Boston’s postseason year of heartbreak continues. A month after the Bruins epic collapse against the Flyers in the NHL’s Eastern Conference Semis, the Celtics followed that up by flying out to L.A. and leaving their game in Boston after an epic game 5 victory.
Boston’s loss shouldn’t be a shock at all; the Lakers by all accounts were the best team in basketball this year from start to finish. What is surprising is how the Celtics lost this game. Granted there was very shoddy officiating by senior referee Joey Crawford, but the Celtics let opportunities pass them by and let their offense fall by the waist side.
It goes something like this, the bench play was finally exposed as thin and un-explosive as “Big Baby” Davis and Nate Robinson lost the luster of their amazing game 4 experiences and only produced 6 points (all Davis’). The offensive rebounding of the Lakers killed the Celtics as they couldn’t let Rajon Rondo get into open space and run the transition offense that he does so well.
The biggest offenders of the Celtics demise last night was that defensive glass. The Celtics rebounding was terrible as they got allowed Pau Gasol and company to dominate the offensive boards all night. The Lakers nabbed 23 offensive rebounds on the night and even though they shot an abysmal 32% from the field the second chance opportunities led to 37 trips to the foul line as compared to only 17 for the Celtics.
Speaking of shooting the Lakers couldn’t hit anything last night. Kobe Bryant was 6-24 from the field while Gasol finished 6-16. They got only nine points from the bench mostly from an ineffective Lamar Odom and took really horrible shots throughout the night. It makes you wonder how the hell exactly did the Celtics hold the Lakers to under 30% shooting for most of the night, limit the ball movement of the triangle offense, hold a thirteen point lead midway through the third quarter and hold the best one-two punch in the league to 12-38 shooting… AND LOSE?!
The real reason is once again the so-called Big Three was a sideshow. All series, heck postseason, the Celtics three headlining players just couldn’t put together a whole game where they were at their best. Paul Pierce was a fourth quarter no-show which was unusual given his flair for late game heroics. Kevin Garnett played his best game of the series as he harassed Gasol all night and had offensive spurts that reminded you of his Minnesota days. However, the player that cost the C’s mostly was Ray Allen. Allen virtually played his way out of Boston after a stellar game two where he drained a Finals record eight 3’s. the sweetest stoke in the game shot 3-14 from the field and just couldn’t get anything going for him all night. He ran Kobe all around the Staples Center yet it translated into little to nothing for Allen. If this was indeed his last game in Boston then Allen surely doesn’t want to be remembered for much during his tenure.
Which brings up another troubling question, what now for the Boston Celtics? The core of this team is old, and that’s putting it lightly. It looks like Ray Allen won’t return next year and KG is entering the last year of a contract as is Paul Pierce. Plus you have a bench that lacks any punch at all as was apparent in all but one of the finals games. We might’ve seen the last of the Boston Celtics in championship games for a long time because this team has a lot of work to do to keep up with whatever these other teams do in free agency such as Miami or Cleveland.
Maybe this game would’ve been different if Kendrick Perkins doesn’t injure his knee in game 6, maybe he would’ve limited Gasol’s effectiveness on the glass all night. Or maybe the Boston Celtics Big Three or Four or whatever just didn’t do enough to handle L.A.’s toughness. Whatever the case maybe just know this; at the 8:23 mark in the third quarter, the Celtics had the defending champs right where they wanted them. They were better defensively and were executing much better on offense. Then for some inexplicable reason it all fell apart and now they go back to Boston title-less, searching for answers and unsure of what will happen next with the team.
It’s a sad day in the city where Champaign flowed with ease in the 2000’s the Bruins have some company in the Heartbreak hotel as Ray Allen can spill about his poor performance to Milan Lucic and Doc Rivers and Claude Julien try to figure out what went wrong. Memo to Terry Francona and Bill Belichick, the way that this year is going in Beantown your playoff chances are looking pretty bleak.