When Mike Miller missed his last-second 3-point shot, securing the Celtics' most recent win over the Heat, it meant more than just the Celtics reclaiming the top spot in the East. It meant that the Celtics could just about close the book on the regular season.
It sounds a bit crazy to say that in February, but really, it's nothing unusual. Aging teams have been taking off large portions of the year for a while now, coasting into the playoffs with an eye to being healthy and energetic when the games that matter are played.
And really, what is there left for the Celtics to prove in the regular season? I can't think of much.
Consider how you would tell the story of the Celtics' season to date. Would you talk about the top record in the conference? Would you talk about their great record against teams over .500? Or would you talk about how they've been doing it in spite of injury after injury after injury.
No matter how you choose to describe the season, it's hard to think of anything the Celtics need to prove going into the playoffs, aside from maybe their ability to beat Dallas (having lost twice by a total of six points). Let's consider who they've taken out. The Spurs? Check. The Magic? Check. The Lakers? Check. The Bulls? Check. The Hawks? Check. The Heat? After they've had enough time to get to full strength? Check and check.
Sure, they've suffered some losses against those teams too, but nobody is going to sweep the league. The fact of the matter is that the Celtics know they can take out just about any team in the league even when injured. So now it's time to get healthy.
If the C's do choose to coast, then us Celtics fans aren't going to love it. The second half of last season was a painful experience, to be sure. But I think most will agree that it's unimportant compared to going on another finals run.
The Celtics have had statement game after statement game. If they think it's time to look ahead to bigger things, than they've earned the right to make that decision.