Make or break. Do or die. Float or sink. Win or go fishing.
“I feel like it’s a must-win for us,” said Kendrick Perkins.
Give Lebron James and the Cavs a 3-1 lead, with Game Five and the potential Game Seven in Cleveland, and this series is over. No matter how much luck of the Irish the Celtics have, no matter how much Celtic pride they summon, it won’t be enough to come back from 3-1. They aren’t winning three games in a row. Not against the Cavs. Not with homecourt advantage tilted the wrong way. Especially not after the way they played in Game Three.
It’s hard to focus on a positive from Game Three, simply because — well — there weren’t any. The Celtics were outplayed in every facet of the game, from the opening tipoff to the final buzzer. Lebron James went wild, his supporting cast got theirs, and Boston’s starters were limited to watching the 12th-man squad finish off the worst loss in Celtics home playoff history. If you were a Boston fan watching at home, you likely either 1) flipped the channel in disgust, 2) booed the Celtics from your living room, as if they could hear you, 3) puked your brains out, so embarrassed you were by the C’s performance, 4) had to pick up a new television set for Game Four because you threw your remote control straight through the last one, or 5) got arrested for the attempted murder of Rasheed Wallace. Either that, or you did what I did: You sucked it up and wrote a game recap when all you really wanted to do was tear somebody’s head off.
The Celtics felt the same way we did. “Guys were disappointed,” noted Kendrick Perkins, as if we didn’t know. “A lot of guys didn’t sleep last night, I was one of them. But there were no pep talks. Either you want it or not.”
Oddly enough, it didn’t seem like the Celtics wanted it in Game Three. Lebron came out throwing fireballs at the net and the Celtics had already tapped out by the time halftime rolled around. The second half took us back to memories of the regular season, back when we didn’t know if the Celtics had another gear for the playoffs. Now that we know they do, it’s even more unsatisfying when they lay such an egg as they did in Game Three.
“Guys know what we have to do,” said Perkins. Let’s hope so.
The turnaround starts with Paul Pierce. The Captain has been non-existent in Games One through Three, and bottomed out Friday night when he shot 4-15 whole Lebron James was busy racking up 38, 8, and 7. “We need Paul to be aggressive at both ends,” proclaimed Kevin Garnett. Doc Rivers chimed in, “LeBron gets the ball 101 times per game. He handles the ball, pushes the ball up the floor and posts. Absolutely, that’s going to take something out of [Pierce]. You still gotta do it on both ends.”
But Pierce wasn’t the only one who was outplayed Friday. Top to bottom, every Celtic was. Even Rajon Rondo, who came away with 18 points and 8 assists, was dictated by Cleveland’s defense. The result was a smackdown, more reminiscent of Tyson-Spinks than a playoff basketball game. Thanfully, today’s a new day.
“I did ask them, after three games,” said Doc Rivers, ”if a series is as close as possible, what would be the number? It’d be 2-1.”
But if that 2-1 doesn’t become 2-2, the Celtics will be toast.