Magic GM on Celtics: “They act tough. They’re not really tough.”

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To borrow a line from Inigo in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The word of the day is tough. As in who is tough in the NBA? Magic General Manager Otis Smith does not think the Boston Celtics qualify, as he told the Orlando Sentinel (via Celtics Blog).

Sentinel: Is the (Magic) tougher now?

Smith: Tough is relative. Tough to who? Is anybody tough?

Sentinel: One could argue the Celtics are tough.

Smith: They act tough. They’re not really tough. They act tough.

Smith goes on to say that he thinks playing in close games is part of what makes a team tough. It’s about execution in the clutch. In which case those Celtics got a little tougher in that close game with the Magic Monday night. Oh, and they showed they are better at closing out a game out, too.

Admittedly, there is a little school yard bully in the Celtics — Kevin Garnett has a long history of getting in the face of little guards but not physically challenging those who can push back just as hard.

But Boston has a ring, and you don’t get that without mental and physical toughness. They were tough enough to push the Lakers to the brink in the NBA finals last year, in a Game 7 without their starting center. You can argue the Lakers were tougher if you want (their center was dragging his leg around all series) but that doesn’t make the Celtics less tough. They have proven to possess a mental fortitude, an ability to stand up to pressure in recent years that only one other team can claim to match. And it’s not the Magic.

Toughness is who can execute in pressure situations against a good team. Last year in the playoffs and again on Monday, the Celtics were tougher than the Magic. That was not just an act.