If you're a basketball optimist, Tuesday night was your night. The Celtics allowed Dwight Howard to go off for 30 points, a total beefed up by about a zillion free-throw attempts. They let six different Orlando Magic players drain 3-pointers. They endured hellacious foul trouble, watching both Kendrick Perkins and Paul Pierce foul out during a back-and-forth final quarter.
And yet the Celtics still won Game 2 at Amway Arena 95-92, and they're still up 2-0 heading back to Boston. They've got all the reason in the world to be confident.
Remember, confidence, but not cockiness. Remain focused. That's the plan, right?
The captain seemed to think so.
"We've got bigger goals," Pierce said after Tuesday night's win. "Winning a championship. Even though this is a nice streak we have going, we don't settle on just what we've done right now. There's such a big picture to what we're trying to do. Just being a group that's won a championship, that knows what it takes, that's been to the mountaintop. … These games are meaningful, and we're happy to win them, but we know what our ultimate goal is.
"We don't get complacent. The thing is one game at a time. The focus, the drive — you can see it in shootaround. You can see it in our meetings. In practice. This is a very determined group, and you can see it every day around these guys. And with every win that comes, the more and more confident I think we grow."
That sounds like the right mindset for the captain of a championship-caliber basketball team in the middle of May. He's proud of what his team's accomplished, and confident, too, but not by any means getting carried away.
So how do you explain the update that went up on Pierce's Twitter account minutes later, at 12:19 Wednesday morning, that said the following?
"Anybody got a BROOM?"
Them's fighting words. And after a few more minutes had passed, the fight was indeed on — verbally, through the media, using ominous but somewhat cryptic language.
"Pride comes before the fall," Howard answered back. "Just know that. They only won two games. They can write what they want, but know we're going to stay humble and stay focused."
Humility is key at this juncture. The Celtics have a nice series lead over the Magic in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference final, but this is still a team with the best regular-season record of anyone left, and a team that was hotter than anyone entering this series. You'd be hard-pressed to find evidence that the Magic are done.
And chances are, not even Pierce believes the road from here to the Finals will be easy.
General consensus is the tweet wasn't his — it must have been from a hacker, or a friend or teammate stealing his phone as a joke. And yet here we are, talking trash over the Eastern Conference finals in 140 characters or less. Welcome to 2010.
The bottom line is that now is no time for off-the-court distractions. The Celtics have a 2-0 lead over arguably the best team left. They've turned a lot of heads on the journey to this point. But they've got to keep their heads on their shoulders.
"Our guys are growing," said coach Doc Rivers. "They had great focus all day today, in our shootaround and in our film session. And that says a lot about them. But now, unfortunately we have [seemingly] a month off before the next game, so we have to try to keep it together. For four days, they're going to hear how great they are, and we've got to get our guys to stay focused and humble."
Humility's hard to come by when you've won five straight games over the best competition the NBA has to offer. But humility is absolutely the key from here.
The best game plan for the Celtics in Game 3 and beyond? No preening, no chirping and absolutely no tweeting. Just play basketball, and two more wins just might follow.