Celtics better take command Monday night

Covering nearly six decades, figuring how many Celtics games these eyes have seen is sheer guesswork.

Let’s say sports memories began filling a mental cubby hole at age 8. 

(My first visit to Fenway Park came near the end of that summer. And, whatever this might suggest, even minutiae from the 1967 Red Sox season is etched in all available granite.)

The Celtics weren’t on TV all that much back then; they squeezed in a few telecasts on Ch. 27, when Holy Cross and Assumption were idle. Toss in Sunday afternoon network games, then the constant coverage that came when cable TV made virtually all games available. Considering all those regular seasons and playoffs, the final count must be in the neighborhood of 3,000 or so.

From that hefty sample size, the Celtics’ performance Friday night must rank in the bottom 100 based solely on its merits. Disgraceful would be a polite way of putting it.

But factoring in the circumstances – it being Game 4 of the NBA Finals, that would have clinched a championship, with the whole world watching, that drops it to the bottom of the dregs, the dreg of all dregs.

It wasn’t just missed shots, exasperating shot selection, mind-bending turnovers or sloppy defense. It was the state of sheer ambivalence they brought onto the floor. 

And at the end of a 122-84 humiliation, they didn’t sound angry, or humbled, or anything in between.

The unfazed reaction boiled down to this: “We’ll win Game 5 at home.”

That is quite likely, They’re the better team. The better team usually wins.

They’re playing at the Garden, where they nearly lost Game 2 of this series, but routinely win.

If they don’t, they deserve the avalanche of chatter that will gnaw at their reputation. 

And if they somehow manage to lose this series, the debate that began after Game 3 – the one concerning their status among other great championship teams – will become a punchline.

No one is comparing them to the 1919 White Sox. They didn’t throw Game 4. They just treated it as a necessary annoyance, cluttering their championship path.

They approached it as no more important than a morning shoot-around.

Once it was clear that the Mavericks hadn’t packed up and looked to start their summer vacations, the Celtics dismissed the exercise with a shrug.

When four good quarters are all that separate a team from a championship, with said team having three tries at it, name the team that lost by 38 points in its first opportunity.

Let’s hope that doesn’t evolve into a trivia question for the ages.