Key Celtics come up short
Rajon Rondo had one of his worst game of the playoffs. Kevin
Garnett threw away a pass with 43 seconds left. Paul Pierce missed
two 3-pointers after that.
The Boston Celtics face an unwanted return to Orlando because
three of their best players in the Eastern Conference finals
faltered at critical moments.
The Magic won 96-92 in overtime on Monday night to avoid a sweep
and send the best-of-seven series back home for Game 5 on Wednesday
night with the Celtics leading 3-1.
“We’re not going to take it for granted,” Pierce said. “We
really don’t want to come back here and play a Game 6.”
Orlando played with great determination throughout Game 4. Two
days earlier, Magic players scolded themselves for lackluster play
in a 94-71 rout in which they trailed by double figures the last
On Monday, the Celtics trailed most of the way, caught up, but
stumbled at the end of regulation and overtime.
“We didn’t play with great energy,” Boston coach Doc Rivers
said. “It was amazing how bad we were execution-wise and still had
a chance to win the game.”
The Celtics were never behind by more than 10 points and had the
ball for the final possession of regulation. But Pierce had trouble
with his dribble as his teammates crowded around him – much to
Rivers’ displeasure – above the top of the key and time expired as
players scrambled for the ball.
“It was a pick and roll, me and Ray Allen,” Pierce said. “I
just pretty much screwed it up and turned the ball over and we
couldn’t get the final shot.”
Pierce was Boston’s best player, finishing with 32 points and 11
rebounds. But with the score 96-92, he missed a 3-pointer from the
top of the arc with 16.7 seconds left. He got the ball back and
tried again from about the same spot. Another miss.
There were 10.4 seconds left but time had run out on the
Celtics’ chance for a sweep.
Garnett had 14 points and 12 rebounds, but he made an
uncharacteristic misplay when he fired a hard crosscourt pass from
the left corner over Pierce’s head and into the crowd of
disappointed Celtics fans with 43 seconds remaining and the score
The Celtics struggled throughout overtime. Jameer Nelson hit two
3-pointers to give Orlando a 92-86 lead before Allen got Boston’s
first points of the extra session on a 3-pointer with 1:46 to
“We didn’t do what we had to do on defense and we ended up
losing the game,” Boston’s Glen Davis said.
Rondo had been the do-everything floor leader throughout
Boston’s previous 14 playoff games, averaging 17.3 points, 10.7
assists and 5.8 steals. Against Orlando, he was averaging 14.7
points, 9.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds. But he managed just nine
points, eight rebounds and three assists Monday night.
And he had few opportunities against the Magic to drive into the
lane and dish the ball for easy baskets. He even left the court
with 1:16 left in the first half with muscle spasms but returned to
start the third quarter.
In the final minute of overtime, Davis played instead of center
Kendrick Perkins, a strong defender.
“With Rondo not going tonight, we needed another offensive
player on the floor,” Rivers said. “The ball movement offensively
is what bugs me more than anything.”
The Celtics still have three more chances to win the series and
advance to the NBA finals for a shot at their second championship
in three years. They’ve never gone more than five games in a series
in which they won the first three.
“You fight so hard to get back in the game and then in the
overtime the little things hurt us,” Pierce said.