Celtics-Heat Game 2 reflections: This one hurts

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Celtics-Heat Game 2 reflections: This one hurts

Well, this one hurts.

Despite every other emotion thats currently running through your veins the anger, frustration, hatred, depression, helplessness, resentment its all born out of the same simultaneously simple yet complex sensation: Pain.

This hurts. This is painful. And it will be for a while.

It hurts because of how it happened. It hurts because of when it happened. It hurts because of where it happened and whom it happened against.

It hurts because for the second time in three insanely important games, the Celtics were needlessly without their captain the man weve come to recognize as one of the greatest Celtics of all time when it mattered most.

It hurts because they wasted a legendary performance by their future captain. Wasted it. Rajon Rondos 53-minute, 44-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound, three-steal and three-turnover masterpiece may be the gutsiest thing youve seen on a basketball court in years. It may serve as another absolute and undeniable mark of his greatness. Does it make you feel a little better about the future? Yup. Does it leave a satisfying egg on the face of every over-dramatic moral compass who questioned Rondo's commitment after Game 1 against Atlanta? Yup. But right now, its also a meaningless footnote. Its irrelevant.

Last night hurts because it masked another textbook LeBron James breakdown. For all his predictable screaming and taunting at the end Game 1 and despite his impressive stat line in Game 2 Bron was shaky and scared down the stretch. He made only one basket in the fourth quarter and overtime, and missed four key foul shots along the way. When the game was on the line, he was a different person that other person lacking the confidence of Stacey King never mind the King. On the last play of regulation, with the score tied at 99-99, James cleared out for an isolation against Rondo a defender who was giving up seven inches, at least 100 pounds and running on whatever comes after fumes. Had he taken it to the hoop, James was guaranteed one of three outcomes:

1) The defense collapses leaving multiple teammates wide open along the perimeter.

2) A game-winning dunk or lay-up.

3) Two foul shots, with the Heat needing only one for a win.

He pulled up for a 21-foot fade away.

Had the Celtics come out on top, James latest display of kindergarten toughness would be in the spotlight; another example of the undisputed best player in the NBA being overwhelmed by the moment. After his antics in Game 1, that spotlight and criticism were never more deserved, and couldn't have been anymore satisfying.

It hurts because the referees were a factor. No, Im not blaming them for the loss. Im just saying that the image of Rondo getting raked across the face with 1:35 left in overtime of a tie game with the season essentially on the line makes everything worse. Not only because it was clearly a foul. Not only because at that time, there wasnt a player on the court who deserved the call more than Rondo. Not only because we have to use words like deserved to analyze a part of the game that should be completely objective. Not only because, on the other end, James was sent to the line 24 TIMES. But because once, just once, youd love to grieve over a heartbreaking loss without a referee-fueled what if.

I know. I know. Theyre human. But arent we all? And what happens when normal humans repeatedly fail so miserably at their jobs? Do they not get disciplined, even fired? And what do you think happened to James Capers after last night, after a blatant blown call at the most crucial moment on the game's biggest stage? A pat on the ass and a "Gettem next time, champ"?

Last night hurts because you dont know how many 43-minute outings Ray Allen has left in the tank; because after a game like that, you don't know how much any of them have left. It hurts because Doc Rivers has clearly, and even worse, justifiably given up on his bench. It hurts because you were forced to withstand the sight of Wally Szczerbiaks enormous teeth tweeting cheap shots at KG.

It hurts because 94 percent of teams that go down 0-2 in the NBA playoffs go on to lose. And while you'd never put it past these Celtics to fall into that six percent, you can't escape the nearly insurmountable hill they're now forced to climb. It hurts because not only did they blow a chance, but likely their best chance to steal a game in Miami. It hurts because you believed that they could win. Not just that game, but also the series. Before Game 1, the chances were slim. After Game 1, they were non-existent. But Game 2 brought you back. Somewhere along the line you stopped protecting yourself from reality, completely let your guard down and unconditionally believed. That makes this morning that much worse.

Like always, the pain will eventually fade. At 8:30 tomorrow night, the Celtics will take the court again and start chipping away at the aftermath of Game 2. Of course, the memories will never completely disappear, but the emotions will be replaced. They'll give us more reasons to believe, find different ways to make us hurt. By halftime of Game 3, this will all be a distant memory.

But for now, these feelings aren't going anywhere.

A great game. A horrible loss. A missed opportunity.

So much pain.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

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Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Pinpointing the exact moment Al Horford made up his mind to become a Boston Celtics isn’t clear, but the seeds of that decision can be traced back to last year’s playoffs – and no we’re not talking about the playoff series between Boston and Atlanta, either.
 
It was the Hawk’s second-round playoff series back in May against Cleveland, a team that swept them out of the Conference finals in 2015 and did so again last about five months ago.
 
Horford had every intention of returning to Atlanta, but as the free agency period wore on two things became quite clear: Winning an NBA title would have to go through Cleveland and it happening with him in Atlanta was becoming more and more unlikely.
 
In came the Celtics with a pitch that was heavy on present-day and down-the-road potential that wouldn’t require him to do anything other than continue to play the way he has for the past nine seasons.
 
“It (becoming a Celtic) became real for me real late and real quick,” Horford told CSNNE.com on Wednesday.
 
After mulling it over for a couple days, Horford said he was ready to become a Celtic.
 
“This could be a great opportunity even though I’m leaving a lot behind,” Horford said.
 
As you listen to Horford speak, it’s clear that the Celtics mystique played a role in his decision to sign with Boston.

 But as much as the Celtics’ lore and its on-the-rise status helped, there were certain events that Boston had no control over that actually helped their cause.
 
First the Hawks got in on a three-team trade in June with Utah and Indiana which sent Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers while Atlanta received Utah’s first-round pick which was 12th overall and was used by Atlanta to select Baylor’s Taurean Prince. The move allowed Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder to slide over into the now-vacant starting point guard position.
 
While it may help Atlanta down the road, it did little to move them closer towards knocking off Cleveland anytime soon.
 
And then there was the Hawks coming to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard early in the free agency period. That deal coupled with Atlanta’s desire to bring Kent Bazemore back, cast serious doubt as to whether Horford would return.
 
Horford, who inked a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston, told CSNNE.com that at the time of Atlanta’s deal with Howard, he was still open to the idea of returning.
 
But if Horford did, he knew figuring out the best way to play him, Howard and Paul Millsap who by the way has a player option that he’s likely to exercise which would make him a free agent next summer, was not going to be easy.

“It was definitely going to be different,” Horford said, then adding, “For me, the Celtics were becoming more and more a realistic option. After talking with my family, we felt this was the best for me.”
 
And while it’s still very early in his tenure as a Celtic, Horford has no regrets or second thoughts about his decision.
 
“As a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”
 
And that alone makes him a good fit with this franchise which from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff and of course the players, are all focused on one thing and that’s bringing home Banner 18.
 
 “Look at the resume. He’s been a winner wherever he’s played,” said Boston’s Amir Johnson. “It’s good to have a guy like that, with his talent and with his winning, playing next to you.”