The script wasn’t supposed to go like this.
Jeff Green and Avery Bradley weren’t supposed to lead the Celtics into the locker room as the team’s two leading scorers at halftime yesterday. They were supposed to be the sidebar to the main feature: Paul Pierce eating up the Madison Square Garden hate and spitting it back at the crowd with dagger after dagger. They were supposed to be the outlet for Kevin Garnett when the Knicks had no choice but to double-team him.
Yet, there they were. Leading the second-seeded Knicks in their place with Pierce and Garnett reduced to secondary roles as passers and decoys.
When the ad-libbing from the script stopped and folks stuck to their lines, the third quarter gave us the ugly muck of a game most of us had expected. The Celtics saw their lead dwindling.
“They’re getting closer”
The Celtics did what the Celtics do in those situations. They gave the ball to Paul Pierce and said “here you go, captain… do your thing.” It was like Han Solo pulling the lever on the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive.
“Oh yeah? Watch this.”
“I think we’re in trouble”
The Celtics, in many ways, ARE the NBA’s Millennium Falcon. They’re an old bucket of bolts that might not look like much, but they’ve still got it where it counts. And while we’re not quite sure they can make the playoff run in 12 parsecs anymore, they’re still dangerous.
Except every once in a while, they reach for they hyperdrive and it’s not there.
“We wanted Paul to win for us,” Doc said after the game. “We stood around and watched him play. You can’t win like that.”
Not these Celtics. Not anymore.
It’s hard to tell whether what we witnessed yesterday was a turning point in Celtics history, or just a thing that happened. Paul Pierce had been there for us so many times before, pushing the Celtics into light speed and safely away from other teams in key situations. When it didn’t happen yesterday, we all, including the Celtics on the floor, were a bit shocked.
And that’s not to say Pierce played terribly. A 21 point, 7 assist, 5 rebound game is hardly terrible. But 4 of his 6 turnovers came when the Celtics were struggling through a 25 point second half. The days of Pierce doing it by himself may well be gone. And he knows it.
“We’ve got to look at the box score and see 5 or 6 or 7 guys in double-figures,” Pierce said after today’s morning practice. He’ll never come out and say “hey guys, I need more help than ever,” but that’s basically what he’s saying.
This ship needs everything to be working to be effective. A great pilot just isn’t enough anymore. The Celtics know that. They’ve known it for some time.
But we’ve heard talk from the Celtics before. In fact, the Celtics may talk the best game in the league. It’s the action that is necessary at this point. Everyone on the Celtics acknowledges how poorly they played yesterday. Everyone will step up and admit “I need to do more.”
Do we trust them to do it? Or will be we sitting there in the fourth quarter sounding like Lando Calrissian?
“They told me they fixed it! I trusted them to fix it!!”
I trusted the Celtics to break out of this habit in the playoffs, at New York, under the brightest of spotlights. If they don’t, I’ll be wrong about the Celtics in six.
I trusted them to fix it.
It’s not my fault!