Wow. Just, you know, Wow.
Words do not exist to put into perspective the dreadful knockout of the Boston Celtics by the scorned Atlanta Hawks at Phillips Arena in Atlanta on Friday night.
It was a little like watching the basketball equivalent of the classic “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns Middleweight Championship bout back when boxing was a major sport.
The Challenger Hearns was one of the most devastating punchers in ring history while tough guy Hagler was the undisputed Middleweight Champion when they met in 1985.
Hearns came out at the opening bell and dominated Hagler, stunning the champion with a vicious straight right hand to his chin, breaking a bone in his hand and was not able to finish Hagler off once he had him reeling…
…and the Celtics couldn’t finish off the Hawks on Friday night. Boston started fast, dominating the pace and the scoreboard, at one point going on a 25-5 run in the first quarter and led by as many as 27. In the second period both teams were throwing up haymakers, one trying the put the other way, while the other was just hanging on for dear life.
“We had a chance to put this game away, man. We didn’t do that,” Celtics’ center Kevin Garnett said after the game. “We gave a team life. You can’t do that.”
In the third round Hagler was cut over his nose, but Hearns was spent. “That first round took everything I had.” he would say later. Hagler, fearing the referee stopping the fight, unleashed a barrage on Hearns that left the challenger flat on his face. He managed to rise at the count of nine, but was out on his feet and the fight was stopped…
In the third period in Atlanta, the Hawks came out and unleashed their own barrage, going on a dominating 19-0 run to tie the game in the 3rd quarter. The Celtics were able to rise a few times after getting knocked down, but just like in the fight, they had nothing left.
The difference between the fight and this game? That fight is widely acclaimed to be the best fight in the history of boxing – and this game? Well if you’re a Celtic fan, it just plain stunk.
Kyle Korver scored a game high 27 points, most of them coming on eight second half 3-pointers including 5 in the fourth to help get the game to overtime, then after an even period, the Hawks dominated the second overtime by a score of 16-4 to post a 123-11 win.
“Korver came out, obviously got hot, and we couldn’t turn it off.” Lamented Garnett.
Al Horford poured in 24 and pulled down 13 rebounds and Josh Smith had 17 and 14 for the Hawks, now 25-18 on the season.
Rajon Rondo recorded his second triple-double in as many nights with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 helpers for the the Celtics who dropped their sixth consecutive game to dip three games under .500 at 20-23.
Kevin Garnett led the Celtics in scoring with 24 and pulled down 10 boards as well. Avery Bradley scored 14 and the trio of Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry combined for 45 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.
Conspicuously, Paul Pierce had another in what has become a long series of poor shooting games, His 12 points is well off his season pace and his 4-13 shooting outlines his frustrations. To add to those frustrations, Pierce combined with Rondo to commit 11 of the Celtics 21 turnovers.
“It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow,” said Pierce. “We’ve got to have some sort of discipline. That’s the key word for us. It is cause for concern. We’ve got to come in with the mindset to play for 48 minutes.”
The Celtics are struggling, of this there can be no doubt – but why? Could it be that you look at the stat lines and see Rondo, a point guard, outrebounding the rest of his teammates, and you see Pierce throwing up brick after brick and both turning the ball over at an ominous pace and it occurs to you that these are numbers for people who are trying to do too much.
Regardless, the Celtics now return home to face the Miami Heat – which is like going to the beach and getting sand kicked in your face as Ray Allen makes his 2013 debut on the parquet at TD Garden…
…for sure the Celtics miss his ability to create his own shot, something that was probably taken for granted while he was a Celtic, something that perhaps the Celtics themselves should study if they want to realize what’s wrong with their offense now that the defesive intensity has picked up.
Another difference between that iconic Middleweight Championship bout and this game? That fight was for a world title, while this game was just another regular season game in a season 82 games long. Still plenty of time for the Celtics to right the ship so they can fight for a title, if they can figure out what is so horribly wrong.
Watching Ray Allen creating on Sunday might give them a clue on where to start looking.