Fast Break: Another Celtics comeback falls short
|02.22.12 at 9:45 pm ET|
The most disturbing thing about the Celtics road trip was that they didn’t hit rock bottom until the very end. One might have thought it came against Detroit when the Celtics lost by double digits to one of the worst teams in the league and Rajon Rondo was ejected and ultimately suspended for two games. Nope.
One might have though it would have happened against the Mavericks in a game where they struggled to score 73 points and were never seriously competitive from the opening tip. Not even close.
Rock bottom appeared in the first half on Wednesday when their vaunted defense was shredded to the tune of 72 points in a 119-104 loss to Oklahoma City. It was the first time in 29 games that an opponent had scored over 100 points against the Celtics. Not only did the Thunder shoot 57 percent in the first half. They also made 8-of-12 3-pointers and the Celtics didn’t record a single steal or block.
Making it worse they actually got within six points late in the fourth quarter after being down by 27 points. Like most Celtics’ comebacks this season, it wasn’t enough. They have now lost five games in a row and seven of eight.
The only consolation is that the All-Star break is mercifully here. They’ll need those five days off to recover and try to get healthy. Brandon Bass, Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox all missed the game with injuries in addition to Rondo, who was serving the second game of his suspension.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– The Celtics actually led 22-12, but OKC came back with a 25-3 run and that was basically that. The Thunder actually scored 21 straight points, slicing through the Celtics’ depleted second unit. OKC outscored the Celtics 27-4 in bench points in the first half, and the immortal Royal Ivey actually doubled their total.
– The bench has been a problem all season, but with Bass, Wilcox, Rondo and O’Neal things got ugly. Keyon Dooling, in particular, had a miserable night. It’s worth asking halfway through the season if he has a role anymore. He’s not a backup point guard and Mickael Pietrus has taken his minutes behind Ray Allen.
– Free throws and rebounding were again their undoing in a first quarter that should have seen them build a lead. At one point in the first quarter, the Celtics were shooting 69 percent while holding OKC to 39 percent and they had a one-point lead. How? The Thunder had four offensive rebounds and 11 free throws.
– Every time the Celtics crept within single digits, Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant made a play. They combined for 59 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Celtics jumped out to a 13-4 lead and the energy was palatable right from the opening tip when Paul Pierce scored a layup off the opening tip. They were in attack mode, aggressively challenging the Thunder defense. That’s when things fell apart.
– Avery Bradley had one of his best offensive games as a starter, with 12 points and five assists. He not only made a couple of mid-range jump shots, he also throw down an electrifying dunk on Durant and successfully ran a pick and pop with Kevin Garnett. The last part may not sound like much, but that’s a major improvement from where he was last season.
– Garnett was solid in his return after missing two games because of a family issue. He scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 38 minutes of work. All five starters scored in double figures.