Late in the 4th quarter, Rajon Rondo had the ball leading a fast break. Paul Pierce was on the opposite side of the court and found some open real estate. Rondo found Pierce and Pierce drained a 3 pointer giving the Celtics the lead 92-91 with a 1:21 left in the game. Rondo would extend the lead to 3 with a jump shot, Celts 94 Magic 91 with less than a minute left.
Despite blowing a 16 point lead, the Celtics looked like they were going to win the game. But the Magic had other plans. On the next possession, J.J. Redick hit a 3 pointer from a few feet beyond the arc tying the game 94-94 with only 40 seconds left. Celtics came out of a timeout looking confused. They could not get their half court offense set up forcing Ray Allen to take a desperation three pointer with the 24 second clock dwindling down. The shot clanged off the back of the rim and now the Magic had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation.
After a timeout, the Magic gave the ball to Rashard Lewis. It was Lewis one on one with the Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett. KG on Lewis usually means a great matchup if you're a Celtic fan. Lewis looked like he was going to shoot but made a quick move to the hoop. Garnett was a step to slow and the weak side help never came. Lewis had an easy layup and gave the Magic the lead 96-94 with 1.3 seconds left in the game. Celtics had one more chance for a catch and shoot. The in bounds pass went to Rasheed Wallace from beyond the arc, probably the 3rd or 4th option, Sheed threw up an air ball and the Celtics lose a heartbreaker.
The game felt like a playoff game. Celtics had control for most of the game even though Rondo, Pierce, and KG had off nights. The Magic made a late push in the 3rd quarter. I give a lot of credit to Stan Van Gundy. He had both his bigs, Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat, on the court together. The strategy worked on both sides of the ball. Howard was hitting running hooks and Gortat was banking home shots. Celtics couldn't stop either big. But the Magic got back in the game on the defensive side of the ball. Howard was magnificent. He blocked 4 shots in the paint and if he didn't block the shot, he put fear in the whole Celtic team. No one was driving into the lane without Howard's permission.
The Celtics had plenty of chances to put the game away in the second half, but they got away from what they do best…transition basketball. I know Howard had a lot to do with that, but when Rondo and the Celts start running there is no team that can keep up. Instead, they slowed it down and tried to set up their half court offense giving Howard a chance to get down low.
As bad as the lost was, it wasn't the worst thing to come out of the game. Far worse was to watch Garnett labor so much. I expected him to be rusty coming back from the injury, but it's clear his knee is still a big issue. He missed two attempts to slam down an alley oop and missed them both because he couldn't elevate. But the bigger concern for KG is his defense. Two years ago there is no way Rashard Lewis would have burned KG by taking it to the hoop like he did for the game winner. Absolutely no way old KG would let that happen. KG's knee is a big problem. This team needs him for the playoffs if they are going to have success.
I refuse to believe that KG's age is the problem. The guy has a hyper extended knee. I believe it's strictly the injury that's the problem, not the number of minutes he's logged as a NBA professional. Granted, his knee has taken a long time to heal, almost a year. I'm concerned, but I still have hope he will heal and be 100% in the spring.
Boston has a great team. It's a deep team and it's time for other guys to step up and help this team win games. They can't rely on KG to save them. The Celts are having trouble closing out games, similar to Patriots this past season.
The loss might hurt for the moment, but no time to dwell. The Celtics play a very good, very athletic Atlanta Hawks team. Boston has struggled against Atlanta all season long and this has turned into a very good rivalry. After Atlanta, the Celtics are back home and host the LA Lakers on Sunday. Now is the time for the team to find their mojo. Now is the time to find that great team chemistry they had to start the season.
On a positive note, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce were named to the All Star team. For Pierce, this will be his 8th selection to the team and for Rondo his first. Rondo deserves to be on the team. He's a star in the making. Congratulations to both players. Kevin Garnett will be starting the All Star game, his 13th selection.
About the Author
Written by johnw