Losing the first three games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals matchup with the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics were competitive in the first half, but their offense collapsed in the second.
On Friday night, with the chance to even the series at 3 wins each, the Celtics’ offense collapsed at the start of the game – spotting the Knicks a 14 point lead in the 1st quarter by scoring just 10 points, which proved to be too big a hole to climb out of as New York won Game six 88-80, taking the series four games to two.
The Knicks now advance to meet the Indiana Pacers, who eliminated the Atlanta Hawks on Friday evening by the same 4-2 tally.
An early 16-1 run by the Knicks dug the hole for the Celtics, and New York spent the rest of evening trying to bury them, but they just wouldn’t go away. The Halftime score more resembled a college tilt at 39-27 – yes, the Celtics scored just 27 points in the first half – but both teams got the scoring back on track in the second half.
Boston scored 53 points after the break, and went on a 20-0 run in the final frame that got them within four points, but in facing a deficit of over twenty points, your margin of error is zero, so when the Celtics had a chance to cut the lead to just two points, Paul Pierce had a less than crisp pass picked off for a bucket in the other direction, killing the Boston rally…
…and that’s all anyone needs to know. No need to analyze what went wrong, because that was decided months ago when the Celtics endured a cruel stretch that saw first Rajon Rondo, then Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa go down with season-ending injuries.
They were fine, they said after Rondo tore his knee guts in an overtime game at Atlanta, then said the same thing after the rookie Sullinger underwent back surgery and then again after Barbosa ripped his knee apart – but each time the voices were shakier than the last – no team can survive the injuries that the Celtics did and have hopes for a title.
But not word one was heard out of any of the players or coaches regarding the impact of the injuries on the team, nor were any excuses made in that direction – they dealt with it, had some ups and down, a few laughs, but in the end they were a hobbled team that faded so badly down the stretch that they almost fell to the eighth seed…
…which should have given us a clue as to how their season would end. But they gave us two more wins than we thought they would, and that speaks to their professionalism and determination more than available talent and depth.
Now we look toward next year, but we’re really not sure what the team will look like, just that the color scheme for the uniforms are green and white and that there’s still a bunch of championship banners hanging in the TD Garden rafters that reminds any player that comes in to the fold what they represent as a member of the team…
…and that reminds us fans that this franchise – this team – has been there before, and history suggests that it won’t be long until they are there again…just not this year.