The Boston Celtics entered Game 3 looking to make a statement. Kevin Garnett gathered his teammates to remind them of Ubuntu, Rajon Rondo smiled not during pregame shootaround and Paul Pierce screamed gutturally after almost every possession. But now the statement has been made. Philadelphia no longer possesses any feeling of overconfidence. The Celtics waltzed into the Wells Fargo Center and landed a knockout crane kick to the Sixers’ collective jaw.
The next challenge for the Celtics is bringing that same mentality again for Game 4. (CSNNE)
“We won the first one and now we have another one,” Rivers said. “The key is to keep our focus and play the way we played, with the same energy and not play like, ‘You won one. Now you can relax.’ ”
“We won Game 1, but there was almost a sense that we stole it from them,” Allen said. “And in Game 2, we kicked ourselves because we feel we should have won that one. After those two games, [the Sixers are] looking at it like, ‘Hey, we’re supposed to be up 2-0′ and we’re going to our home floor.’ [Game 3] was evident if we played convincingly the way we did last night, in the first two games, there would have been a different feeling around the series but it’s not. We have to take Game Three and produce that same feeling, that same effect in Game Four.”
Yes, the Celtics operated on a different level during Game 3 and made a statement that they’re a superior team. Yes, they could lose Game 4 and still return to the TD Garden with home court advantage. But this isn’t about just squeaking by the Philadelphia 76ers and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. A greater goal rests beyond the horizon. This is about the Celtics giving themselves the best chance moving forward.
Paul Pierce, regardless of how hard he attacked the rim in Game 3, needs to rest his sprained MCL. Ray Allen, who mustered just one shot attempt in Game 3, desperately needs a little time off that injured ankle. Kevin Garnett, as beautifully as he’s played, turns 36 years old tomorrow and could use some R & R. And Avery Bradley’s shoulder just called. It said it might stop popping out so goddamn much if it had a little time to strengthen.
The other Eastern Conference Semifinals is shaping up to be a long series. If the Celtics can end things with the Sixers early — and I know this is skipping a few steps on the ladder — they could have some time to catch their breath and heal their bodies.