The C’s Do Not Lose

1190922388They haven’t played anyone yet. Wait until they play the Western Conference.

Remember those words, spoken before the Celtics began a 3-game homestand against the best of the Eastern Conference and started off on their first West Coast swing? Five games into that stretch, and sporting a 4-1 record, the doubts about the Celtics are disappearing faster than parking spots in Southie.

Last night’s win over the Sonics was the second game of a back-to-back and featured Ray Allen’s emotional return to the Northwest, two factors that conspired to keep things relatively close. But while Allen wasn’t his usual efficient self, Paul Pierce picked up the slack, and in the process, revealed what the Celtics would have looked like had they drafted Kevin Durant. Think 11-16, not 24-3.

Let’s say this first. We love Durant. The kid will be a great scorer (at least) in the NBA and could become a legit Top 20 player if he fills out and quits playing so passively on the perimeter. But Pierce absolutely abused him last night.

Had the Celtics drafted Durant and teamed him with Pierce, Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, it’s hard not to envision the following scenario: The Celtics would have remained mediocre, Pierce probably would have forced his way out, and they would still be several years away.

It’s sometimes easy to forget about Pierce, what with Kevin Garnett’s manic energy, Allen’s silky smooth stroke, and the development of Rondo and Perkins. His unique package of skills are not easy to define, so let’s use this out-of-left-field comparison that would make Bill Walton smile: early-era Grateful Dead:

They are not the best at what they do, they are the only ones who do what they do.

Name another small forward with Pierce’s range and offensive bag of tricks, who also averages 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Pierce is also adept, and fearless, at drawing contact and is completely unafraid to take big shots (sometimes too unafraid, as he was against the Pistons).

Pierce will have a tough matchup tomorrow night in Utah against Andrei Kirilenko, but he should be able to have his way against the Lakers’ motley collection of small forwards on Sunday. A split of those two games would be a perfectly acceptable, but you get the feeling that this team doesn’t settle.