By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Not too long ago, the Boston Celtics represented a measuring stick for LeBron James. Now, it’s the other way around.
The Cavaliers superstar made that much clear on Tuesday night, when he casually dismissed any and all significance of Wednesday night’s first-place matchup with the Boston Celtics.
In doing so, James likely supplied the Celtics with all the whiteboard material they’ll need heading in to the biggest game of their season.
“I don’t know, I’ve played in a lot of big games, man. I’m the last person to ask about a big game in the regular season. I’m sorry,” James said after halfheartedly trying to speak in cliches and platitudes about the upcoming game. “They’ve been playing some great ball, but like I’ve said, I’m not one to get caught up in regular-season big games and [all] of that. I’m sorry. I’ve been to six straight Finals, man. I’m the last person to ask about a regular-season game, dude. I’m sorry.”
What James is saying is undoubtedly true. That doesn’t mean it won’t be repeated inside the Celtics locker room leading to tipoff on Wednesday night at the Garden. Sports tends to be dictated more on the emotional side of things than on logic.
The Cavaliers were the No. 1 seed in the East last year before going on to win the Finals, but they were the No. 2 seed the year prior, and that didn’t prevent them from reaching the Finals. LeBron’s Miami Heat were the No. 2 seed in 2014, when they reached the Finals, and they were the No. 2 seed in 2012, when LeBron won his first championship.
So, one can understand why James would not be entirely consumed by the thought of perhaps losing the No. 1 seed in the East on Wednesday night. He’s been through enough to know that seeding only matters so much come playoff time.
Still, it’s noteworthy, because in December 2015, James credited the Celtics for helping him get where he needed to get in his career.
“I have to continue to say it: At one point when I write my book, [the Celtics] will have a chapter — Paul [Pierce], Ray [Allen], [Rajon Rondo], [Kendrick Perkins], [Kevin Garnett] — for what they did for my career,” James said after beating the Celtics in 2015.
Now, it’s the rising Celtics who will be using LeBron’s Cavaliers as a measuring stick in what is the Celtics’ biggest regular-season game on their home floor in at least four years. Considering this iteration of Celtics is just 2-8 in the postseason under head coach Brad Stevens, there’s still something to be gained in knocking off the top dog in the East just 10 days before the playoffs begin.
It’s not so much the place in the standings at this moment in time that matters the most — the Celtics have made it a point to not publicly get hung up on the No. 1 seed. But it’s more of the confidence boost that can come from the Celtics’ going 2-2 against the defending champs and thus asserting themselves as a legitimate threat in the conference.
But for LeBron? Wednesday’s just another Wednesday in early April, even though the 50-27 Celtics host the 50-27 Cavalaliers. The winner is on the fast track for the No. 1 seed in the East. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.
As far as regular-season games go, this one is up there. Just not to LeBron.