When Lavoy Allen’s prayer with 0.9 seconds on the shot clock improbably banked through the rim and the refs shortly thereafter declined to call a travel after Evan Turner took approximately 19 steps, I figured this might be Philadelphia’s night.
Yes, the Celtics responded with a couple threes and made a number of other important plays down the stretch, including Rajon Rondo’s obscene rebound over the top of Turner. But the offensive foul called on Kevin Garnett with 10 seconds left cemented it: The basketball gods may be injuring folks left and right to make Boston’s road easier, but they were not going to let the Celtics get away with their third-quarter effort tonight.
On a night when Mickael Pietrus broke out of his slump, this kid did not get the 8th birthday present of his wishes, Avery Bradley proved once and for all that he’s significantly tougher than all of you, and the Celtics lost home court advantage, I leave you with a number of game notes rather than an actual recap.
– First, the Garnett moving screen. There’s no doubt he fouled him. But I hate that call for a dozen reasons, the first of which is: the refs allowed Garnett and everyone else to get away with moving screens the entire game. Garnett moves on every screen. It hadn’t been called once to that point. And then suddenly, with the game on the line, when refs are supposed to let players decide things, they decided to get tough and whistle KG for the foul. I suppose my reasoning — “Garnett got away with a dozen other moving screens, so he should have gotten away with that one too!” — could probably use some work. But the biggest goal of an official should be consistency. And that last call was anything but consistent.
– Pietrus sure did pick a nice time to make his first two three-pointers of the calendar year. I found it oddly fitting that his slump-busting triple came after he chased a loose ball in the corner, barely took any time to set his feet, and fired almost before taking a peek at the rim.
– I can’t speak for everybody, but I really enjoyed the Doug Collins “these morons just had a 5-second violation with five minutes left in a playoff game we need to win and are leading by four points” face.
– Something I didn’t enjoy so much: That Lavoy Allen prayer.
– I love Bradley’s toughness, but he looked like he favored his shoulder when he returned. Nothing especially glaring, but it’s something to watch for moving forward.
– Kevin Garnett was mortal for most of this one, but reentered whatever heavenly state he’s inhabited during most of these playoffs during the last few minutes. Three reasons why he was less successful today: 1) The Sixers made some adjustments and didn’t surrender very many easy looks, 2) the Celtics didn’t really seem to realize Garnett was playing for the first two and a half quarters, and 3) although I would love him to, he couldn’t possibly maintain his “04 MVP” pace forever.
– In the first three minutes Avery Bradley drilled a corner three, Brandon Bass finally found common ground with his jump shot again and Kevin Garnett demonstrated that, yes, his right hand is still hotter than Kelly Kapowski, if that’s possible. Considering the implications of those three occurrences, the Celtics start hardly could have been better. The score was 9-0 before half the crowd at the TD Garden even arrived. Yes, that’s a diss directed at the fans as much as praise for Boston’s quick beginning.
By the time two minutes remained in the second quarter, Bradley’s shoulder had popped back out of its socket, Bass’ quick start had devolved into a 3 of 12 shooting line complete with several wide open misses, Kevin Garnett had almost committed manslaughter after a Ryan Hollins alley oop, and the Celtics had scored 10 points in the opening 10 minutes of the frame, though at least they still had a 35-33 lead. After Paul Pierce ended the half with a long bomb, the Celtics entered halftime with a 38-36 advantage. Considering their quick start and the amount of pain apparently bothering Bradley on his trip to the locker room, things could have been significantly rosier.
– Bradley left in the second quarter with the Celtics ahead 33-29. The Sixers followed with a 28-14 run which took more than a quarter. I believe these two events are related, I just don’t know how closely.
– Ryan Hollins has replaced Tony Allen in my heart, which is both good and bad. I love Hollins’ energy. He boxes out like nobody else on the Celtics (which is odd considering his reputation as a miserable rebounder), took a couple charges tonight, runs the floor like a deer and usually screams like a banshee whenever he or his teammates do something noteworthy. Based on all of that, Hollins should be one of my favorite players. Yet I still live on pins and needles whenever Hollins steps on the court, because he always feels an inch away from falling down a precipice of disaster. Regardless of my thoughts on Hollins’ reliability, he’s pretty clearly outplaying Stiemsma right now. I can’t decide whether that’s good or bad.
– Speaking of Stiemsma, the Celtics had consecutive possessions that went like this:
1) Mickael Pietrus drives fiercely to the hoop and finishes with a strong layup.
2) Stiemsma catches an alley-oop from Rondo on the fast break and successfully converts it for two.
Just thought that sequence warranted mentioning.
– For pretty self-explanatory reasons, I normally dislike when Rajon Rondo foregoes wide open layups in favor of passing to teammates on the perimeter. But tonight I was fine with it. Every time Rondo passed up a layup, it was to hit Bass. Bass had started the game hot and Rondo wanted to continue stoking his confidence. Of course, the strategy completely backfired when Bass morphed into “Bad Big Baby” and missed nine of his next 10 shots. But Rondo’s mind was in the right place, even as he surrendered easy points in favor of tougher ones.
– I’m trying desperately not to write about the first eight minutes of the second half. But ugh, for both teams. After Brandon Bass hit a jumper with 5:07 left in the third quarter, one of the TNT announcers described it as ” the first Celtics basket in more than six minutes.” And the Celtics had somehow managed to EXTEND their lead from two to four during that span with a 7-5 run that had all the explosiveness of a piece of matzah. The Sixers ultimately found their offensive bearing at the end of the third quarter. The Celtics did not, and so they trailed 59-47 after three.
– Paul Pierce tweeted about Maria Menounos on Dancing With The Stars two hours before this game. He then preceded to miss seven of his nine shot attempts. These events have nothing to do with each other. Don’t even try to blame Menounos for Pierce’s misses.
– The following thought is completely irrational and entirely untrue: But it really feels like whenever the Celtics desperately need a bucket, Keyon Dooling is in the lineup.
– My “Brandon Bass is finally making jump shots!” excitement sure disappeared quickly.
– Next time I write a “Philadelphia 76ers can’t score in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics” column, I’ll make sure I print it out so I can burn it after the Sixers thoroughly outplay Boston in crunch time.
The Celtics now have a series on their hands, and I will forever resent Lavoy Allen.