When I was eight years old, I came down with the worst stomach virus I’ve ever had. For 24 straight hours, I couldn’t roll out of bed. I puked, and I puked, and I puked some more. Out came my cheerios, my toast, and my mac and cheese. Hell, I was so sick I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom. I just laid there, with a nasty bucket by my bedside, rolling over and aiming into the bucket so I wouldn’t toss my cookies onto my sheets or the rug.
There’s only one difference between my bout with a stomach virus back then and tonight’s Celtics performance — I could actually find the bucket.
At least the Bulls lost, too. Because otherwise, I wish I had one of those Men In Black memory erasers to wipe this entire night away. The Celtics shot like they had blindfolds on. They rebounded like they had a miserable case of Mark Blountitis. The Boston starters scored a combined 38 points, or seven less than Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry alone (or, since I mentioned the Bulls, four less than Derrick Rose). That included Paul Pierce, who shot 2-10, and Rajon Rondo, whose poor play might have stooped to new lows; while Rondo shot 2-11 and mustered only six assists, his counterpart Lowry controlled the entire game. Chuck Hayes outplayed Kevin Garnett (no, seriously), Patrick Patterson rendered Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy entirely useless, and Martin (despite possessing shooting form I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy) outscored Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined. On a scale of one to ugly, this loss was Freakshow from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.
I’m not hitting the panic button, not at all, but the Boston Celtics simply aren’t playing quality basketball at the moment. Four losses in their last six games, and tonight’s was against a Houston team that isn’t even slotted for a playoff spot, and was also missing Luis Scola. With the Bulls ahead of Boston by half a game, I expected a sense of urgency. I expected a team that would run through brick walls for a win. I expected, at the very least, the Celtics would not be completely outclassed by Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin and Patrick Patterson. Instead, I watched The Stomach Virus Game.
In all fairness, the Celtics should struggle right now. Even with four starters remaining intact, Boston is working five new players into the lineup (six, if you count Delonte West). As much as we’d like them to, these things don’t happen overnight. That doesn’t mean the NBA stops while Boston tries to gain some chemistry — whether or not the troublesome adjustment period is natural, home-court advantage continues to slip away and Rose, Thibodeau and company continue to loom large.
Doc Rivers called a timeout with nine minutes left, and his Celtics trailing by 18 points. After the timeout, play resumed and Greg Dickerson discussed what Rivers had told his team. Just as Dickerson shared what Doc said: something to the effect of “If we get stops, we can score and come back,” Patrick Patterson freed himself for a wide open layup. If there was a better anecdote to summarize the entire night, it evaded my grasp. We heard about Rivers telling his players to get stops, as they simultaneously allowed a point-blank look.
In the movie Tin Cup, golf pro Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy got the shanks at the U.S. Open. He took swing after swing, and nothing got better. He kept hitting the ball like I would, and I’m about a 35-handicap on a good day (I also spend more time in the sand than David Hasselhoff).
“My God, my swing feels like an unfolded lawn chair,” Tin Cup told his caddy, Romeo. After hearing that, Romeo offered a piece of odd advice which cured Tin Cup’s swing: “Take all your change and put it in your left-hand pocket.”
If only NBA uniforms had pockets, too.