic namedrops primarily consist of Jiri Welsch and that guy that successfully pretended to be Mark Blount and stole a bunch of money  -- it’s become frustrating when a Bruins game collides with a C’s game because it’s just a vastly different viewing experience. It's enjoying yourself and being thoroughly impressed with the development of young assets versus watching a team have this bizarre stop-and-start kind of success that has more often than not failed to be good enough for the victory.

The ratings seem to back up the ‘difficulty’ of such a decision for everybody else, too.

The Celtics have absolutely cleaned up, with household viewership up 139 percent from where it was a year ago when they were the top team in the East, and with NBC Sports Boston’s coverage of the team expanding with a reach far beyond pre and postgame coverage. It seems like it’s just the opposite when we talk about TV ratings and the Bruins, who were down 19 percent from last year in their lone national TV appearance to date, which came against the Rangers and went up against the Celtics-Lakers on what ESPN dubbed 'Lonzo Wednesday.' Even NESN appears to have a difficult time making the tattered remains of this Bruins team look appealing or interesting to those unfamiliar or simply tuning in for the night. 

But the Bruins’ TV ratings seemingly hit rock bottom on Wednesday, as they drew a .74 local rating in their 4-2 loss to the Ducks. Even for a 10 p.m. local start against a non-conference opponent, which obviously creates a conflict, that’s less than ideal. It gets worse when you realize that they did not have any other legitimate competition in Boston that night, unless you had your eyes glued to the Sixers-Lakers nightcap.

Tonight could be even worse, too, given what they’re up against back home.

It’s even harder to imagine the local hockey team crawling their way out of this, too.

By the time the Bruins are believed to be fully healthy -- and that’s assuming they don’t suffer any more season-altering injuries between now and then -- it will be January and Boston will be gearing up for another Tom Brady Super Bowl run. You’ll also be awfully close to the start of spring training for the Red Sox, who are expected to make a big offseason splash of some sort after back-to-back years of first-round exits.

It’s the uphill climb you knew was coming, and it’s difficult to find areas where the Bruins have made progress or where the other local teams have allowed them to.

You’re beginning to see the Bruins load up on their ads, too, with frequent NESNgo (their streaming service to let you watch games anywhere) promotions, with an on-glass advertisement for it appearing in last night’s game. They’ve also run near-constant commercials for the tickets they still have available through the box office (the cheapest single ticket for their next home game is over $118 before fees). The team, by the way, maintains the fallacy that they’re in the midst of a 348-game sellout streak.

But none of that can change the fact that this Bruins team is just… absolutely wrecked beyond recognition. It's not hard to see why, either, when you notice that Jordan Szwarz is currently your second-line center. That means that this group is currently about 18 players deep in their organizational depth chart up front.

They’re another injury away from asking the C’s if they can borrow Jabari Bird.

Or, more importantly, their viewers.

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