Path to the Playoffs: Green Giant Needs to Wake Up
Last week was the first in the ongoing series of the Path to the Playoffs. In the second week, the C’s continued their struggling ways of recent, but might have done more damage internally than to their record.
After beating the New Orleans Hornets and New York Knicks in consecutive games the C’s followed up with ugly losses to the current eight seed in the West, the Memphis Grizzlies and the struggling Charlotte Bobcats.
In what could be a preview of a vicious first round playoff series, Boston defeated the Knicks once again in their encore performance at Madison Square Garden. Led by Kevin Garnett’s 24 points and 11 boards the C’s pulled away in the final frame by scoring the final 10 points. The bloodied and beaten Celtics had much more on their mind after the game though. Coach Doc Rivers strayed away from the “We were bored” theory and instead called a veteran unit that relies on their stifling defense “soft.” The phrase was not taken lightly, as Garnett and Pierce both had comments on Rivers choice of words after the game. It seems odd for a coach with so much respect for his team to say something just to stir up his team and possibly lose some of the much valued respect he has gained.
Rivers words were blown up throughout the next days as the C’s prepared for the return of Tony Allen and Leon Powe to Boston. The men in green did not respond with the energy Coach Rivers might have expected as the Celtics lost a hard fought game 90-87 in large part to the Grizzlies duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Once again the second unit of the Celtics big men were unable to carry the burden of the continued absence of the O’Neals.
The following game against the Charlotte Bobcats is one fans just shake their head at. The Celtics led 66-53 going into the final frame, before the Bobcats went on a 21-4 run to put them ahead 80-75 with just under three minutes to go. The Celtics would take the lead 81-80 with 55 seconds left in the game, before consecutive Bobcats baskets put them on top for good. A team that prides itself on defense, could not follow their D with offense, which allowed Charlotte to get back into the game and beat the C’s in yet another second-half collapse. The C’s nearly repeated the same kind of collapse Sunday night, before closing out the lowly Timberwolves 85-82 after once leading by 25. Boston was without star guard Rajon Rondo due to a strained pinkie finger, as Delonte West got the start.
As the Celtics continue to close out what has been an up-and-down season, their toughness has been brought into plain view and the theory of boredom has been tossed out the window. This team must prove to itself and their fans they can win without the O’Neal twins, with their health being in question all season. Rondo must play up to his potential and get out of his mid-March slump. Standings, which hasn’t matter much to this team over the years, must be considered as a two or three seed poses a much more difficult road to Banner 18.
The home stretch is here, now it’s time for the Celtics to play like it.