Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing analysis from each game. Boston lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, 92-83, Friday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
You're at a fork in the road. Two paths lie ahead, and you can see what's on the other end. On one, it's a straight path with just one curve in the middle, and that's all. On the other, it's windy and complicated and ... well, it looks a lot like Lombard Street in San Francisco.
That's an easy decision, right? Well, not if you're the Celtics, because they chose Lombard.
Boston had a great opportunity to put the Philadelphia 76ers in a condemning 3-1 series hole heading back to Boston for Game 5, and they led 14-0 and 20-5 in the first quarter. They even led by 18 -- eighteen -- in the third quarter. And guess what? They lost, 92-83.
"It's frustrating," said Kevin Garnett. "We had a team down and didn't finish them off."
Garnett, the Celtics' postseason MVP, didn't do much to help the cause, finishing with a near triple-double (the bad kind) of nine points, 11 rebounds and seven turnovers (yes, seven) in 40 minutes while going 3-for-12 from the field and just 1-for-2 in the paint.
"I never thought we established him," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said about Garnett's offense. "I thought he was a passer tonight a lot. We've got to get him back in the middle of the paint and being more aggressive. So that's on us, we have to figure that out again."
Philly was able to limit more than just Garnett in the post, holding a 34-26 advantage as a team over the Celtics in the paint. While the Sixers played a role in limiting Boston's offense in the paint, it was more about the Celtics' inability to get themselves going near the basket.
"We took it away ourselves," said Rivers. "They took it away too, but we had a lot to do with it. We did more than settle, we lost our composure. We stopped running our stuff."
Aside from the lack of production in the paint, free throws played a role in the loss. Boston only took 19 free throws, making 16, but Philadelphia drained 25-of-36 shots from the line.
"The free throw line tells the story," said Rivers (via WEEI). "Thirty six attempts to nineteen. That's tough to win that way. Everything we did was the prescription that you don't do to beat them. 17-5 offensive rebounds, 17 turnovers, 36 free throws. You would have thought that we were down the whole game if you looked at those numbers, yet we had the lead."
Now, the Celtics head back home for a best-of-three series with the Sixers, instead of needing just one more win to return to the Eastern Conference Finals. The good news is that two of the potential three games would be played at TD Garden, where the Celtics have only lost once this postseason. The bad news is that Philly played them to a draw in the first two games of the series in Boston, with each team earning a split. Instead of getting the rest they so desperately needed before the next round, the Celtics are in for a fight.
It's an opportunity wasted, for sure. In order to win, they need to play hard for 48 minutes.