On Monday night the Celtics faced the hottest team in the NBA, the Miami Heat. The Heat came into Boston looking to extend their win streak to 23 games and acquire the title of second longest win streak in NBA history. The Celtics looked to extend a win streak of their own looking to win their 12th straight home game. This was a very tall task for the Celtics who would be without their centerpiece Kevin Garnett who sat out with strained adductor muscle.
With Garnett out of the line-up Doc Rivers elected to start Jeff Green for the third time this year. The team looked to get a major contribution from someone with KG out and got a huge performance from Jeff Green who set a career high with 43 points. Jeff was sensational tonight especially in the first half scoring 21 of his points in a 9 minute span. Unfortunately when Green was out, the offensive became stagnant allowing Miami to battle back and keep the game close. LeBron James was his usual self in full form leading the Heat in four major categories. In the end, despite Jeff Green's offensive explosion, LeBron and the Heat came away with the win 105-103 and extended their win streak to 23 games.
Boston Celtics' Jeff Green (8) shoots over Miami Heat's Shane Battier (31) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Monday, March 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
If this was a glimpse of the playoffs then sign me up. Coming into tonight everyone knew the game would have a playoff atmosphere but no one could have seen this coming. From start to finish the entire game was back and forth fueled with highlights and crazy momentum swings. It was only fitting that the two best players tonight would be matched up for the biggest shot of the game in the closing seconds. With the shot clock running down and only 12 seconds left in the game, LBJ rose up and hit a very tough contested shot over Green to put the Heat up 105-13 (See Image Below).
Jeff Green will get tremendous praise for his offensive outing but his stellar defense shouldn't be overlooked. He did a great job forcing James to shoot jumpers or force up tough shots at the rim time and time again. While LeBron was able to finish with a stat line of 37 points, 7 rebounds, and 12 assists it felt like he could of done much more damage had Green not battled hard in the trenches. Had a few loose balls gone off Miami instead of the Celtics the outcome could certainly have gone the other way.
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 18: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat makes a go-ahead shot late in the fourth quarter against Jeff Green #8 of the Boston Celtics on March 18, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Paul Pierce had a decent look at a three pointer in the final possession that just rimed out. He had a very solid overall performance good for 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. While Paul wasn't the focal point of the offensive he certainly quarterbacked the Celtics well getting his teammates involved and battling on the boards. The "Pitbulls" Bradley and Lee played great defense on Miami's guards, most notably on Dwayne Wade who finished with just 16 points. Of the two Avery struggled more on offense shooting just 3-11 for 7 points but scored one of Boston's biggest baskets with a corner three in the final minutes.
Because Green moved into the starting line-up the Celtics needed it's other bench players to step-up and provide some solid minutes. Doc went with a very limited line-up tonight going with just an 8 man rotation. In 24 minutes Jason Terry went 4-6 for 9 points and 4 assists all while chasing Ray Allen around and holding him 0-3 from behind the arc. Jordan Crawford also tallied 17 minutes good for 8 points but at times seemed to hurt the Celtics rhythm with his sporadic style.
Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) knocks the ball away from Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce (34) in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Monday, March 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
The difference maker in the game can be seen in two specific stats, turnovers and points in the paint. The Celtics committed 21 turnovers that translated into 24 points for the Miami Heat. At one point the team led Miami by as many as 17 points but had some costly turnovers allowing them to get right back in striking distance. The other stat that really stuck out was the whopping 50 points allowed in the paint. With Kevin Garnett out of the line-up Miami seemed to have the advantage and really attacked the paint exploiting the Celtic's lack of size.
All and all this was a very solid game for the Celtics especially being without their veteran and leader KG. It'll be disappointing to swallow the loss simply because of Jeff Green's tremendous night but certainly marked another installment in a great rivalry. Hopefully this game will instill confidence in the team and show them they can certainly challenge the defending champs in a potential playoff series.
Sorry, but I have to agree more with your colleague Jack Niemuth's assessment; this was a terrible loss due to a pathetic effort. Rather than reassure me, this game makes me less hopeful than ever that we have a run in us. Just like we have many times over the last four years, we will find a way to lose.
From squandering double-digit second half leads to losing playoff series despite a 3-2 lead (which we have done 3 out of the last 4 years, when no Celtic team before had ever done so)this team just makes it too much of a habit to lose from ahead. This latest blown effort does nothing to give me confidence at all.
I see this game somewhere in the middle. I don't think there was a lack of effort. I think there was a lack of execution at times and some of that could be because they were filling in the holes left by KG's absence. I sure would love to get this Jeff Green on a regular basis though. Unfortunately the next game he may disappear again.
I also think the worst thing to happen to a team like the Celtics is for one player to score 40+. They are best when everyone is contributing. When one player goes off like that, the others relax. It's too much hero ball and hero ball rarely wins.
I'm not sure I'd classify it as effort... Your facing the hottest team in the NBA with the best player in the NBA. On a night when your playing without argueably the Celtics best player, KG.
Obviously history has shown the Celtics fall victim to late game or series collapses. But at this point in the year without Rondo, Sully, Barbosa, and KG temporarily did you think this team could even compete on this level with Miami?!
I think this team showed heart with their play and Doc Rivers couldn't have said it better postgame; "Overall, besides not winning the game, we passed the test,'' Rivers said. "But losing the game is what you'll remember."
When I mentioned their poor effort, I perhaps should have used another word because I did not think this team played lazy. They just played extremely poorly. And as you mentioned, it is an historical pattern with this team to have ill-tiimed collapses. What I saw last night is a continuation of the trend. The Celtics will not accomplish anything unless they learn how to close, which they are very poor at. Last night did little to make me feel they can close out an elite team.
The quote I agree with from Doc is that "I thought we were going to win the game, I thought we would win during the game, and I thought we should have won the game."
Agreed that closing is a problem for this team. As much as I love and appreciate Paul Pierce, I think the time has come for something other than a Pierce ISO or Pierce for the game winner as our last shot. Time for Doc to go to a different closing play.