Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing analysis from each game. Boston lost to the Atlanta Hawks, 87-86, on Tuesday in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Paul Pierce warned about this exact scenario after the Boston Celtics' 101-79 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4. Give a team life, and it creates a new set of problems entirely.
"You don't want to give a team any confidence," said the wise, old Pierce. "You got to go down to Atlanta with the right mindset. You don't want to bring it back to Boston because anything could happen. The NBA is a weird league, one game could give a team confidence. We hope that we can just take them and advance in the series this next game."
Pierce, as he often does, hit the nail on the head. Anything can happen, and by way of Tuesday night's 87-86 loss in Game 5, the Celtics have opened up a can of worms. Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a series again. Sadly, it didn't have to be that way.
Boston had its chances, and plenty of them. A six point first-quarter lead was wasted, as was a ten-point second quarter advantage. When halftime rolled around, the Hawks were up 40-37. Even still, the Celtics found their way back into the game. Down by 12 points, 66-54, in the third quarter, the Celtics ended the quarter on a 10-0 run (fueled by six straight points from Rajon Rondo). Atlanta would go up by seven, 83-76, late in the fourth. Once again, Boston came back and tied the game at 83. Boston almost came back again, with Paul Pierce hitting a big three with 50 seconds to go, but Pierce couldn't connect for the potential game-winner and Rajon Rondo, after a huge steal, couldn't win it in the end.
What went wrong? A lack of motivation seemed to plague the Celtics in the beginning of the game. Boston wasn't playing well, at all, but Atlanta was playing even worse. When presented with the opportunity to go for the jugular, the Celtics were passive. The end result? Atlanta took advantage, gave itself another chance and jump started the series.
No, the Celtics didn't have to win. Especially with the Philadelphia 76ers also losing in their Game 5 (Philly led the Chicago Bulls, 3-1, entering Tuesday), there isn't cause for panic. Not yet. Still, the Celtics gave the Hawks new life, which was exactly what Pierce was talking about. One win in one game, and now it's a series. All the Hawks have to do is win once, and the series is tied. That's a much easier outlook than needing three straight wins.
Don't panic yet, but this scenario could have been avoided with a little extra heart Tuesday.