Saturday, May 19, 2012
The Celtics Could Write A Manual On How To Not Close Out Series/Opponents In The Playoffs
Boston opened Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on a 14-0 run. They parlayed that into a 46-31 halftime lead and increased it to as much as 18 (49-31) early in the third quarter. From there, the Celtics proceeded to gag it away until it turned into an unforgivable 92-83 loss.
It is not hyperbole to say that it was one of the worst losses (in terms of leads) in franchise history; Boston tied its record for biggest halftime lead blown in a playoff game so there's that.
So how does a team seemingly in complete control of a game and on the verge of taking over the series, fall apart in such epic fashion? The easiest explanation is that Boston's foul trouble caught up to them as Brandon Bass (15 points) and Avery Bradley (8 points) each picked up four fouls by the third quarter so they had to sit for long stretches.
Using the spirit of their superb head coach-Doug Collins-the Sixers are too young to give up even in a game that seems doomed like this one. They kept fighting, going to the basket and taking advantage of Boston's 17 turnovers which they turned into fastbreak points (27-13).
Any Celtics fan will rightfully complain about the free throw disparity: Boston shot 16 of 19 while Philadelphia was 25 of 36 but I can't pin the loss solely on that shady number and simply some homecooking NBA referees. Because to do so would mean that the C's deserved to win Game 4 and they most certainly did not since they peed down their leg Miami Heat style in the second half (37 points).
Big picture, I am still confident that Boston will win this series but this loss is troubling in that it mirrors their failure in the first round (vs. Atlanta) to step on a team's throat when it's down (in that case up 3-1). The Celtics had a great opportunity to really seal this up and get some rest but now it is a three-game series and they're guaranteed to have another game in Philly.
Paul Pierce had his second straight quality performance, he led Boston with 24 points and six rebounds. Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 15 rebounds but Kevin Garnett was held to nine points (3 for 12 from the floor), 11 rebounds and three blocks. KG committed a wretched seven turnovers.
Andre Iguodala led Philly with 16 points and seven rebounds, he hit a monster 3-pointer and a jumper in crunch time. Evan Turner (5 for 22 from the floor) had 16 points and nine rebounds while Jrue Holiday notched 11 points and seven rebounds.
The story of the game was the benches: the Sixers reserves outscored the Celtics 44-12. That's not a misprint. Lou Williams scored 15 points with eight assists, Thaddeus Young had 12 points, nine rebounds, Jodie Meeks tossed in nine points and Lavoy Allen put up eight points and 10 rebounds.
When you look at the box score, it's hard to believe that Philadelphia had to make such a crazy comeback since almost every statistic favors them. Philly had 14 more rebounds overall (52-38) including 12 more offensive boards (17-5), two more steals (9-7) and eight more points in the paint (34-26). Boston shot better (42.3%-37.8%), hit two more 3-pointers (7-5), dished out five more assists (23-18) and blocked four more shots (6-2).
If I know the Celtics, they'll follow their usual script of coming back with a win after a disappointing loss. We should have remembered that they like to fall short in the games following blowout victories. Still, if they get by the Sixers, we need to remember this Game 4 plus Game 5 of the Hawks series as the ones that got away from the C's.
Game 5 is Monday night (7:00 p.m., TNT) back at TD Garden. Boston split their first two games there in this series, winning Game 1 by a point and losing Game 2 by a point.