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Sara Foss's Thinking It Through
by Sara Foss

Thinking It Through

A Daily Gazette life blog
Her column and blog rolled into one

The Celtics blew game 3

The New England Sports Fan Friend and I have a pretty good track record for major sports events, and we had high expectations for Tuesday night’s Lakers-Celtics showdown. With the series tied 1-1, and the Celtics returning home after a hard-fought victory on the road, we were hoping for another strong performance from our team.

Unfortunately, the Celtics blew every opportunity to take control of this game. They squandered a strong start, several comebacks, a good game from Kevin Garnett and ... that’s about it. This game was not pretty — I can count the things the Celtics did right on one hand. And in the middle of the fourth quarter, the New England Sports Fan Friend declared that it was over.

Not the game, but the entire series.

“This is it,” the New England Sports Fan Friend proclaimed. “We’re finished. It’s all over. The Celtics are done.”

He then went into a murderous rage, declaring his everlasting hatred for Celtics captain Paul Pierce, who played awfully. “Paul Pierce, this is your fault!” he yelled at the TV. “Yeah, I’m talking about you! You haven’t done anything in the playoffs! You’re washed up! They need to trade you, blow up the team and rebuild! That’s right, Paul Pierce! I hate you!”

“Hey, now,” I said, because the New England Sports Fan Friend’s murderous rage seemed a little over-the-top, and perhaps misdirected. “Paul Pierce had a triple double when the Celtics closed out Cleveland. He’s not all bad. And you should be angry at Ray Allen, too. He hasn’t made any shots.”

It was true. Two nights after setting an NBA record for hitting the most three-pointers in a finals game, Allen went 0-13 from the floor and missed breaking the record for the worst shooting performance in finals history by one shot. He and Pierce combined for about 900 missed shots, which reminded me that you can deconstruct a basketball game all you want, and talk about substitution patterns and defense and smart decisions down the stretch, but winning comes down to making baskets, and if you’re not making baskets, you’re not going to win. It’s really pretty simple. Pierce and Allen took good shots. They just didn’t make them.

And their performances were mesmerizing in their ugliness. When I think about game 3, I just picture Allen — one of the best shooters in NBA history — clanging shot after shot off the backboard. (The game rightfully received a recap on Basketbawful, a website that brings readers “the very best of the worst of professional basketball”; click here to read it.)

“I could play better than Paul Pierce right now,” the New England Sports Fan Friend said. “Doc Rivers should put me in the game. How could I possibly be worse?”

“Hmm,” I said.

When Pierce made a meaningless layup with 5.1 seconds left, the Sports Fan Friend shocked me by turning off the TV — something I’ve never seen him do before.

“I can’t look at him anymore,” he said. “I can’t. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Paul Pierce. What do you have to smile about?” He thew up his hands. “It’s over, and it’s all Paul Pierce’s fault.”

Now, unlike the New England Sports Fan Friend, I’m not willing to blame the loss on Paul Pierce. But I am willing to blame it on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. If either of these guys had simply been mediocre, as opposed to dreadful, the Celtics could have won.

Also unlike the Sports Fan Friend, I’m not ready to concede just yet. The Celtics have been down 2-1 before, to the Cavaliers. The Sports Fan Friend says that being down 2-1 to the Lakers is more worrisome, because the Lakers are better than the Cavaliers, and although this is probably true, the Cavaliers were once considered a pretty imposing team — I believe they had the best regular season record and were picked by many to win the championship.

Also, I can remember other important sports events where the New England Sports Fan Friend conceded far too early. Like the 2004 American League Championship. With the Red Sox down 3-0, the Sports Fan Friend went into seclusion. When the Red Sox won a game, he dismissed it as “a stay of execution.” He finally emerged from his seclusion for game 7, which, of course, the Red Sox won.

There aren’t many occasions when I’m the most optimistic person in a room, but if the room is occupied solely by me and the New England Sports Fan Friend, I generally have the sunnier disposition, at least when it comes to our teams.

Anyway, I’ve watched a lot of NBA basketball over the years, and what I’ve learned is that momentum can shift quickly. Like, from game to game. I don’t necessarily understand how a team can fire on all cylinders one night, and then completely fall apart the next, but it happens all of the time. This doesn’t mean the Lakers won’t win game 3, or go on to win the series. But the Celtics have been surprising resilient throughout the entire playoffs, and I refuse to stop believing.

At least until I see what happens in game 4, which is at 9 p.m. tonight.

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June 10, 2010
4:15 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

The Celtics continue to flummox the statisticians

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