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Fading Celtics fall flat

Posted by Bill Koch on February 26, 2010

Boston Celtics

Let’s hope the Eastern Conference playoffs don’t look anything like what happened in Boston on Thursday night.
The Celtics were up to their usual tricks against an elite opponent – start fast, fade late – in their 108-88 loss to Cleveland at TD Garden. The Cavaliers blew Boston out of its own building in the fourth quarter, rolling to a 35-14 advantage to turn around what was a one-point deficit after 36 minutes. Not even Paul Pierce, who missed the game with an injured right thumb, could have helped the Celtics in this one.

Three quick observations from Thursday:

— The Celtics can’t score.
Boston was 3-for-21 from the field in the fourth quarter thanks to a smart defensive adjustment by Cleveland, as the Cavaliers shifted LeBron James onto Ray Allen and let the NBA’s best player shut down the Celtics’ only real offensive threat on the night. Allen scored 20-plus points for the fifth straight game, finishing with a team-high 21, but he went missing in crunch time thanks to James’ considerable size advantage. Allen hadn’t scored 20-plus points in five straight games since March 4-17, 2007, when he accomplished that feat in seven consecutive contests. None of Boston’s other options were able to make up the difference, and Allen clearly can’t be counted on to keep this run going much longer. This leads me to…

— Rajon Rondo still isn’t an elite point guard.
Rondo looked great in the first half, scoring 14 points and dishing out eight assists, but he also disappeared down the stretch. Rondo totaled just five points and three assists in the second half when Cleveland’s defenders started to back up and shut off Rondo’s penetration into the lane. They knew damn well that Rondo still hasn’t developed even a passable jump shot, a point that he proved when he fired up a sickening air ball from 3-point range. It wasn’t much better at the other end, as Rondo got torched by Mo Williams in the fourth quarter. Cleveland’s point guard started raining 3-pointers down on Rondo’s head, making four of them on his way to 14 points over the final 12 minutes and 19 from the game. Boston’s defense was spread way too thin thanks to the outside shooting and left room for James to force his way into the paint. Speaking of which…

— Doc Rivers got outcoached by Mike Brown.
Just think about that statement for a second. Brown isn’t going to make anyone forget Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson or Pat Riley anytime soon. His Cavaliers were embarrassed by Orlando in the playoffs last year and got swept by San Antonio in The Finals two years ago, two series in which Brown was obviously well over his head despite having the best player on the planet at his disposal. You couldn’t have guessed how clueless Brown is by the way his team played on Thursday, but you could draw another conclusion – that Rivers is on cruise control after putting up Banner 17. He has no answers for Boston’s late-game fades and clearly can’t get through to his veteran players. Rasheed Wallace is still taking dreadful shots almost 60 games into the season, the Celtics still give very inconsistent effort at the defensive end and their transition game is completely nonexistent. These are the common symptoms of an older team just waiting for the postseason to begin, but the Celtics really don’t look like they’ll be able to turn it on when they need it the most. They certainly couldn’t do it on Thursday.

One Response to “Fading Celtics fall flat”

  1. Bill said

    Somebody is confused

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