BOSTON (CBS) – After dropping Game 3 to the New York Knicks 90-76 on Friday night, the Boston Celtics find themselves one loss away from a summer of uncertainty.
“It was very disappointing,” Celtics captain Paul Pierce said after yet another lethargic playoff loss. “A game — a must-win game — if we had any hopes of tying this thing up come Sunday. Very disappointing. But, like I said, we put ourselves in this situation and we’re the only ones that can get ourselves out of it.”
“I’m definitely surprised. I thought we were a team that matched up well with the Knicks,” Pierce continued. “I thought we played them pretty good throughout the season. We lost a couple close ones, but coming in I knew this would probably be a long series being that the way we matched up. I really am surprised that we are down 0-3 right now.”
Anyone who sat through the last three games isn’t surprised. The Celtics look like a lost bunch, especially on the offensive side of the floor.
The Celtics came out flat once again on Friday, despite an emotional return to the Garden for the first time since the tragedy that occurred on Marathon Monday. That boost from the crowd didn’t translate into anything on the court, as the Celtics scored just 31 points by halftime and made their way to the locker room with boos reigning down on them from their faithful fans.
“I thought there was a lot of energy in the building,” Pierce said Friday night. “I thought we wanted it so bad, we were so anxious. You want it so bad and you rush, and get real anxious. And I thought that’s what we did tonight. I thought we played hard, had some good looks. The ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
It’s more than the ball simply bouncing their way. The Celtics have yet to score 80 points in a game this series — a claim no other Celtics playoff team can make.
“We have got to figure it out,” said Pierce. “We have got to do a better job of knocking down open shots, we’ve got to get to the free throw line, got to move the ball. Can’t turn the ball over. We turned the ball over a lot tonight and I think that’s something that’s biting us.”
The Celtics committed 18 more turnovers on Friday, leading to 26 Knicks points. On the defensive end, they forced just 11 (and “forced” is being used very loosely) while allowing New York to shoot 50-percent from the floor.
“When a team is making shots and executing and playing very well, that can kill your spirit,” said Kevin Garnett, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes. “If you haven’t been here and you haven’t experienced playoff play and understand the whole thing of it, those are the times you have to band together, you have to take some punches. We took them, but we didn’t really give none back. I mean, when we messed up, they made us pay for it. Good teams are going to do that.”
It seems like no matter what the Celtics do, the Knicks are simply the better team. Doc Rivers moved Jason Terry into the starting lineup to take the ball handling choirs away from Avery Bradley and Paul Pierce, and though Terry scored 14 points, was a team-worst minus-12 in his 35 minutes of play.
Nothing has worked three games in, and now the Celtics face a likely first-round elimination. But until that clock hits zero and the Knicks are victorious for the fourth time in the series, they won’t stop fighting.
“I’m going to play until it’s over,” said Garnett, who contributed 35 minutes in the loss. “I’m not usually broken. It’s always been my mentality. It always probably will. That’s what it is. I’ve been to the bottom before. I know what it is. I’m a fighter at the end of the day, but it takes more than one person.”
It will take a whole team effort for the Celtics to win a game, let alone pull the first 3-0 comeback in NBA history. While Sunday can be the start of something — anything, really — it’s looking more likely it will mark the end of an era.