Well, that was shocking. And no, Im not talking about Adrian Gonzalezs home run.
Im talking about an 18-point third quarter advantage. A potential 3-1 series lead.
And what did the Celtics do with it? They tripped over their shoelaces and tumbled down two flights of stairs. Of course, they survived, theyll live to see another day, but not without acquiring a few new mental and physical bruises. Not without injecting life into a team that was so close to death that theyd actually initiated the release of numerous bodily functions over the Wells Fargo floor. Not without adding to their collection of supremely frustrating 2012 playoff losses.
Final Score: Sixers 92, Celtics 83
In a way, its so easy to lose perspective. When the Celtics landed in Philly on Wednesday, all we really hoped for was a split. A 3-1 advantage would have been nice obviously ideal but we knew it wouldnt be that easy. In reality, all we wanted was one. For the Celtics to stay alive. To steal back home court advantage andor prove that if there comes a time (aka Game 6) when they HAVE to win a game in Philly, that theyd be able to draw from past experience and have the confidence and evidence to take care of business. And regardless of how awfully Game 4 may have played out, the Celtics did achieve that initial and ultimately important goal.
They took back home court. They put themselves in a great position to win this series. And right now, gun to your head, even in the aftermath of Friday nights disaster, youd still bet on them to emerge. But thanks to last night, well take that confidence with a solid helping of regret. With the knowledge that even though a 3-1 series lead was never entirely likely, it was right there. It was real. The Celtics had the chance to put the Sixers away. They HAD them put away. Not just the game, but the series. It was over.
Now thats irrelevant. Now theyre back to square one. Or square two. Or whatever, theyre tied. The Celtics need to win two before they lose two. And if they fail, well always remember the one that got away.
Rich can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine
BOSTON – This is not where Al Horford thought he would be right now.
Back in May, the Atlanta Hawks had just been swept out of the playoffs by the soon-to-be NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Horford was a free agent-to-be who was confident that he would be back in Atlanta and the Hawks would retool by adding to their core group which he was a major part of, and they would be back to making another run at it this season.
First there was the draft night trade of point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers.
And during Horford's negotiations with the Hawks in July, they were also negotiating with Dwight Howard and ultimately signed the Atlanta native to a three-year, $70.5 million contract.
Before the Howard deal was complete, the Celtics had already made a strong impression on Horford during their presentation to him.
So the choice was pretty clear.
Return to Atlanta and potentially have a major logjam up front with himself, Howard and Paul Millsap, or join a Celtics team that’s on the rise where his five-tool skillset – passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and making those around him better – could be put to great use on a team that’s clearly on the rise.
Horford chose the latter, giving both himself and the Celtics exactly what they wanted – stability and a chance to win at the highest of levels.
The first shot to see how this basketball marriage looks on the floor will be tonight when the Celtics kick off the 2016-2017 season at the TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets.
The preseason isn’t the best indicator of what’s on the horizon now that games count, but Horford’s presence was undeniable.
Boston’s starters which includes Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, each finished with a positive, double-digit plus/minus in the preseason.
“He just makes the game so much easier for all of us,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “He can do so many things out there at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be big for us this season.”
And his impact can be felt both on the floor and inside the locker room, similar to what he brought to the Atlanta Hawks.
“With the way that I go about it is, I’m trying to win,” Horford told CSNNE.com. “I’m gonna work, put in my work, try to help guys get better not only on the court but off the court as well. That’s how I carry myself.”
And it is that approach to the game that has made his transition to the Celtics a relatively seamless one.
Horford holds many fond memories of his time in Atlanta, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart.
But he’s a Celtic now, coming in with the same single-minded focus that drives this organization to continue pursuing the only thing that truly matters to them – an NBA title.
"Even though I’m leaving a lot behind, 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.”
BOSTON – You’ll have to pardon Terry Rozier if he doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look about him when he takes to the floor tonight for what should be the first of many meaningful stretches of playing time.
You see, being harassed with the defensive pressure of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart while trying to become a pest to Isaiah Thomas (which I’m told Rozier is frequently in practice), has instilled in Rozier the kind of confidence that’s not easily shaken.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Celtics aren’t freaking out about the departure of Evan Turner to Portland this offseason and more recently the sprained left ankle injury to Marcus Smart that’ll keep him out for a few games.
When it comes to filling those two voids, all eyes will be on Rozier.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next guy has to step up,” Thomas said. “Terry has shown he’s ready for that opportunity. He’s worked very hard this summer. I’m proud of him. I’ve been in that position before. He’s been waiting for that opportunity. He’s ready.”
Rozier had an impressive run during summer league as Boston’s best player. And in training camp, he hasn’t let up in being one of the standout performers.
It has led to the second-year guard being exactly where he thought his hard work in the offseason would take him to, and that’s a prominent spot in the Celtics’ rotation.
And in doing so, Rozier knows it’ll likely mean taking some minutes from his veteran teammates like Isaiah Thomas who he credits for always being there to help him grow as a player.
“I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “Getting his (Thomas’) minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
It certainly looks like it for Rozier who has shown growth in just about every phase of his game since he was selected by Boston with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
There were many who questioned Danny Ainge’s decision to draft a guard so high when he already had Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart in the fold.
But Rozier has shown the promise that Ainge saw in him coming out of Louisville.
Now it’s just a matter of Rozier getting the kind of minutes and producing, that will ultimately validate the trust and faith Ainge and his coaching staff showed in selecting Rozier.
For Rozier, not being looked upon all that favorably is just par for the course when it comes to his basketball career.
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was when I came here; that’s fine. They’ll fall in love with me and my game sooner or later.”