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Irish Coffee: Celtics no longer intimidate NBA dregs

11.09.12 at 8:37 am ET
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When Jeff Green suggested “teams are no longer scared” of the Celtics after they lost to the Bucks, it seemed to be his interpretation of Kevin Garnett‘s postgame “pack of hyenas” speech. Under Doc Rivers in the KG era, the C’s earned a reputation for playing defense with an edge, and without it they’re just another basketball team.

So, when even 19-year-old rookies born in the Bill Clinton era don’t fear the Celtics, who will?

“We know they’re vulnerable,” said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, the NBA’s third overall draft pick in 2012. “We know that they are an aggressive team, but they are a lot older then we are, so we are going to try and wear them down. They have a decent bench, and their bench comes in and gives them immediate scoring — everybody has the green light. So, our plan is basically to wear them down and keep pushing the ball in transition and make sure our pick-and-roll defense is what it needs to be, especially on Paul Pierce.”

Beal wasn’t the only Washingtonian unfazed by the Garden banners or Celtics mystique. If the current C’s players can’t get inside the heads of NBA newcomers or make them think twice about driving the lane, then they’re no longer hyenas on the hunt. Instead, Wizards and Bucks smell blood in the water.

Take Kevin Seraphin as Exhibit B. In two games against the Celtics, the 22-year-old product of France has totaled 35 points and 16 rebounds. So, when Garnett trapped him in the corner late in the fourth quarter, drew an offensive foul and tried to snatch the ball away from him after the whistle, he wasn’t intimidated, resulting in a Garnett technical and an 84-82 Wizards lead with 1:07 remaining. Who’s in whose head now?

Is Kevin Garnett still intimidating? (AP)

“I had the ball, and when I tried to pass the ball, he grabbed me at the same time, so I was like, ‘Hey, that’s illegal,’” said Seraphin. “Then, I tried to pass the ball, and he grabbed it. I was like, ‘Hell no, I’m not going to let you get my ball like that.’ So, I grabbed him, and I guess the refs saw him when he grabbed me.”

Exhibit C: Chris Singleton, another 22-year-old in the Wizards frontcourt. When Rajon Rondo bit on one pass fake from 30 feet and Brandon Bass jumped the passing lane on another, only Garnett stood between him and the rim. Singleton drove the lane, skied untouched to the basket and threw down a game-tying dunk with nine seconds remaining that left those on media row looking at each other and wondering, “Did that just happen?”

“I just saw an open lane,” said Singleton (14 points off the bench). “I saw KG under the basket. I had seen him before in the middle of the fourth quarter, and I went there and just bullshitted and missed the layup. And I was like, ‘I got go in their harder.” And I just went in there, he didn’t move and I just finished the play.”

Giving teams like the depleted Wizards confidence they can beat the Celtics is a dangerous game. If even the easiest games on their schedule become a grind, it’s going to be a long season in Boston.

“We know the Celtics are a great team, and we know that we have the potential to be a great team as well,” added Beal, “so we are not going to back down from anybody.”

If that’s the youngest starting player in the league’s mentality, imagine the approach of Friday night’s opponent. The 76ers took the C’s to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season. Think they’re afraid?

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Singleton, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Seraphin
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