In a perfect world, we’d pine for much more important matters and solutions unrelated to the final score on court, ice, or field in play, but still, for consecutive days this week we were left with the salivating thought of watching four of the best teams in the East duking it out come May and June for the right to play for their respective sport’s championship.
Based on Monday night’s thoroughly entertaining showdown at the Garden between the Miami Heat and the Celtics, who’s arguing? Following Miami’s 105-103 win, with included Jeff Green’s dazzling, out-of-nowhere, 43-point performance, even the most dubious Celtics fan had to wonder if maybe – just maybe – the Celtics might be able to get by the Heat in a seven-game series come spring. As scary as LeBron James continues to be, leading the Heat to their 23rd straight victory, add Kevin Garnett into the mix, and who knows. One thing is for certain, it would at least be fascinating to watch unfold.
Likewise, it was the Bruins also coming off a loss in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon that gave fans pause about how intense an Eastern Conference final between the two would go. After all, the Penguins’ demise in 2011 is widely regarded as one of the biggest reasons why Boston was able to go on its Cup run, and based on the nail-biting nature of their two showdowns this season (3-2, and 2-1 losses to Pittsburgh), it likely wouldn’t disappoint.
So if the sports gods are taking orders, that’s what we want: Heat-Celtics, Penguins-Bruins. Make it happen.
For certain, we’re a long ways from either coming to fruition. We’ve yet to hit the trading deadline in the NHL in this shortened season, and it remains to be seen if the Bruins are going to pull off a bold move. The Celtics sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, closer to a first-round matchup with the Heat than any dreams of an Eastern final against them. The calendar says spring arrives tomorrow, but only the most naïve actually believe that’s on par with walking into Oz. It snows in March, folks. It snows in April. We’re a good month from playoff hockey, even if this entire season has sprinted to this point with some level of a similar intensity.
If we have to choose one though, clearly we’re going with Celtics-Heat. It’s fascinating just how much these players don’t like each other, even Paul Pierce and old friend and new foe Ray Allen getting a bit testy with each other Monday night. It’s hard to imagine a team that LeBron hates more than the Celtics, and vice versa Garnett the Heat. Even on an evening when we thought it might deliver, thanks to the absence of Garnett, instead we received the most entertaining game of the NBA season, leaving fans on both sides thirsting for more when the stakes become higher.
But the stark reality is that either the Celtics or Bruins could go down in the first round. If the Celtics lose any more bodies to injury, it would seem a hole that they can’t climb out of, and really, what are we to expect out of Tuukka Rask come playoff time? The last time he started in a playoff game was…well, it was against the Flyers.
Who has any clue what to predict?
Which is why, even in defeat, the Bruins and Celtics gave hope this week that we could be in store for something special whenever spring arrives. If the playoffs started right now, it would be Celtics-Pacers and Bruins-Senators in the first round. We’ll take those. As long as they serve as appetizers.