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The Celtics: A team that defies numbers

John - Red's Army (@RedsArmy_John) June 6, 2012 Celtics News 25 Comments on The Celtics: A team that defies numbers

Paul pierce hits a 3 in LeBron James face game 5 I had a private conversation last night with someone who was forced to admit something that we should all know isn’t true anyway. Numbers don’t mean everything. That’s not to say numbers, in this case the advanced stats movement that has swept NBA journalism, aren’t important.  They are.  They say a lot.  They tell us a great many things. But what these equations fail to take into account is what these Boston Celtics… YOUR…. Boston Celtics… … have in abundance. Heart. Or “grit and balls.”  Whichever term you prefer.  It’s all in the same category.  It’s the immeasurable quality of the human soul.  It’s the quality that makes men brave. It’s the quality that makes individuals go where they shouldn’t and emerge victorioius.  It’s the quality that makes Han Solo say “never tell me the odds” and navigate into that asteroid field anyway. Ok… that last one was a fictional character. But still, it was cool and it applies. You want real quantification of heart over numbers?  You want a real, hyperbolic reach that still sort of works? Our country was founded on the kind of stuff that exists in these Boston Celtics [pause for groans and people commenting before reading any further] I told you it was hyperbolic.  Yet, it’s hyperbole with purpose.  Becasue heading into the Revolutionary War, the British Empire was a juggernaut.  An armada of ships.  An infantry beyond compare.  A global domination that STILL, to this day, is felt in sovereign nations (hey Canada, whose picture is still on some of your money?) Had John Hollinger and his disciples existed in the 1700’s, they’d have scrawled onto parchment the statistical improbability of a victory by the colonies.  And they’d have been right to write what they wrote.  They’d have correctly assessed, by every metric available, that British victory was a mere formality.  The numbers would have been too overwhelming.  The data… just too convincing. But the data never takes into account human nature.  It never can, and it never will.  It can never take into account the inner workings of the human mind that make certain impossibilities possible.  Data can’t read a man’s thoughts.  Data can’t read a man’s desires.  Data can predict a man’s level of emotion in certain situations. Let me rein this in before I get really crazy here.  I know full well I’m comparing a basketball game to the war that won us our independence as well as making assumptions about people who didn’t exist back then.  I’m projecting.  I get that. Back to the Celtics, who, by any measurable data available, should have been eliminated last night and most certainly by tomorrow.  The Celtics, over the course of six months, have been terrible offensively.  Horrendous offensively.  People weren’t BS’ing you when they compared the Celtics offense to the Bobcats.  THEY ACTUALLY WERE COMPARABLE TO THE BOBCATS. The Celtics core is a pair of 36 year-olds and an almost 35 year-old paired with a 26 year old trying to get them all off their rocking chairs long enough to jog a “fast” break every once in a while.  But the Celtics core has something unquantifiable. They have a crazy motherf’er that can be so crazy that crazy people look at him and offer up a xanax with a Wild Turkey chaser.  They have an elderly guy with a bad ankle that is so ridiculously obsessive that his brain power can will his body past the excruciating pain of bone spurs and conjure up enough muscle memory to squeeze juuuuuuuuuuust enough blood from this rock for a jump shot transfusion.  They have a dude with so much, I hate to use the term, but, pure, unadulterated swagger, that he could oh-for-a-gazillion and he’d lay his next game check down to bet the next shot he takes would go in. You find me the formula that can quantify that. Don’t bother.  It doesn’t exist, unless new math has suddenly allowed the use of scrotums as symbols.  Because this team has balls in abundance.  And that’s what makes this team so f’ing great.  Because they could teeter on the edge of epic failure last night against a team that should wax them, and their 26 year-old who just made the dumbest play in playoff history can come back and make one of the smartest plays you’ll ever see before you figured out how how to abbreviate your “he ain’t so smart” tweet down to 140 characters.  Because Mickael-freakin’-Pietrus can suck harder than a Dyson for enough of the game for you to beg for Sasha Pavlovic, and then turn around and hit THE… BIGGEST… SHOTS… of the game.  Because Paul Pierce can miss most of everything took but still look the biggest, baddest, freak of nature this gorgeous sport has ever seen right in the eye and stick the worst possible shot short of a half court heave perfectly through the rim….and turn around and just marvel at himself as he did it. “I’m cold blooded.” Will Hunting couldn’t scribble an equation on Harvard’s chalkboards during a late-night janitorial shift that ended with the answer “I’m cold blooded.” This “thing” the 2011-12 Celtics have… this is what Hollywood dreams of.  It’s why Braveheart exists.  It’s why 300 exists.  Because man has, does, and will again triumph in the face of statistical impossibilities. Because man, with things we call heart and soul, can look at the odds, spit on the ground, and walk towards that adversity without regard for what might happen 99% of the time. Because 1% of the time is all you need to be the legend.  Because 1% of the time is all you need to prove everyone wrong.  Because 1% of the time, you can thumb your nose at what happens 99% of the time and defy it all… and be… Great. And that’s what this team is.  With flaws, and warts and mind-boggling inconsistency… this team is still great.  No matter what happens from here.  No matter what happens tomorrow, or Saturday or beyond. This team is great. Numbers be damned.

