The Celtics are tied 2-2 in their first-round playoff series with the Bulls, and they were tied 2-2 in the opening round last season against the Hawks, as well. So perhaps by squandering a couple of early games they are simply trying to retrace their steps to a championship. Maybe the Celts left breadcrumbs along that path to assure they'd know the way back. Hey, they lost focus against Atlanta, too, forcing themselves to stay out in the postseason sun longer than necessary. So why shouldn't it work again?
Here's why: They're trying to remake ``2008: A Championship Odyssey'' with a different cast.
In case you hadn't noticed, Kevin Garnett isn't playing. Forget about his 20 points and 10 rebounds in the playoffs - although that is admittedly difficult at a time like this. Focus instead on something so un-stat-like as his pick-and-roll defense. Garnett's ability to step out into the ballhandler's line of sight and then retreat to his own man is a major part of what has made the Celtics a great defensive team the last two years.
Schemes be damned; it's having people with the athletic gifts and the will to use them that makes defense work.
The Celts still have the personnel to play well on that end of the floor, certainly better than they have in three of the four games against the Bulls thus far. But the overall product is bound to suffer when everyone is moving over a chair. Or two or three.
Oh, yeah, Leon Powe is out, and P.J. Brown is not here to provide the steady interior presence. And it's fair to assume that by now Ben Gordon would have gone up for one of his jumpers and landed on his keister if James Posey still were around.
But the Celts still had enough to make this interesting before the injuries. They might be able to get away with their short naps as they did last year, but it will be infinitely more difficult with this crew.
Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins are better now than last season, and Glen Davis has been very good at times. But Rondo is being asked to be a skinny superman.
Having to stay out late in games and longer in series will most assuredly take a toll.
``For sure,'' Perkins said. ``When you have guys playing 40-plus minutes, you've got to make sure every possession counts and finish it off. We can't be going into double-overtime games. You can see it on Rondo; his energy level goes down, which you have to expect in a game that long with the way he goes after it. We've got to make sure we handle business.
``I just feel like guys can't look ahead,'' Perk went on, taking his team to the woodshed for its transgressions. ``You've got to take it one game at a time and do your job. You have to take each game like it's your last. I think sometimes we slip up a little bit and get comfortable with a five-point lead. We can't do that. You can't be - at all. It takes a great focus, man. It takes guys putting their time in. Whatever you put into your game, that's what you get out of it. If guys just think we're going to show up and win a game, that's not going to happen.''
It didn't work last year. Not even against the Hawks. And this ain't last year.
``No, different circumstances,'' coach Doc Rivers said. ``I thought as a whole we hadn't been tested, and we didn't handle that test early on. And we grew as it went on. Maybe we'll do some growing again this year in that regard. Last year if Baby (Davis) was struggling then you could throw Leon in, and if Leon was struggling you could throw Baby in. The difference this year is even with Perk, we also had Kevin and P.J. on the floor.''
Without that cast, the Celtics must be even better - even more focused. Otherwise, those breadcrumbs will lead to elimination.