All it took was a couple of wins on Monday night for me to start up the Overreaction Machine and fire up 10 questions and answers on which team -- the Celtics or Bruins -- has the better chance to win a championship. Would this have been an insane topic for a column even two weeks ago? Yes. Does it still feel a little forced now? You bet.
But we are running with it anyway. Why? Because playoff fever has made us mad, that's why! That, and I don't feel like writing about David Ortiz or someone nimrod getting tasered.
So here we go...
MOST LIKELY TO PROVE A TIRED PLAYOFF CLICHE
Well, in basketball it's "defense wins championships," a three-word phrase that wasn't exactly disproved by the 2008 Celtics. And while the 2010 group isn't in that team's class on the defensive end (second in points allowed in 2008, third in 2009, fifth in 2010) they are still plenty tough. True, Kevin Garnett has lost at least a step but Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins have greatly improved, particularly Rondo, who I think is one of the top three defensive players in the NBA.
We know this about the Celtics, if they do make a run to the title it will be fueled by the D. They held Miami to 43.5 percent shooting in the first round and the Cavs shot just 40 percent in Game 2. There aren't going to be a lot of 118-112 games for these guys.
In hockey, of course, it's "You can ride a hot goaltender all the way to the Cup." And as great as Tuukka Rask has been all year, I'm not sure he's in the kind of lights-out zone that we're talking about here. He's been very, very solid in the playoffs, but just that. Now there is no question my mind that a team with Tuukka Rask in net could win the Stanley Cup, but to this point in the postseason you wouldn't confuse him with Ken Dryden.
Celtics fans are still fat and happy from 2008. What they remain really good at is obeying the occasional command of the JumboTron to get really loud coming out of a timeout. Never forget that this is a group that chanted "MVP, MVP" for Kobe Bryant just three years ago.
The Bruins fan has been through hell since the last Cup. They needed this run, I think, just to maintain a level of sports sanity. For now, they are still Pink Hat-free (though that will change in about, oh, two wins) and miles away from jaded.
Big Edge: Bruins
EASIEST ROAD TO A TITLE
This has been my go-to argument against the Celtics winning No. 18. To get the trophy, they will have to beat the Cavaliers, Magic-Hawks winner and most likely the Lakers. Now I don't think any of those teams are significantly better than the Celtics, but I also don't think the Celtics have any real edge over any of those four teams. Asking the Celtics to win three playoff series (without home court) against three of the four or five best teams in the NBA is a tough request.
Well, the Bruins are already one win closer than the Celtics, and that counts for something. And even though the Canadiens are down 2-1 to the Penguins and probably won't win the series, just the chance that a team that won only 39 games in the regular season could be the opponent in a conference final is reason enough to call this one for the boys of Julien.
Every player in the Celtics playoff rotation has won a championship. Not a lot of teams in any sport can make that claim.
The Bruins have guys like Miroslav Satan and Mark Recchi, but mostly it's young to still sort of young guys that are staring to get into unknown territory at this point of the postseason.
I've heard my whole life how important experience is in the playoffs. Seems to be the one thing that players and media can agree on. Problem is that I don't know if it's true. Could be, I've just never seen any real proof. I think I'd rather have the team with the better players than the one with more experience, if I have to choose.
Big Edge: Celtics
BEST FEEL-GOOD STORY
Uh, Nate Robinson finally making the playoffs? How about a chance for Rasheed Wallace to erase six months of tanking? OK, who hasn't been waiting on pins and needles for the Celtics to get past the Cavs simply because it would bolster the head coaching prospects for Tom Thibodeau?
For the Bruins, all I can come up with is Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron.
Titanic Edge: Bruins
Easy call for the Celtics. Anytime they have a lead in double-digits I just assume that it will be gone before TNT can get to its next "Are We There Yet" promo. They just get way too Pierce-happy in those spots, moving away from what got them the big lead. Put it another way: When a 25-point lead is trimmed to 18, usually it isn't a big deal. But with this team you just knew it was going to get close on Monday night. And if Antwan Jamison hits a wide-open three that would have cut the lead to seven points with six minutes left, I wonder if this column is even being written.
