The third quarter came a little early today for the Boston Celtics.
After struggling in many a recent third quarter, it was the first quarter that did them in during today’s 114-105 loss. A dominant 37-19 opening period in favor of the Denver Nuggets forced the Celtics to claw their way back into the game. When they tied the score at 66-66 midway through the third, it looked like Boston might come away with the win. But the Nuggets ran away from the Celtics in the fourth, as Boston looked tired from expending so much energy to erase the early deficit.
The consistency issues that have plagued Boston remained during the last game of a post-All-Star game road trip that the Celtics finished at 3-1. The first quarter was a pitiful showing, followed by portions of the second and third during which Boston looked like the best team in the NBA. Finally, the wheels fell apart in the fourth quarter as Carmelo Anthony (23 points), Chauncey Billups (26 points, 7 assists) and J.R. Smith (19 points, 5-10 three-pointers) proved to be too much for Boston to handle.
There were some positives to take from the loss. Boston played a great offensive game. Ray Allen (25 points) continued his hot shooting, Rajon Rondo (15 points, 11 assists) was good — offensively at least — and Kendrick Perkins (14 points) and Kevin Garnett (15 points) scored efficiently down low. Marquis Daniels (15 points) played very well off the bench, Rasheed Wallace (8 points) was good when he wasn’t bricking threes (0-3), and Tony Allen (2 steals) and Glen Davis’ (7 rebounds) energy helped bring Boston back from the early hole.
But the Celtics couldn’t get stops when they needed them, the three-point arc was not kind to the men in Green, and Paul Pierce couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Pierce, who was reportedly very close to missing Friday’s game against Portland with a thumb injury, is trying to struggle through the pain that seems to have drastically affected his shooting stroke. He got plenty of open looks he would normally hit, but only connected on 2-10 shots.
Brian Scalabrine and Shelden Williams, who were used in lieu of Gino on Friday in Portland, were nothing more than human white flags that Doc Rivers waved with two minutes left in a game already out of reach.
- Surprise of the Century: Joey Crawford called a technical foul. Why was it a surprise? He only called one.
- Boston shot only 2-13 from behind the arc. Ray Allen was the only Celtic to hit a three.
- In the first half, Glen Davis had a wide open look and decided to lay the ball in instead of dunk it. My roommate asked me if there was any other power forward in the league who wouldn’t have dunked it. I said DeJuan Blair is probably the only one, but that Ben Wallace wouldn’t have even made the layup. He then said, “Yeah, and Kwame Brown wouldn’t have even caught the pass.”
- Marquis Daniels played great. I know I mentioned his good play before but his return really helps things… a lot.
- As efficient as Perkins and Garnett were, the tandem only combined for 9 rebounds.
- Pierce registered 4 blocked shots. Weird stat. So did Chris Anderson.
- Mike Tirico said something really funny about Anthony Carter: Once every 12 days or so, he’ll contribute something.