It started out as a Christmas vacation for the ages. The Pats could gain a playoff birth in the final week of the season, the Sox could land Mark Teixeira and be on their way to another title, and the Celtics could win 20 in a row by knocking off the Lakers at home on Christmas day.
It didn't quite turn out that way.
But with the Patriots season over and with the burner on the Red Sox Hot Stove Report turned down to a simmer, we turn our attention fully to the Celtics (and Bruins I suppose). So after a pair of West Coast losses are the C's still the team to beat? The answer to that question is an simply: Yes.
While the loss on Christmas day to the Lakers was disapointing, it in no way proved that Los Angeles is the better team. At times L.A. even looked desperate as Luke Walton and Lamar Odom uncharacteristically tossed up threes (the two had made a combined 11 3-pointers the entire season coming into the game and knocked down 2 each against the C's) and the ever improving Rajon Rondo was able to pick apart the Laker D even though he was mired in foul trouble from the openning whistle.
Then the following day, putting aside the "let down" factor of having a long winning streak snapped, Golden State is just one of those teams that can't necissarily be stopped by a good defense. The Warriors are a team of free-shooting point-scorers that take bad shots and, if they make them, are impossible to stop. The Celtics ran into them on a hot night, just like the Lakers ran into a Sacramento team that had a hot hand last week and lost. Those things happen.
Here are several reason why the Celtics are still the best team in the land:
1) It was just a loss. Sports analyst and fans alike played up this Christmas day matchup to be some sort of NBA finals equivalent. The fact of the matter is that it was just one more notch in the loss column for Boston. It counts the same as the losses to Indiana, Denver, and Golden State. In the long term, all that matters is that the Celtics finish the season with a better record than the Cavs and Magic.
2) The Celtics are getting better. After their record setting 19th straight win Greg Dickerson asked Kevin Garnett if the Celtics could get better, to which he responded "hell yeah" several times (with apologies to all of the children who might have heard him). One of the things Boston's big man stressed was that the C's had to play consistent defense and not allow any period of let-up for the entire game. Last night against Sacramento the Kings never scored more than 17 points in any quarter. Thanks for the pep-talk KG!
3) Boston is not satisfied. After Los Angeles beat the Celtics on Christmas Day there were streamers and confetti raining down from the ceiling like they had just won the NBA championship. What non-sense. Boston has become a championship city and after the Patriots went 16-0 and then lost the Superbowl, the athletes and fans in this town know that winning streaks and regular season records can be forgotten, but championship remain in the rafters forever.