BOSTON -- During the final TV timeout of the Boston Celtics' 120-95 thrashing of the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, the team's familiar Gino Time clip played inside TD Garden, providing one final opportunity to needle a hapless visitor.
Boston fans already had chanted, "Brooklyn draft picks" (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap), and followed with the even more mocking, "Thank you, Brooklyn!" all in reference to the 2016 unprotected first-round pick the Nets will deliver to Boston in June -- one of three picks secured by the Celtics in the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce blockbuster of 2013.
Which brings us back to Gino Time. For the better part of the past decade, the Celtics have celebrated lopsided wins by playing old clips from "American Bandstand" that feature a bearded smooth-grooving dancer in a Gino Vannelli T-shirt while the Bee Gee's "You Should Be Dancing" blares.
While it actually predates the Big Three era and has become a bit of a rarity during Boston's recent transition process, it was a clip adored by Garnett, who used to stand at the end of Boston's bench, laugh throughout the clip and point at the JumboTron each time "Gino" appeared.
Brooklyn mortgaged its future with hopes that Garnett would help propel the Nets to championship contender status, but it never happened. Brooklyn, which fell to 2-11 with Friday's loss, has little to show for the deal, while Boston is waiting to collect unprotected picks in two of the next three years (and has the ability to swap spots during the middle year in 2017).
So Celtics fans reveled in both Boston's victory and Brooklyn's defeat Friday. The Celtics put the game away early with an absolutely dominant second quarter in which they scored 43 points on 85.7 percent shooting (18-of-21), and, with Nets GM Billy King sitting in the crowd, Boston fans turned the second half into a celebration.
Let's start with the obvious: The pick Boston stands to collect could be very valuable. Entering Friday's game, ESPN's Basketball Power Index projected Brooklyn's selection had a 16.2 percent chance of being the top pick, a 47.3 percent chance of being in the top three, and an 89.8 percent chance of being in the top five.
But here's what Boston fans need to remember amid the growing hype surrounding the draft pick: The Celtics are putting together a heck of a run themselves, and instead of basking in the potential of what the Nets pick might become, Celtics followers might want to immerse themselves in the journey of the 2015-16 team.
Winners of six of their past eight with an average margin of victory of 17.5 points in that span, the Celtics quietly have climbed ESPN's BPI. Boston vaulted six spots over the past two weeks and sat at No. 7 entering Friday's action. In fact, Boston was the third-ranked team in the Eastern Conference behind only the Cavaliers (fourth) and Raptors (fifth).
BPI is sweet on Boston in part because of how well the team has played defensively. With Friday's win, the Celtics dropped their defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) to 95.0 for the season, moving them into a tie for the top spot in the league alongside the San Antonio Spurs.
Drink that in for a moment: The Celtics are the best defensive team in the league through the first 15 percent of the season. Boston doesn't have the obvious superstar talent that most believe is needed to truly compete for a title, but what coach Brad Stevens does have is a hungry and versatile group that's turned in some inspired basketball over the past two weeks.
The Nets pick? That's much too far down the road for Stevens to concern himself with.
"It doesn’t factor into the coaches'/players'/team’s focus. You just have to focus on who you are playing against and try to play well," Stevens said. "Obviously, in the big picture, the grand scheme of things, I’m sure it’s something that a lot of people are talking about. But I really haven’t heard it come up within our staff or within the players, at least in the discussions I’ve had with them."
Stevens' players echoed that sentiment, though some are aware that Boston stands to collect a nice asset -- one that could deliver a talented young player or be used in a trade to chase a more established superstar who could push Boston over the top sooner.
It's why Jae Crowder, informed of the crowd's chants, just smiled after Friday's win and noted, "Thank you, Brooklyn, that’s all I can say."
Pressed on the topic, Avery Bradley simply laughed and said, "My job is just to play basketball, man. I don’t worry about none of that. That’s Danny's job," referencing Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
Celtics players are more enthused by their play and what they can accomplish if they continue to build this season. On Friday, Crowder scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half; David Lee put together maybe his best stretch since joining Boston while scoring 11 second-quarter points; and Bradley continued to thrive while coming off the bench (he scored a team-high 21 points on efficient 10-of-13 shooting over 25:14). Boston shot a ridiculous 58.6 percent for the night and led by as many as 30. A rematch looms Sunday in Brooklyn.
Entering Friday's action, BPI projected Boston at 48 wins and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics currently own a 94.4 percent chance at making the postseason.
Which is to say: June is an awfully long way away. The Nets pick is a nice sidebar, but it shouldn't be the main focus this season. What Celtics fans really should be rooting for is for Boston to still be playing when those pingpong balls are drawn in May. The Brooklyn pick represents a chance for a brighter future, but things are pretty sunny for Boston at the moment and Celtics fans ought to savor it.