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BOSTON (CBS) – The old saying goes, a series doesn’t begin until the road team wins a game.
Don’t let Celtics head coach Doc Rivers hear you say that.
“We’re going back to Boston. That’s it,” he said following Tuesday night’s 87-71 Game 2 loss to the New York Knicks. “I guess they say the series hasn’t started — and I’ve heard this corny line a million times — until the road team wins. But I’m positive the series has started because we’re down 2-0. Brilliant, right?”
The Boston Celtics find themselves in that hole thanks to yet another second half no-show in New York. After watching them walk into the locker room with a six point halftime lead, one had to think there was no way they would come out for the second half and lay another stinker — as they did in Saturday afternoon’s Game 1 loss.
The Celtics slide started in the third quarter this time around (rather than waiting for the fourth as in Game 1), getting outscored 32-11 in the frame. For good measure, they weren’t all that better in the fourth, scoring just 12 points, to give them a 23-point second half — the lowest scoring half in franchise history.
So what the heck happened to the team that scored 28 points in the second quarter? The same team that opened up a double-digit lead in the first half despite Kevin Garnett battling foul trouble, and called upon Paul Pierce to do everything he possibly could.
Rivers knows where the offense went, and it was related to the non-existent defense that also plagued Boston in the second half.
“It was our defense in the third quarter, clearly,” Rivers said, alluding to easy shots that led to 32 Knicks points in the third frame. “I didn’t think we came out with the same mentality that we had in the first half, and I don’t know why. I have to find that out over the next two days.”
With the absense of a true point guard, and the Celtics relying heavily on Paul Pierce as a point-forward, if the Celtics’ defense doesn’t lead to their offense, it usually means a long night (or half) for the Boston basketball team.
“If we don’t get stops, then we can’t play; we don’t have the ability to walk the ball up the floor under pressure and run our offense,” said Rivers. “Our offense was directly linked to our bad defense in the third quarter, and it changed the game.”
That’s just the nature of who the Celtics are without point guard Rajon Rondo. But they have had plenty of time since Rondo went down for the season to adjust, and for some reason or another haven’t become what is needed. Rivers noted that they never delivered that “knockout blow” to the Knicks in the first half despite having chances, and New York came back to deliver numerous knockout punches of their own over the final 24 minutes of play.
So now the Celtics find themselves in a 2-0 hole as they return to Boston for Friday night. It’s their first home game since the Boston Marathon tragedy, but Rivers said he will not use that as any added motivation.
“I just don’t think it’s right. We want to win for the city, it would be terrific; but that’s not anything I’m going to use in a press conference or with our players,” he said. “We should want to win because we want to win. The rest of the part, if we win it would be great for the city. But that’s as far as I’ll go with it.”
The motivation will be there for the Celtics come Friday night for Game 3; from both the Boston crowd and the leaders in their own locker room. They’ll be fighting to avoid a 3-0 series deficit, something no team has ever overcome in NBA History.
Only 15 teams have come back from a 2-0 hole in the playoffs, making that no easy task either. But unless the Celtics can figure out how to put together 48 minutes of solid basketball, odds won’t mean much come next week.