This is how the other one started, right? After all, didn’t the Bruins hold a three game lead when they headed to overtime in game four with a chance to sweep the Flyers right out of the NHL Playoffs? So symmetry is in play here, right? And twenty years from now, don’t you think Boston sports historians will look back on 2010 as the year of the “game four swing?”
STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW! THE SKY HAS NOT BEGUN TO FALL!
Listen, the Celtics lost an opportunity last night. They came out flat against a wounded and rabid animal and they paid the consequences.
But look at it this way. The Celts played their worst game since game three of the Cleveland series. Rajon Rando decided to take last night off. Jameer Nelson played the best game of his life and that includes the life he is leading in Lost’s alternate universe. The Magic threw six adjustments at the Celts. Rasheed played horribly. Perkins played worse. Paul Pierce gagged down the stretch. And still, the Celts had the ball in their hands to win in regulation. Let that thought resonate. The Celts brought their C game and they still controlled the game with fifteen seconds to play. Folks, that bears no resemblance to what happened with the Bruins.
Pure and simple, the Celts really didn’t come prepared to close that series out. In the first three games, they jumped all over Orlando in the first half but last night, the Celts turned the ball over early and played with none of the defensive intensity that got them the three-game lead in the first place. And when they did find their intensity, it just so happened to come on a night where Rondo wasn’t feeling it and the offense got stuck in the mud. Give Orlando credit for some of that but the Magic had their chance to adjust and now it’s the Celtics turn. I am not worried. Not in the slightest.
A few things that stood out from last night ……
* Kendrick Perkins simply has no business being out there right now. A big part of Boston’s problem last night was Perkins presence, or lack of presence on the offensive end. When he is out there, Howard is FREE to roam and that causes big problems for Rondo and Garnett. Instead, the Celts should use Davis and Wallace as each can finish and each force Howard (or someone else) to pay attention and stay at home. The Celts simply can’t afford to play four on five and that is what happens when Perkins is on the court.
* Rondo was due for a little pullback and I thought he got a little spooked by Howard after Howard swatted away three layups, including one in OT. By the end of the game, Rondo wasn’t looking to do much, presumably because he was a bit gunshy. That is why it is important to get Perkins out of there and get someone else in who can finish plays and occupy Howard.
* Why do players think they have to milk every second off the clock when they are taking a final shot? Between Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, you’d think that a team might have to give back points if they score with more than 1.2 seconds remaining. So time after time this season, these two have dribbled away quarters and games while waiting for the absolute last moment to heave up a shot. It may have worked once against Miami but by and large, the Celts are just not a good last-second team.
* Paul Pierce in OT …. 0-4 with a turnover and a missed layup.
* I dare Jameer Nelson to play half as well as that again.
* Orlando hit ten “threes” and the two in OT by Nelson were the difference. I don’t mind giving up those prayers and I can live with the three Reddick hit but the Celts just can’t give up the cheap ones to Lewis and Barnes in the corner.
* And what is left to be said for Vince Carter? I am sure Orlando fans will say he is “due,” but my response to that would be: due for what? Spontaneous combustion? Banishment to the sixth dimension? There is no way the Magic are going to win another game where Vince goes 1-9.
* John Hollinger just can’t help himself. Today’s column is all about the chinks in Celtic armor that were revealed last night. John, they were a tiny break away from a sweep and you are ready to claim that Boston is a house of cards ready to fall. If anyone has played worse in this series than Vince Carter, it’s John Hollinger.
* More on Hollinger …. He mentions this morning how Big Baby was ineffective last night. Aside from one horrible sequence where Baby passed up a shot and then threw the ball away, I thought Baby was excellent.