BOSTON (CBS) — Remember “Four Days in October,” the ESPN Films documentary that chronicled the Red Sox historic comeback from a 3-0 ALCS deficit to the Yankees in 2004? You’d have to have been born since to forget.
The last four days at the Garden felt like the opposite. Gut-punch after gut-punch for Boston fans.
Sunday, the Celtics failed to show up for Isaiah Thomas after the tragic death of the All-Star’s younger sister a day earlier and played one of their worst games of the season – certainly on the glass – in a four-point loss to the Bulls to open the series.
Monday, the Bruins fell behind the Senators 3-0 inside 24 minutes before rallying to even the game, only to fall in overtime.
Tuesday, the C’s lost their composure late and repeated many of their same errors from Game 1 in an uninspired double-digit defeat.
And, Wednesday, the B’s had their only would-be goal disallowed on an offsides call that required replay, which merely stung more. They were shutout, leaving the Black and Gold a loss from elimination.
This sucks, it just sucks.
Despite my grand proclamation both of Boston’s winter sports teams could be in for deep playoff runs, it’s 4/20 and possible we won’t see another meaningful game at the Garden ‘til October. Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.
The Bruins will visit trap-happy Ottawa for Game 5 on Friday with hopes of returning home for a Game 6 on Sunday. Boston’s never overcome a 3-1 series deficit in 22 chances, the worst mark in NHL history.
After handing away home-court advantage, the Celtics will be in Chicago on Friday and Sunday for Games 3 and 4. If all goes well, they’ll host Game 5 on Wednesday, but the fact the Celtics are 1-12 all-time when trailing a set 0-2, or that just three teams in the NBA have ever dropped the first two games at home and rallied to win a best-of-seven (the 2005 Mavericks, ’94 Rockets, and ’69 Lakers), doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Only five top-seeds have fallen in the opening round, and none were in this position.
The problems are glaring for both.
The Bruins entered the playoffs scoring 3.6 goals per game under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, allowing 2.3. In four one-goal defeats – two in overtime – the B’s have given up an average of 2.5 goals but scored just two of their own, as they’ve bellowed about how they’ve been stifled by Craig Anderson.
Brad Marchand led the B’s in scoring during the regular season, but has one goal in the playoffs – the game-winner in Game 1 – for his only point.
David Pastrnak has a team-high three points, but he’s taken two shots. Total. That’s par for the course for a group that’s gone in excess of 10 minutes without a single shot on net multiple times already. The lack of consistent pressure or fight through Ottawa’s defense has only made the Sens more comfortable.
But, if you’d care to make them, there are contributing excuses that have factored into where the B’s lie: Injuries.
David Krejci missed the first two games and hasn’t been himself since returning. Offensive defenseman Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo have missed the entire series. Fellow blue-liners Adam McQuaid and Colin Miller are hurt and have also missed time. If not for Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller, or the rushed emergence of teenager Charlie McAvoy, you might think the patched together defense was called straight from the AHL.
Tuukka Rask’s received a lot of flak but, honestly, this series would already be over without him.
Perhaps, though, much of that could be ignored or overlooked with a little more hard work. Maybe a lot more.
The Celtics are healthy. They just happen to be playing their worst basketball of the year while the energetic, veteran-led Bulls are playing their best, just months after it appeared their season would implode.
Players can say what they want, but they clearly aren’t as focused as required. It’s possible Thomas’s family situation has distracted the group, but that’s no excuse for anyone not named Isaiah Thomas. He’s grieving and still leading the team with 26.5 points in 40 minutes a game while hitting 48.5 percent of his shots (albeit a bizarre 68 percent from the free throw line, where he’s generally automatic). The undersized guard isn’t the one responsible for boxing out Robin Lopez or making sure the squad isn’t torched by guys like Bobby Portis and Paul Zipser.
With the exception of Marcus Smart, who unacceptably lost his head and flipped off a fan after missing a trey late in Game 2, every player on the roster is scoring fewer points per game than his season-average.
Al Horford’s rebound average has jumped from 6.8 to 9, yet he still looks inferior as Lopez has grabbed 13 offensive boards.
Avery Bradley’s shooting 36 percent, worse from 3, hasn’t been to the charity stripe, and he’s collected more turnovers than assists. Once the C’s leading-rebounder, he’s totaled five through two games.
Jae Crowder’s stats are comparable to his regular season numbers, but his overall play and intensity haven’t been, conceivably because of foul trouble. And popular rookie Jaylen Brown’s only seen 20 minutes of court-time.
The Celts issues go well beyond Thomas. The warning signs late in the regular season as the club won 11 of 14 to clinch the No. 1 seed have morphed into billboards. Bouts of inconsistency and lackadaisical defense. Not enough rebounds, particularly on the defensive glass. Too many turnovers. An absence of secondary scoring. Virtually no contributions from a thin bench. Questionable shot selection. And, oddly, the league’s third-best free throw shooting team during the year (80.7 percent) ranks last in the playoffs (65.8 percent).
More has been and still should be expected from the Celtics, and it’s entirely possible the pressure of being a superstar-less top-seed and proving their doubters wrong is weighing on them. The Bruins are earlier in their rebuilding phase and, if not for injuries or the dynamic play of Erik Karlsson, they would be a step closer to facing Claude Julien’s Habs or the Rangers.
Nothing’s over, but it’s awfully hard to feel good about either after the last four nightmarish nights at the Garden. At least the Patriots schedule will be released tonight.