By Sean Grande, 98.5 The Sports Hub

BOSTON (CBS) – “Last year. We would have laid down and died.”

A bit dramatic perhaps, certainly a healthy dose of hyperbole to digest.

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But that doesn’t make Jared Sullinger wrong.

Ten hours after flying close enough to history you could feel Twitter ready to explode, I was in the elevator with the Celtics third-year man and leader in waiting when he said it.

And he should know. He’s the guy who’s talked at length about some nights last year, most notably at Indiana right before Christmas, when he was part of the dying.

But on a stormy Tuesday morning in north Texas, hours after the comeback that almost was, those nine words serve as a keynote not only for the season’s opening week, but for the clear and present difference between this year and last.

It was clear in the blowout win at the Garden on opening night. It became even clearer just looking down at my Twitter feed during the second half on Monday. The Mayors of Loserville that drove the tank brigade bandwagon last year, bemoaning emotional wins, celebrating crushing defeats? They’ve moved on.

Remember the old days, and by the old days I mean all the way back in 2004 and 2005 and 2006 — remember them? There were fresh Celtics faces. Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West, Marcus Banks, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green and a seemingly endless clown car of draft picks outperforming their draft position. Celtics fans loved those teams, and those baby bulls.

And it’s early, of course it is. It’s crazy three-games-in-early. But the first week feels much more like that, than the disconnect that 2013-14 was.

When Jeff Green’s Miracle In Miami buzzer beater beat the champs, when Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley led a barrage that resulted in the third worst Knicks loss in Madison Square Garden history, when Phil Pressey played the game of his life to lead a depleted, Vander Blue-assisted Celtics comeback win in Washington, when the Celtics spent most of December in first place.

When all of those things happened, they were welcomed like Bill Maher on a college campus. Enthusiasm and excitement replaced by fear of the consequences.

Monday night in Dallas was pretty telling. Now, the Celtics and Celtics fans don’t celebrate losses. Waxing romantic about the almost-comeback is like proudly detailing your extraordinary race through rush hour traffic, airport shuttles, and TSA only to miss your flight “by just five minutes.”

It might have been memorable. But you’re still spending the next three hours at Chili’s eating fajitas while ruefully pondering what might have been.  But when that 31-point deficit Monday night became a single point in the final minute, it was a moment. And it didn’t stir fear of what it might mean in the future, it stirred pride.

Crazy early, but the enthusiasm is back. In the stands . . . and on the floor, it simply feels different from last year. Just ask Jared Sullinger.

Some other notes…

THOUSAND TO ONE

Now, how rare would a 31-point comeback have been? Well, the Celtics have never done it. And ESPN Stats and Info says there have been 1,057 31-point leads in the last 15 NBA seasons. In December of 2009, the Sacramento Kings became the only one of the 1,057 to come back and win. One in 1,057.

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30 FOR 30

Another milestone of sorts in the Dallas game was Jeff Green’s output and Avery Bradley’s career-high accounted for 67 of the Celtics’ 113 points.

As we’ve documented often over the last few years, this may seem surprising on the surface, but during the New Big Three Era, there just weren’t a ton of 30+ point performances. Some of you may recall the Celtics came within two weeks of the NBA record for most consecutive games without a 40-point scorer.

The February 2009 game in question was in the middle of a fascinating week for the Celtics. It was a Sunday afternoon ABC game in Phoenix, Rondo destroyed Steve Nash, Ray Allen was busy setting the franchise record for consecutive free throws. And the game, an easy Celtics win, came just days after the Kevin Garnett injury that would eventually change the season, and maybe NBA history.

THREE AT LAST

If you missed it over the weekend, there was also this…

Jeff Green’s fourth quarter three ended a statistically improbable run of 26 straight misses for the Celtics, thought to be the second longest streak in NBA history. What’s odd about it is the C’s had made 8 of 17 to start the year, and after the brutal run of 37 misses in 39 tries into the second half in Dallas, they followed that up by hitting exactly 8 of the next 17.

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR

We’ve documented well the Celtics’ brutal gauntlet of a November schedule. But a closer look at this next stretch has early season injury misfortune breaking right for the Green.

Toronto visits on Wednesday without starting power forward Amir Johnson, the Pacers are in Friday without Paul George, David West and C.J. Watson. Saturday night, Derrick Rose could be available for the Bulls, then again coming off all the injuries (he’s already missed a game this year), Chicago will be playing their fourth game in five nights, so who knows?

After that come the artists formerly known as the OKC Thunder. Without Durant, Westbrook, Lamb, Morrow and beyond, they had eight healthy players in Toronto Tuesday . . . until Perry Jones left injured.

Brian Scalabrine may get a 10-day contract by the time they get here next week.

Sean Grande has been calling Boston Celtics games since 2001. Hear his call of the games alongside Cedric Maxwell on 98.5 The Sports Hub starting 30 minutes prior to tipoff! Click here for a list of affiliates on the Celtics Radio Network.

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