The Celtics came in without arguably their two most important players in Rondo and KG. The Celtics were held to their lowest first half point total of the season. To top it all off… the C's lost Glen Davis to a sprained ankle in the 3rd quarter.
And despite all that… and all the reasons to quit… The Celtics cut a 22 point lead down to 3 before a questionable call gave Orlando 2 freebies and a 5 p0int lead with 23 seconds left. That was just too much… and Orlando was able to pull away for an 86-79 win.
Orlando should have blow the Celtics out. In fact, I wish they would have… this way Ray and Paul wouldn't have played 45 minutes apiece.
This game shows how valuable Rajon Rondo is to the Celtics. It has an effect on everyone else on the team. For example, early in the first quarter, the Celtics ran a play they run a million times… Ray down the baseline off a staggered double screen. If the guy chases Ray under it, he curls and goes to the hoop. If the guy gets caught up and goes over the screen, Ray goes to the corner for 3. Rondo gets him the ball every time on that… but Stephon Marbury held it.
That's no knock on Steph. It's a play only a PG in tune with the Celtics offense can make. The Celtics were just completely disjointed in the first half. They got more aggressive in the second half and they made their run.
By the way, did Marbury even play in the second half?
And just to show how important the little things are. The Celtics were below 50% from the FT line for a while there. If they'd hit their free throws early, then we might have been slightly ahead down the stretch, rather than slightly behind. Forget the turnovers… which came mostly as a result of dealing with new players. Free throws are all in your control. It didn't look like it mattered early… but now we know it could have made a huge difference.
Congrats to Paul Pierce, who passed Robert Parish to become the Celtics 3rd all time leading scorer.