Pump Up Music: Sublime -- "KRS-One"
The Big Picture: Decay is inevitable. Our bodies decay. The planet decays. The universe's energy is subject to entropy and the second law of thermodynamics. Eventually, that which we hold invincible will be humbled, then disintegrated, and scattered. Kind of like the Boston Celtics of the late 2000s.
They're not quite humbled, but it could happen this year. Ray Allen, Rasheed Wallace, and Kevin Garnett have all lost the sparks that made them special, and now they're merely solid. Paul Pierce is in a moment of weakness, coming off injury, but he hasn't succumbed to decay enough to brand him on the downside of his career, just yet. He may have some cards to play.
Rajon Rondo's rise is good for the Celtics' long term future, but it will take a lot of work to get them back to contender status because, as is, Rondo's excellence can't cancel out the others' dropoff, making Boston the best of the non-contenders. After all, KG is still putting up 17/9 per36 and playing good defense. Think Nazr Mohammed's offense and Theo Ratliff's defense, and you get the picture. And Jesus Shuttlesworth isn't terrible, just another two guard a half notch less productive than Jason Richardson's been this year. And 'Sheed... poor 'Sheed. Seven-footers whose only remaining plus "talent" is shooting 29% from three are not long for the NBA. Here's hoping the swan song doesn't diminish his excellent career.
To sum up, they have All-Stars, but they don't have anyone playing Hall of Fame caliber ball anymore. Thus, they can win a playoff series -- maybe two! -- but their championship window with this core has closed. Just make sure Nate Robinson is out the door before you turn out the lights.
Key to Victory: In theory, the Bobcats' style of tenacious defense should give an older team like the Celtics lots of issues this time of year. Unfortunately, the Cats have shown some signs of cracking, themselves, possibly thanks to Larry Brown's relentlessly tight rotation. We know Brown is going to drive his guys into the ground gunning for that playoff spot if he has to, where a more rational coach might have taken care to give rest to his guys earlier in the season, anticipating games such as these, when he could selectively stomp on the gas and play Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson 40+ minutes. Let's hope going pedal to the metal all season long doesn't catch up to them in this particular game.