Despite losing by 12 points to the now 47-16 Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics fans should be encouraged by what they saw yesterday. Boston wasn’t consistent throughout all 48 minutes in the game, but when they played at their best, they gave the Thunder a run for their money. To stay within single digits through three quarters against a championship caliber team like Oklahoma City, Celtics fans should feel good about Boston’s chances heading into the playoffs. The real question is, can they play all seven games of a series without wearing out in the fourth quarter like they’ve done in the past two years? The Celtics have had their unfair share of injuries, and with the remaining healthy players left, Boston must make sure they preserve the legs of the veterans on the team.
Yesterday was Boston’s first real test against a championship team in the last 18 games. The Celtics didn’t look tired in the loss, shots just weren’t falling, but the careless turnovers really hampered Boston’s chances of coming away with the victory. The Thunder’s defense was stifling. Boston couldn’t get out on the fast break, which resulted in going back to playing half court, slow the ball down type offense, and if you’ve seen Celtics games this season, you know how not running the ball ends up with this team.
Jeff Green, who has been a vital part to the Celtics offense as of late, was trapped nearly every time he got the ball. Green had no easy looks at the hoop, and wasn’t given much to work with on the perimeter. Not only did this effect him on the offensive side, but also on defense. Green needs to find his rhythm in games, and yesterday the Thunder were not going to allow that to happen. Kevin Garnett didn’t have a good game either, but it was more of his inability to make easy shots than the Thunder’s defense. All in all, Boston’s key players were taken out of the game early, and that’s what lead to Oklahoma City’s success.
However, despite all the negatives in the game, Boston still was within striking distance. The Celtics took the ball aggressively to the hoop, drawing fouls on key players like Kevin Durant, and getting easier shots when they had the numbers on offense. Unfortunately for Boston, Oklahoma City is very deep, and when foul trouble becomes an issue, they can go to the bench and they’re just as effective as the starters. Boston was overwhelmed, there is no doubt about that, but they were able to stay in the game, and if it wasn’t for an abysmal fourth quarter the Celtics were capable of winning yesterday’s game.
For fans, they should be encouraged with their team. The Celtics had previously beaten the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks before facing the Thunder, and it was only a matter of time before Boston couldn’t get past a playoff team. Thankfully, they don’t play Oklahoma City again this season unless they meet in the NBA Finals, which is very unlikely unless Boston can get by the Miami Heat.
The Celtics have an easy week coming up, facing the Charlotte Bobcats twice and taking on the Toronto Raptors. They’ll need to take advantage of their schedule as Boston will face the Eastern Conference powerhouse Miami Heat at the TD Garden next Monday. To say that it’s a huge game is an understatement. If the Celtics want to have any chance at beating the Heat in the playoffs, they must put fear and doubt in Miami’s heads with a convincing victory. The Celtics are very much alive, and only a half game behind the Chicago Bulls for fifth in the standings and two and a half games behind the Brooklyn Nets who are in fourth. Boston just needs to take care of business the next five or six weeks, and it’s possible that the Celtics could have home court advantage in the first round.