The Celtics got outplayed last night and it was a miracle the team was able to force a tie at the end of the game. Paul Pierce had a strong first half but was pretty quiet in the second half and made a couple terrible turnovers in the fourth. Kevin Garnett had one of his worst games of the season, shooting 1 for 10 including taking and missing just 2 shots inside the paint, while also allowing Alien Chris Bosh to pull down 12 rebounds, score 20 points and get some much needed confidence back. Ray Allen was mostly a non factor and was thoroughly beat by Dwyane Wade. The bench and Jermaine O’Neal actually played decently, especially on defense, but playing 30 minutes left Delonte West a little exposed as a ball handler and leader of the offense. Finally, Rajon Rondo played really well. For a one armed man. And that was the problem, the Celtics needed a two armed man to lead their attack on both ends of the floor if they were going to beat the two headed monster of Wade and James (and missing that wide open layup with a minute left had nothing to do with the left arm).
I want to make a point to say that if (and when) the Celtics lose this series it is not because Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins. Perkins would not have taken those 9 shots that KG missed. Perkins would have taken Jermaine’s productive minutes in this series and who knows if he would have played them as well (he’s having a pretty bad series against Memphis right now). Perkins would not have taken the wide open layup that Rondo missed or the terrible final shot in regulation that Pierce bricked. He may have set a better pick on that final play to free Ray than KG did, but most likely he would not have even been in on that play because he was such an offensive liability.
The Celtics are losing (and will lose) this series because Dwyane Wade and Lebron James are just too good for this team right now. They are much better players than Pierce and Allen at this stage of their careers so without KG and Rondo consistently outplaying their counterparts as they should, the Celtics just can’t compete. With Rondo’s injury and KG’s reluctance to assert himself on offense over a man who is open about getting nervous before games, this has just not been possible for the whole series. The bench should have been a strength for the Celtics too, but for whatever reason the pieces just never fit. The “experts” on the big networks like to talk about how important experience is in the playoffs, but for my money I will take talent every time and the Heat have just too much talent in their top 2 players for the Celtics to overcome.
The one positive in all of this is that the Celtics are down 3-1 and not 3-0. Teams have come back from this deficit before, but usually they have 2 of the last 3 at home, and not the other way around like the Celtics. As a Red Sox fan I have learned to never fully give up on a good team in the playoffs, but to say I am optimistic would be a lie. And not to shit in everybody’s cereal, but with a potential season ending lockout looming, this could be the last we see of Celtics basketball for a while. So if this series comes to a close tomorrow night, I would recommend checking out the Hawks-Bulls series and especially the Grizzlies-Thunder series because both have been extremely entertaining to this point. Also, pick a rooting interest in the Western Conference because every potential East representative in the Finals makes me shudder. In fact, why not cheer for Perk, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder? That’s who I’ll be watching as my team, the Celtics, head home after a strong season that was probably their last chance at number 18 for a while.