BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics are heading to Philadelphia tied 1-1 with the 76ers, and have no one to blame but themselves.
Blame cannot fall on a poorly timed (but correct) foul call, but rather an all-around stagnant performance minus the first three minutes and stretches late in the fourth. The Celtics were outworked, out hustled, and massively out rebounded by the 76ers, and now have to steal one in a place they didn’t win a game during the regular season.
It wasn’t one lackluster performance that did Boston in but a shmorgishborg of mediocrity. In a few players’ cases, it was down-right ugliness.
After another eye-popping triple double in Game 1, Rajon Rondo scored just eight points for Boston on 4-for-12 shooting. He still put up 13 assists, but passed up numerous layups early on instead of finishing himself. Once it was apparent Rondo wasn’t going to shoot, Philly fell back on the Boston shooters. That didn’t help Paul Pierce, who put in just two of his nine shots for seven points. Brandon Bass was the go-to man after a hot (for his recent standards) start, but was just 5-for-15 from the field and only muscled out five rebounds in 24 minutes.
Celtics On Game 2 Loss:
Somehow, the Celtics finished the night shooting above 40-percent from the floor; impressive after they hovered around 27-percent for most of the night and were only up to 34-percent after three quarters. Ray Alllen and Kevin Garnett each drained three pointers in the final three seconds to pad the numbers a bit, making it for the one of the more productive stretches for Boston on the evening. Any team that scores 25 points in the second and third quarter – combined – has no business winning a game, and in most cases even being in it come the fourth quarter.
The problem was no one got hot when they needed it. After back-to-back threes in the third, Mickael Pietrus – who was 4-for-17 in the playoffs entering Monday — was their best shooter. He was then relegated to the bench not to be heard from again. Avery Bradley’s left shoulder popped out again, keeping him from getting in a rhythm. Ray Allen scored a team-high 17 points, but that throw-away three at the end makes his outing look a little more impressive than its true underwhelming identity. Anytime Ray hits the side of the backboard with a shot, you know he’s not having a good night.
But while the offensive numbers were downright awful, the Celtics rebounding was not much better. The 76ers grabbed 11 more rebounds, with 6-1 guard Lou Williams grabbing seven for himself. If Kevin Garnett wasn’t on the floor, Philadelphia had no problems cleaning up off the glass.
Some might point to the free throw disparity — combined with Kevin Garnett’s moving screen with 10 seconds left and a should-have-been travel-turned-miraculous-jumper by Evan Turner with under three minutes left to put Philly up 71-69 — as a reason to blame the refs, the Celtics did not deserve to go to the line. They barely earned the nine free throws they took. Pierce took just two shots from the charity stripe, with Rondo taking the night off from the line.
Now Philadelphia returns home, where they took both contests with the Celtics in the regular season with ease, with home-court advantage now in their pocket. If Game 1 gave them any confidence that they could at least keep it close with the Celtics, Game 2 gave them everything they felt after eliminating the Bulls last Thursday.
The blame falls on no one but those in green. They fought hard to win Game 1, and could have made their road a lot easier had they showed just a little more something; Rondo finishing one of those first quarter passes under the hoop, one more trip to the line, or maybe one more offensive rebound.
But nothing has come easy for the Celtics this season, and it will likely remain that way until their playoff run comes to a close. It’s amazing that they had no business to win the game, yet were still there in the end with the chance to steal yet another from the youngster and playoff green Sixers.
But for a veteran team with just one goal in mind, just being there at the end is not enough.