The lead felt insurmountable when it was only three. In my miserable pessimism I’m not sure when the actual backbreaker came, but by the time the Knicks lead stretched to 18 there was no doubt what the outcome would be. In a pivotal Game Three at home the Celtics offense continued to sputter, crash, and burn. Now the Celtics find themselves down 3-0 in the series, a hole no NBA team has ever been able to dig their way out of, and on the verge of being swept. The Celtics might be able to take Game Four at home–though I’m not remotely sure of that right now–but that would only leave them primed for a return to New York and a likely 4-1 gentleman’s sweep. This team is simply not offensively talented enough to defy the odds with a rotation depleted by injuries and facing its age. In the opening moments, even layups were labors for the overmatched Celtics. Lets run through the bullet points quickly:
- Jason Terry replaced Brandon Bass in the starting lineup in an attempt to match up with the Knicks super-small backcourt and attempt to provide more spacing. It went ok. Terry scored 14 points on 4-9 shooting but many of those points came long after the game was decided (Terry was 1-4 in the first half). PER is not a perfect stat by any means, but Terry’s in the first two games approached Jason Collins territory. While tonight’s performance will certainly remedy that, he was a telling team-low -12 tonight.
- Brandon Bass struggled off the bench, not surprising for a player who had struggled all season and only recently had found his rhythm offensively. He had just two points on 1-5 shooting and seven rebounds.
- Kevin Garnett looked a bit better than he had earlier in the series, though it’s hard to tell how much of it is health and how much is heart. He scored twelve points (5-13 shooting) and grabbed 17 rebounds. The effort was certainly there (and showed on the boards, the Celtics out rebounded the Knicks 41-37) but I don’t think his legs were.
- As Paul Pierce goes, so go the Celtics and Pierce struggled mightily. The Captain finished with 17 points on 15 shots, but went a brutal 2-10 in the first half, along with five assists and five turnovers. The only Celtic with more assists than turnovers tonight was Kevin Garnett, and he had two. With no point-guard, Pierce has been the only real creator for the Celtics but he hasn’t been able to duplicate the success he had immediately following Rondo’s injury in this series and tonight was no different.
- After allegedly falling out of the rotation, Courtney Lee played 11 minutes (two less than Jordan Crawford) but had little impact.
Game Four is on Sunday and despite the dire circumstances Celtics fans should treasure these moments. There’s no telling what will happen with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce after this season, and while we’ve said that before the situation feels more grim than in seasons past.
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