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  • kylepotter33

    this is an awesome analysis of exactly what the Celtics are….so well done!

  • David Fletcher

    This was the first article I have read on your website, and I loved it. Keep up the good work!

  • Also, like the Americans, the Celtics relied on big, unexpected shots from the French.

  • KY Celts fan

    God Bless America!

  • Eric

    Five more wins and we will all be in basketball heaven.

  • funny

  • Rondoing

    Great article!!
    Loved it!! Thank you!!

  • I work for the Freedom Trail. I can’t help it.

  • Oh how I wish I’d thought of that parenthetical remark while I was writing this. Nicely done

  • thanks… and thanks for stopping by and commenting

  • Hilary


  • paul

    Too bad our country was surrendered to the power of international megabanks and corporations by the pathetic descendants of our founding fathers and mothers. The country that struggled so hard to end slavery has turned into a pathetic human sludge of mind slaves, addicted to their mcFood and mcTelevision.
    As regards advanced stats, sure, they are interesting and sometimes informative. Pardon me for not worshipping the little effers…
    As for what we have, it’s a team with a lot of experience, a lot of skill, and a lot of heart, led by the best player on the planet currently, someone who can dominate a game even when he’s having one of his worst performances since,well, Sixers 6.
    And before we start celebrating, we have another game to win. And as we know from recent history, closeout games are usually a disaster with this bunch (though not so much at home)…
    For you, fellow citizens, I have a piece of advice. Unplug yourselves from all the koolaid forced drips in your life and rediscover your humanity. It’s waiting for you and wants you to come home.

  • you keep writing like that you may get a few regular readers great stuff and everything I every thing I said about Dooling I am sorry for!

  • Niels

    Great read! Last night was amazing, this team is amazing. 5 more wins!

  • IanD

    Great article John! This team has me so proud to be a Celtics fan. Can’t wait for tomorrow night.

  • Great post! I was reminded during the game of Garnett always referencing his Chicago high school, Farragut Academy, in his intros. Farragut himself embodies everything you’re describing, giving us the line, “Da– the torpedos! Full-speed ahead!” The torpedos were mines in Mobile Bay. Farragut said the line while strapped to the mast of his ship as they were trying to retake the bay from the Confederacy, even as the other ships in his command were pulling back.
    Coincidence? Or real, metaphysical connection between heroic lunatics?
    Is this America’s team? Or at least Crazy America’s team?
    Love the site!

  • Brilliant, indeed.

  • jose

    1/10. Sorry, but 1/10

  • vivek NJ

    you aint a fan if you can’t have these emotions at this juncture about such a team. well done.

  • vivek NJ

    just curious what is freedom trail. peaches would be proud of your comment.

  • Dement Horizon

    Who is the crazy motherf’er KG?

  • PChucky

    Way to snatch genuine inspiration from the gaping jaws of hyperbole. Well done, well written.

  • Dutchgreen

    I’m a bit late to the party, but this is epic stuff. Pulitzer material, I’m telling you – I haven’t read a better, more heartfelt and on the mark description of this team. Kudos to you and the C’s. Man, I love this team ridiculously much when they pull of the kind of stuff they did last night! Five more wins to go!

  • Kricky

    Rousing stuff! Well done.
    You hit the nail on the head with the stats stuff. Stats should always be taken with a grain of salt because they can’t measure the intangibles and because there are so many other causal factors that contribute to outcomes that the stats don’t always measure. Just because they have the legitimacy of numbers behind them they are taken for the truth but they are always an incomplete snapshot of the truth.
    In the end, when has Hollinger actually been right? He’s predicted that LeBron will get a ring for the past 5 year s and been wrong EVERY time.

  • Glory

    Always proud to be a Celtics fan and REds Army reader. Excellent work. Still moving and true even after this Game 6 loss. Bring on Game 7!