Last Sunday, the inconceivable happened. The Boston Celtics, who were up 3-2 on the Orlando Magic lost a Game 7 on the storied parquet floor we call Red Auerbach Memorial Court. The Celtics had a 32-0 record in series where they went up 3-2 previously and a commanding record in Game 7's at home in their history. None of that mattered on Sunday as the Boston Celtics were never in the lead and they couldn't climb the ladder out of Hell in an embarrassing 101-82 loss. They came out flat and they had nothing more to give in the end. They were clearly playing on fumes in these final two contests. Sunday marked the Celtics' 40th playoff game in the past two seasons alone. They've played 202 total games in the past two seasons (128-36 reg. season & 23-17 playoffs).
Kendrick "The Hulk" Perkins did an admirable job this postseason by averaging 12 ppg 11.6 rpg 2.6 bpg and shooting 58% from the field. He also prevented Dwight Howard from scoring on the low block against him for 7 games as the one they call "Superman" only managed to score on Perkins 8 total times in the entire 7 game series when they went one on one. Perkins backed Howard down and dropped hooks and jumpers in his face almost at will. Dwight Howard was still able to dominate the offensive boards and catch passes from penetration for easy catch and slams due to weak help defense and the Celtics tired legs repeatedly. Game 6 was Dwight Howard stepping up and becoming the dominant player he was touted as being. The Celtics simply had no answer for him as Big Baby Davis often ended up in foul trouble guarding Rashard Lewis and Scalabrine offered NO help whatsoever.
Rajon Rondo proved to the entire world that he was an elite NBA point guard in his eye opening 14 playoff games in '09 (17 ppg 10 rpg 10 apg 2.5 spg on 42% FG's). The problem is that he simply had to do too much. If he wasn't constantly attacking the Orlando defense and making plays to compensate for the ailing Ray Allen and Paul Pierce or the largely ineffective bench, then things weren't going to happen for the C's. The Celtics could not play championship perimeter defense nor could they properly help Hulk Perkins defend the paint. This lead to them ultimately losing this series. They did, however play with the heart of champions seeing as how so many key players were injured and how short handed they were.
Paul Pierce (21 ppg 6 rpg 3 ast 1.1 spg on 43% FG 33% 3pt) , Ray Allen (18.3 ppg 4 rpg 2.6 apg on 40% FG 35% 3pt) and Hulk Perkins were all injured during the playoff run. Paul Pierce may have to have surgery on his bone spurs, Kendrick Perkins may need yet another procedure done on his shoulder and Ray Allen's hamstring all limited the C's effectiveness. All that being said EVERYONE who's still playing now has some kind of injury so it's not an excuse. If you stepped on the court, then you're considered healthy enough to play. Itr was apparent from the beginning that this postseason was not going to be a feel good story like "Hoosiers"...nah, it was gonna be like "300" if anything. Here's why.
The first red flag was when the Celtics couldn't convince James Posey to stick around and help them defend the title. This was a major blow to the Celtics bench that was downplayed. The second red flag went up when then couldn't convince Antonio McDyess to come to Boston after he was first released. The third red flag was how long it took for Stephon Marbury and the Knicks to come to a buyout agreement so he could join the Boston Celtics. Big Baby Davis (16 ppg 6 rpg on 49% FG's in the '09 playoffs) was also underperforming earlier in the season but he and Eddie House eventually stepped it up to help Tony Allen and Scalabrine bolster the bench as they rode out a few bad stretches (until Tony Allen and Scalabrine BOTH went down with injuries).
The fourth red flag was when Joe Smith decided to wait so long to get his buyout because it meant he was going to join the Cleveland Cavaliers and NOT the Boston Celtics. I would include Alonzo Mourning retiring but it was for the best that he stayed away from the game. When Tony Allen and Brain Scalabrine went down the C's had a rusty Stephon Marbury and a defensively deficient Mikki Moore as bench reinforcements. Not good. When Kevin Garnett went down the season was already in question and when KG wasn't healing the Celtics were pretty much written off. No wonder Danny Ainge had a damn heart attack!
Doc Rivers did a fantastic job of coaching considering this team was nothing but a MASH unit comprised of the walking wounded. Near the end the still injured Tony Allen and Mikki Moore hardly ever saw the court. Eddie House couldn't get it get going and Stephon Marbury struggled to get the team into any offensive sets. The key players were overworked and tired legs led to defensive lapses that got them into constant foul trouble. Without Kevin Garnett to aid Hulk in the paint or key bigs to rebound & defend at a high level the Celtics had to chance to win or advance any further anyways. The C's are a mentally tough team with a bunch of heart. They still outrebounded their opponents in Game 6 & 7...they just couldn't defend the three point shot for shit. They shot a miserable 42% and 39% from the floor in Games 6 & 7 respectively.
This offeseason is up in the air. Several key players will be getting surgeries or ecovering from them. It's a pricey free agent market and they have to retain coaches and key players. It's a weak draft coming up and it'll be even harder to convince free agents to play in Boston with some aging, ailing stars even with their young talent. The Celtics need to finally jettison Brian Scalabrine and let Mikki Moore go. Decisions need to be made with other players as well. Can the Celtics once again ascednd to the top of the NBA? That's anyone's guess. Given all of the question marks surrounding this offseason and the uncertainty behind how they'll get back on top, can we Boston sports fans begin wondering if this is the end of our championship run in the sports world? I sure hope not.