Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing analysis from each game. Boston lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, 82-81, on Monday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
A litte over one month ago, Doug Collins was calling his young 76ers "sensitive" and "fragile." Well, it looks like they've grown up, and in record time. Philly bested the very experienced Boston Celtics, 82-81, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Monday night at TD Garden in Boston, prompting Collins to praise his team's growth.
"Our young guys just keep growing, and they're really becoming men," said Collins, Philly's coach. "I'm so proud of them. We just found a way. All season long we couldn't win these games and now our guys are believing they can do it, and it is pretty special to watch."
Jrue Holiday, who poured in 18 points to lead the Sixers, echoed his coach's sentiments.
"I think were growing," said Holiday, who is averaging 16.9 points in eight playoff games. "I cant preach enough on our vets. Really, just taking us under their wings and just keeping us focused and paying attention to detail, the little things that help us win this game."
Easily, this game could have gone to the Celtics. Actually, by the same logic, Philly could have even had a 2-0 series lead, seeing that the point differential in the first two games of this series is a whopping two points. Boston had its chances, though, it just didn't finish.
Right from the opening tip, it looked like the Celts had turned the page on the sluggishness that bogged them down in Game 1, as they burst out to a 9-0 lead after making their first five shots. Sadly, it all went downhill from there, as Philly would outscore Boston in the second and third quarters -- the Celtics scored 13 in the second and 11 in the third.
Finally, the Celtics got the offense going in the fourth, and they would wind up outscoring Philly, 32-25, in the period. The fourth also marked the return of Kevin Garnett, as the Big Ticket scored 11 of his 15 points in the frame on 5-of-7 shooting. Unfortunately, the Celtics didn't utilize Garnett well in the first three quarters, and that certainly proved to be costly.
"Nothing was wrong [with Garnett], we didn't go to him. It's plain and simple," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "My thought: we never established the post. I thought the second unit again established the post in the one stretch in the fourth quarter. I really thought we started out the first four minutes of the game moving the ball, playing the right way. And then I thought, honestly, we chased shots as a group. We don't do it often - it happens, but I thought - we are a great ball movement team, a next-pass team, and tonight we were not. I thought everybody was trying to beat their defense instead of the way we played the other night: just making the simple play in front of you. If they trap, you pass it. I thought tonight when they trapped us we tried to reject it and go the other way, and we tried to force shots. I wasn't real happy, or proud, the way we played offensively. It was not very good."
No, it wasn't good. Not at all. But if anything, Boston can take solace in the fact that, despite its offensive shortcomings, it only lost by a point. It's not a win, but it's a start, right?
"Yeah, but I don't like the fact that we took almost three quarters to play the right way offensively," Rivers said when asked if there were positives to be taken away from the fourth quarter. "Listen, we knew the blueprint before the game. It took us three quarters to get into it. I always say that's on me. Somehow I have to figure that out with our guys."
Fans might say they're surprised by the outcome of Game 2, but not captain Paul Pierce.
"They are a tough defensive team, they grind it out defensively, they try the fast break and they're not going to give in," Pierce said. "They have a good coach over there who installs his mentality into his players so nothing suprising, they are what we expected them to be."
What's next for the Celtics? Well, for starters, avoiding a 2-1 series hole would be good. Boston plays Game 3 on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly, a place that did not treat Boston well this season, with Philly outscoring Boston by 45 in two games.
"They're going to be tough in their home building," Pierce said. "They really put a number on us in the regular season in their building, but it's the playoffs. So [we're] going to look at the tapes, see some things we can clean up and be a better team when we get to Philly."