PHILADELPHIA It all seemed so easy - too easy, actually.
Boston raced out to a double digit lead, saw its control of the game max out at 18 points in the third quarter and then nothing.
As dominate as the C's were in the first half, they were equal parts dormant and dumbfounded in the second which led to a hard-to-stomach 92-83 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
At least the C's continue their season-long trend of making things much harder than they need to be.
Had they won on Friday night, the Celtics would have had a vice-like grip on the series, and an extra day off to prepare for what should have been a close-out game, at home, on Monday.
Instead, the series is now knotted at 2-2, and once again the Celtics did just enough things wrong to give the Sixers another boost of confidence.
For Philadelphia, they now have hope - legit hope - that they can do more than just make this series interesting they can win it.
"Once they picked up their intensity, I don't think we played with a sense of urgency," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "When you have a team on its back, you're up 15, you can take their confidence and we didn't do that. When you give a team life, they're going to run and it carried into the third and fourth quarter."
At this point in the season, regardless of how the game was being officiated - Boston was whistled for 28 personal fouls compared to 18 for Philadelphia - there's no excuse for not having a heightened sense of urgency.
And when you consider all that the C's had to gain with a win and how they played in the first half, it becomes yet another one of those inexplicable head-scratching games that the Celtics have provided at various points this season.
"Now we've got a chance for Game 5 with an even series, now 2-2, and we'll see where we can go from here," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.
For Boston, there's only one place to go from here - back home and get a victory.
The C's spoke in measured, level-headed tones following Friday night's loss, but just below the surface is an angry team that's well aware that they let a perfectly good opportunity to take a commanding lead in the series get away from them.
But their anger wasn't directed at the Sixers, or their fans, or officials Bill Kennedy, Scott Foster and Bill Spooner.
They were upset with themselves.
Because this loss, like most of their losses, had more to do with them not doing what they do consistently, than it had to do with the other team playing a great game.
"It's frustrating," Kevin Garnett acknowledged. "We had a team down and we didn't finish them off. That's pretty disappointing. So we gotta go back home .. and get ready for the next game."
Part of that preparation involves moving past Game 4, a game that the Celtics know was one in which they let the Sixers off the hook.
"We're a strong-minded team," said C's guard Rajon Rondo. "We're a veteran team, and we know we kind of let this one slip away. They felt like they let a couple slip away early. Regardless of how each team feels, you still have to go out there and play the game. So, we'll be ready come Game 5."