Conventional wisdom wins Game 1


Conventional wisdom wins Game 1

Conventional wisdom is no friend of the Boston Celtics.

Conventional wisdom had them dead and buried in December. It said they couldnt overcome age, injuries and superior competition. At one time, it slapped them with shaky odds to escape the first round of these playoffs and a follicles chance on LeBrons hairline of sniffing the Eastern Conference Finals. If it was up to conventional wisdom, this column would be about the Red Sox.

Yet, the Celtics are still here. At every turn, theyve greeted conventional wisdom with Ubuntus middle finger. Theyve thrived on the unexpected. On walking a tight rope of opportunity, luck, grit and balls. In the process, weve come to understand that we dont really understand them. That might not seem like an important realization, but it is something, and its all weve got. Weve grown to expect the worst when they should be at their best. To expect success when all signs point to disaster.

And heading into last nights game, that was perhaps the greatest thing going for the Celtics. That they didnt have a chance. That conventional wisdom had dissected this series from every angle and all but guaranteed Miami a spot in the NBA Finals. In this upside-down season, that somehow served as a source of optimism.

Oh, so they dont have a chance? Yes!! That means they have a chance!

But last night, conventional wisdom came out on top. And really, thats the most terrifying thing about Game 1. Not just that the Heat won, but how they won. That everything we saw was what we were supposed to see.

Kevin Garnett was Bostons only reliable option. Paul Pierce struggled to simultaneously handle the LeBron and carry his weight on offense. Ray Allen looked like Allen Ray. Rajon Rondo was at times timid around the hoop and inconsistent with his energy. Brandon Bass struggled on the road. Miami dominated the boards, and the tempo. The Celtics had no depth. When it came to winning time, Lebron and Wade were unstoppable. The two best players on the court. On any court. Last night, the Heat were just plain better than the Celtics. Just like "everyone" said.

Of course, no ones giving up. Boston's come too far and proved too much for one loss to derail our hopes as fleeting as they might be that the Celtics can triumphantly raise that middle finger one more time and crank this already ridiculous playoff run up to ludicrous speed. But Game 1 was a huge win for conventional wisdom. The biggest rival this team has.

Anyway, Ill have a few more posts today on last nights game and what to expect moving forward, but first I wanted comment on the pale, skinny giraffe in the room:

The refs.

Obviously, when a team shoots 39 percent from the field, 28 percent from three-point land and 52 percent from the foul line, theres no room to blame the refs. So we won't, and we're not. Anyone who watched that game and really believes that Dan Crawford, Ed Malloy and Jason Phillips are the reason Boston lost needs to put down the sizzurp and re-evaluate life for a second.

Yes, the refs were awful. Yes, they were a disgrace. Yes, they gave credence to all the sarcastic and incredibly unfunny anti-NBA tool boxes out there. Yes, they made you, an NBA fan, hate the NBA. They made you question why you care about this league in the first place and wonder how an organization that had a referee PLEAD GUILTY TO FIXING GAMES has still so arrogantly done nothing to change the officiating culture.

You know the feeling. You have it every year around this time.

But with all that being said, the refs still weren't the reason the Celtics lost, and in the long run, I think last night's ugly officiating might actually help Boston's cause.

For better or worse (OK, always worse), the NBA is a reactionary league with easily influenced referees. And given the fall out from their Game 1 performance, no one will be surprised to see a shift in the officials' behavior. Sure, the Heat will still be the Heat, but the Celtics are not the Knicks. They're not the Pacers. And this is the Eastern Conference Finals. There's no way the blatant technical foul disparity can go on like this. There will be more consistency in how these teams are treated in Game 2, and certainly when the series moves back to Boston.

And if it was going to take a game like last night's to bring that issue into the spotlight and alter the way this series is officiated, at least it came on a night when the Celtics had no business winning in the first place. At least their best effort wasn't wasted. And hopefully now, when the Celtics do give Miami their best shot, we won't have to worry about four extra and unnecessary free throws making the difference.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”