The Bruins weakness, I fear, is that maybe they aren't that good. Could be this is a nice couple of weeks that will run out once they face a heavyweight. You know the Celtics can stand toe-to-toe with any team in the NBA. They aren't getting swept by anyone. Can we really say the same about the Bruins? How much do we really know?
Edge: Celtics (meaning the weakness is less glaring.)
WORST OFF-SEASON BOOK
Come on, three or four crappy "insider" looks at a title season is a rite of passage! 160 pages, 16 color photos and nothing remotely interesting or new? I'm sold.
I shudder at the idea that "Big Baby: 260 pounds of life lessons and hustle from the man also known as The Ticket Stub." might someday actually exist. Although, ironically, that was the working title of J.D. Salinger's long-awaited sequel to "Catcher in the Rye."
I think I'd be only slightly less offended if I had to read "Tuukka Time! How I went from unknown to Stanley Cup hero." There should be an age limit on people who write autobiographies. Can we all agree that anyone under the age of 30 should not be a subject? I still remember, as a 10-year-old in Billerica, pouring through Dwight Gooden's book that came out after his rookie season like I was Jim Garrison getting his hands on the Warren Commission report. Reading it, it seemed that all Doc did in 1984 was drink malteds and watch Andy Williams TV specials. He was the bizarro James Frey.
Edge: Call it a push.
THE 'YOU JUST KNEW' FACTOR
Exactly what it means. You just knew that the Pats would beat the Rams, or that the '04 Sox would win Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. You don't need a title to be a member of this group, I'd put the 1987 Celtics right at the top of the list.
I'm not putting the 2010 Bruins with those teams, but they are becoming a "You Just Knew" team. Perfect test: Did you watch that Game 1 OT expecting the Bruins or Flyers to score? See what I mean? Still not sure when the Bruins transformed into a YJK team, but here we are.
The 2008 Celtics were a YJK team, but the 2010 version falls short. I wasn't stunned that they won Game 2 or even by the final score, but I also wouldn't have been surprised if they had lost by 30 points.
Rondo, Rondo, Rondo. He's been the best player in the entire NBA playoffs, and is reason No. 1 why the Celtics could win a title. I've written in the past that a team with Rondo as its best player couldn't win 30 games. Moron file stuff.
Rask might step up against the Penguins should they meet, but I need to see it first. I know Rondo can handle the pressure of facing the best in his sport and in fact dominate.
Big Edge: Celtics
Know how I know that Rasheed Wallace is the X-Factor for the Celtics? It's what I've been told ever since Danny Ainge gave 'Sheed that third year on his contract (on the "We had to do this our we were going to lose him" chart, giving Wallace that third year falls just short of the Red Sox hiring Butch Hobson as manager for the top spot.) Yup, he had a nice game on Monday night. No, I don't believe that it will signal any kind of change. I'll go with 88 games over one.
Is it me, or is the following the most damning piece of evidence against Wallace this year? Here's Garnett on the post-game radio following Monday's win.
“I went to him personally, you know, he don’t really listen to a lot of people,” Garnett explained. “Sheed sort of goes by his own tune and he only respects a few, and I’m one of the very few that he listens to and that he respects. And I went to him and I said, ‘If you give us 10 and 10, we’re going to not only beat these Cavs, but we’re going to blow them out.’ I said, ‘I need 10 and 10 every night with you, at least in this series right here.’”
Rasheed Wallace has been in the NBA since 1995. He is being paid $6 million this season. He has a chance to win another title. And he needs to be told by someone that it would help the team out if he, you know, tried. I love the end of the quote: "At least in this series right here." It's as if Garnett knows that asking for more than seven games worth of blood and sweat from Wallace is not even on the table.
The Bruins added a point-a-game player when Savard returned, something they did not have in his absence. If he is close to what he was pre-Cooke the B's look even more a legitimate threat to hoist the Cup.
Big Edge: Bruins
The Bruins get the win, 5-4-1. What does that mean? Nothing. Actually, if a word meant "more nothing than nothing" it would apply right about here. Not sure this would fall under the umbrealla of a serious study. Sorry if I fooled you.
My best guess for the fate of these teams? I still think the Bruins get by the Flyers (in six) but lose to the Penguins (in six, also.) The Celtics will also lose the last game they play in the 2010 playoffs, but I think they make it to the Finals, losing to the Lakers in seven games.