2010 NBA Playoffs: Should The Boston Celtics Panic?
Can I be the only Celtics fan who went to bed last night with visions of Bruins and Yankees stuck in my head?
After a high point in Game Three, the Celtics came crashing down with a disappointing Game Four loss last night. The Orlando Magic stayed alive, earning the 96-92 overtime win.
Time for some reality. Entering the series, a sweep was nowhere on my radar screen and Boston still leads 3-1. Thus, there is no rational reason to panic whatsoever.
Yet I am.
Anyone who thought the Magic might quit after getting blown out in Game Three was proven wrong almost immediately last night. Orlando had maybe its best quarter of the series with a 31-point first quarter effort.
The Magic essentially controlled the entire game and led by as many as 10 points (42-32) in the second quarter.
Boston did keep coming back. And this is where my concerns started. I honestly did not think the Magic would roll over at the start of the game.
I did, however, think that if Boston could survive Orlando’s early onslaught, which the Celtics did, and deliver a punch back, that the Magic might cave.
But they absolutely did not. Every time the Celtics fought, and clawed, their way back into the game, the Magic had a response.
Boston had the lead in this game for a total of two minutes and 46 seconds, with the largest lead being just two points. Only once did the Celtics lead last more than one possession.
The Celtics had brief one-point leads twice early in the first quarter, and the Magic took it back both times on the very next possession.
Orlando remained ahead until a pair of Ray Allen free throws put the Celtics on top 68-67 with 49 seconds left in the third quarter. The score stayed that way until a J.J. Redick three-pointer at 10:37 of the fourth.
Boston’s last, and largest, lead of the game, 76-74, came about midway through the fourth quarter. Rajon Rondo hit two free throws with 5:33 left. But once again, the advantage was short lived, with Dwight Howard finishing off a dunk to tie the score just nine seconds later.
Other than Orlando essentially leading the entire game and never once letting the Celtics go on any sort of extended run to seize momentum, I thought a key point in the game came about three minutes into the third quarter.
Howard hit Kevin Garnett with an elbow. Garnett responded, some may say overreacted, and the officials caught the response and slapped KG with a technical.
Vince Carter hit the technical free throw. The free throw pushed the Magic lead to 56-49 and also provided proof, in case anyone missed it, that Carter did in fact play last night.
But the minor altercation got the crowd fired up and sparked the Celtics. After Carter’s free throw, Paul Pierce knocked down a jump shot, Ray Allen had a dunk, and Garnett had a hoop and a foul for a possible three-point play that could have tied the game.
The Magic called timeout, and after the break, Garnett missed the free throw. Orlando would regroup with consecutive hoops.
A lesser team (I’m talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers) very well might have just folded in that spot, with the Celtics and the crowd energized.
The Magic did not, and once again when the Celtics were just about up off the mat, Orlando pushed them right back down.
Even with all of that, the Celtics still should have won the game. The Magic led by seven, 85-78 with just under two minutes to play. Pierce then found his youth, and drove strong down the lane finishing with a one-handed dunk. Ray Allen knocked down a three, and Pierce added a three-point play to tie the score at 86.
To this point, Pierce had been the offensive star for the Celtics, with 32 points on 11-21 shooting. It went downhill quickly though.
Pierce, the man Bob Ryan insists is the best one-on-one player in Celtics history (and note to anyone who might question Mr. Ryan on this point, don’t do it. He will get very cranky), had the ball with time running out in a tied game.
Pierce had the chance to end the game and the series. He took the handoff from Rondo and went to make his move. But he dribbled off his foot, could not control the ball, and fell to the ground as time expired.
He did not even get a shot attempt off and the game went to overtime tied at 86.
Things got worse for Pierce in overtime, as he missed all four shots he took, including one miss right at the rim and two more on wide-open three pointers in the game’s final 30 seconds.
The entirety of the Celtics offense in overtime was a pair of Ray Allen three-pointers, and the Magic were able to hang on for the win.
It was a bad loss for the Celtics. Pierce, who was great for most of regulation, stunk it up on the final possession of regulation and in overtime.
Garnett failed to score in the game’s final 25 minutes and had an inexcusable turnover in the last minute of overtime.
Rondo played his worst game in a long time, which was a major reason Boston scored just 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime combined.
Rasheed Wallace went back to hurting the Celtics, picking up an awful technical foul early in the fourth quarter.
Ray Allen played well, with 22 points on 7-12 shooting and 5-7 from three. But, why did he only get 12 shots?
The talk after the Game Three blowout was entirely about how the Celtics were steamrolling their way through the playoffs, the emergence of Rajon Rondo, and the inevitable finals match-up with the Lakers. That will stop.
Now, there will be discussions about the Magic. Can they keep it going?
Winning four in a row, even with two of the last three games in Orlando, will not be easy for the Magic. As bad as the regular season was for Boston, the Celtics never once lost four in a row.
But as we have been reminded over and over, the playoffs are different.
The Magic are not concerned with winning four in a row. Due to tough performances from Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Redick, Orlando got what it needed last night which was one win.
All they care about now is getting one more on Wednesday night. Hopefully for the Celtics, Rondo bounces back and Boston can end this series in Game Five, before it really gets interesting.
Because I can guarantee that if the Celtics fall flat again in Game Five, those visions I have been having of Bruins and Yankees, will no doubt turn into nightmares.
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