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BOSTON (CBS) – The Celtics could have entered Monday night’s Game 5 against the 76ers in Boston with the chance to clinch the series, and rest up before the Eastern Conference Finals.
Instead, they let an 18-point second half lead slip away on Friday, and come back home with the series tied 2-2.
For some teams, it would take some time to get over. Not the Celtics.
“It’s over. The milk is spilt, you have to clean it up and move on to the next game,” Captain Paul Pierce said of Friday night’s 92-83 loss. “You can’t dwell on the past. It is what it is; the series is 2-2 and we have to go back to Philly, but we have to take care of business at home.”
“It’s easy to teach, because it’s visual. The film, as they say, never lies,” head coach Doc Rivers said Sunday before the team hit the practice floor. “(Philadelphia) made shots that they had to make, they forced turnovers they had to force, but a lot of it was our doing. It was more on the defensive end than on the offensive end. We couldn’t run, couldn’t get into our stuff because they scored every single time. Or we turned the ball over, or they got an offense rebound. Our defensive breakdowns were partly because they did a good job moving the ball, and partly because we completely lost our discipline.”
There are numerous factors as to why the Celtics lost Friday. They took their foot off the gas, stopped being aggressive and attacking the basket, and went small for too long. Rivers chose to keep Brandon Bass, who scored a playoff-high 15 points, on the bench after he found himself in foul trouble in the third quarter. He admitted Sunday that was a mistake, and they went small for too long.
The Celtics have watched the tape, and already have all of that in their rear-view mirror. They’ve learned from it, and now the focus is on Monday’s Game 5 at the Garden.
“It’s a swing game, but it’s swing game for both teams. I think Game 5’s and Game 7’s are pretty much the same,” said Rivers.
“We’ve just got to be a little bit more consistent through four quarters,” said Pierce. “We have to win those 50-50 battles. They really beat us to a lot of those balls in the second half of Game 4. It’s going to be the little things that really add up to the big things; setting the right screens, getting the man open. Those little things add up to a win if we do them consistently.”
All of that will start as soon as the opening tip goes up.
“Being very aggressive,” Kevin Garnett said of the C’s approach to the game. “Very aggressive in getting this game; it’s at home, a lot of energy in the building. It should be good… like you said it’s critical. Nothing more, nothing less than that.”
Boston would love Garnett to be more aggressive on the offensive end. Getting the normally passive big-man to score early and often will be key to a Game 5 victory.
“Kevin does a good job at being so unselfish, even when you go to him he’s able to find other guys on player screens, cutting to the basket,” said Pierce. “That’s the beauty of Kevin, when you give him the ball it doesn’t necessarily he’s going to take the shot; he loves to spread the ball around. But at the same time, we want him to be aggressive.”
“I think we counted nine times where he was trying to be a passer instead of a scorer. So we’ve got to get him back, mentally, to attacking,” Rivers said of Garnett. “They didn’t trap as much as you thought. We’ve just got to continue to force feed him and keep him aggressive. But we also have to get into our stuff quicker, like we did in the first half. Kevin didn’t touch the ball a lot, but we had an 18-point lead, so something was going well.”
Garnett finished the game 3-for-12 from the floor, putting up a playoff-low nine points. He admitted that he was a little-less aggressive after a third quarter technical, going 3-for-7 after the whistle.
But as is the rest of Game 4, that is in the past.
“I just think they’re mentally tough and that’s what they’ve been all year,” Rivers said of his team’s ability to bounce back. “I keep saying with our team ‘we don’t ever do it the easy way, and I don’t know if we could.’”
Nothing comes easy for these Boston Celtics. But that’s the way they like it.