It would be easy for Celtics fans to complain about the referee’s through the first two Eastern Conference Finals Games. The statistics are all there:
- Free-throw differential of +20 in favor of the Miami Heat.
- Key players on the Heat (read: Lebron James and Dwyane Wade combining for four personals while the Celtics best pure scorer, Paul Pierce, fouls out in a critical Game 2
- Rajon Rondo getting hit across the face on a critical possession, and not getting a call followed by Wade getting an and-1 bucket on the other end that was described as call that could have gone either way.
Where ever you look in this series, it’s easy to look at it at face-value and say that the fix is in. That the NBA is doing whatever it can to get the Miami Heat into the NBA Finals.
But that would be a cop-out. It’s much easier to look at more tangible, physical evidence to explain the errors of the Boston Celtics.
How about rebounding? Why do most people want to forget the fact that on a couple of very critical possessions late in the game, the Boston Celtics gave the Miami Heat extra chances at buckets and failed to create any of their own misses? On the last Heat possession of regulation, Lebron James missed a lay-up that could have won the game. Two Celtics had a chance to get the ball and give the Celtics a chance to win, and if anyone doesn’t think that Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen was hitting the game-winning shot on the next possession, they are lying to themselves.
What happened? The Celtics gave up an offensive rebound giving the Heat a chance to win in regulation.
Statistically, the rebounds were dead even at 42 a piece, but basketball – like hockey I might add – isn’t a sport that can always be quantified by statistical measurement. The rebounds that the Celtics gave up or failed to get always seemed to come up in big spots just from watching the game. If you want to put a stat on it, the Heat were +5 in the offensive rebounding category which are usually way more important than defensive rebounds. How about we look at the Celtics late-game rebounding instead of blaming the zebras?
What about the change in aggression by the Boston Celtics? Sure, you can look at the foul discrepancy and use the argument “The Celtics didn’t attack the basket because they knew they wouldn’t get calls” which I understand completely. Early fouls change the way you play the game of basketball and change how passive or aggressive you are.
Except that is simply not the case. Rajon Rondo was aggressive in the first quarter. In fact, throughout the game, he was really the only aggressive Celtic going to the basket. He was rewarded for it in the early going attempting 10 free throws in the first quarter. Obviously, with the amount of minutes that Rondo was logging, he couldn’t keep being aggressive. Find me a basketball player who can play 53 minutes in a game and continue to throw his body into the mass of bodies and I will show you a cyborg. It’s simply not possible.
The question for the Boston Celtics then becomes why did they keep settling for jump-shots? It’s what they did! Kevin Garnett didn’t attack the basket consistently, Paul Pierce settled for his mid-range leaner on more than one occasion, and Ray Allen, well, he’s just a jump-shooter anyway. The fun fact about basketball referees is that they reward you for playing the game physical on the offensive end. Should the Celtics have received a couple more free-throws during the game? Probably, but it still doesn’t change the fact that they were passive when it came to attacking the basket. It’s really hard to get free-throws when you aren’t throwing your body into the tangle mass of bodies underneath the rim. Blame the referees all you want fellow Celtics fans, the Celtics still should have attacked the basket with more ferocity like they did early in the game.
Or, what if and this is crazy, but what if the Boston Celtics, just maybe, put away the Miami Heat when they had a chance? As late as the third quarter, they were up 10 points in this basketball game, and they let Miami fight and claw their way back into the game. The Celtics stopped getting shots, stopped hitting their jumpers, stopped attacking the basket, and stopped keeping Wade and James in check. Then, with three minutes to go, Ray Allen had an open three that would have put the Celtics up 8 with three to go.
It would have likely been the dagger in the back of the Miami Heat, or at least put the Celtics in a much better position to win the game, and they didn’t get it done. There were plenty of opportunities like this and the Celtics didn’t capitalize, which also goes back to the previous two points.
Or maybe I could just sit here and complain about the referees like most every other Celtic fan seems to be doing. It’s just that for me, personally, that feels too easy. When the calls go your way, you sit there and giggle like a smitten school girl and say things like “Yeah, I know we got the calls”. It happened to the Celtics in Game 6 of the Atlanta Hawks series, but no one wants to remember that. They just want to remember what a massive “screwjob” the Celtics got at the hands of the Miami Heat and the referees last night. They want to look at Rondo’s magical performance and wonder once again how this kid with the mentality of a warrior can get screwed for the second year in a row. It can’t be the fault of the Boston Celtics because they play with more heart and determination and “Grit and Balls” than any other basketball team we have ever watched for them to not win the close games like last night. It has to be someone else’ fault because the Boston Celtics wouldn’t let it slip away or the Miami Heat are not clutch enough to get that win done.
The sad reality is that the Boston Celtics had the Miami Heat against the ropes, ready to come back to Boston with a series tie and be in a fantastic spot to win the series and get back into the NBA Finals.
The Boston Celtics let them off the hook and paid dearly.