A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Coronation

I was so disappointed in this loss that I couldn’t even blog about it last night. Some things that stood out:

Joe Johnson was begging someone to play the Larry Bird to his Dominique Wilkins. And nobody did. There were several possessions were Boston needed a bucket to crush some momentum and keep the crowd out of it. To be fair Ray Allen’s three pointer around the 9:00 minute mark, which gave the C's a 78-72 lead was that type of shot. But they needed many more. Paul Pierce couldn’t hit a bucket to set up a and one situation just inside 8 minutes and then went 1-2 from the line. Josh Smith blocked a KG drive at the one point. And on and on.

KG had a tough sequence last night that will bring his critics come out of the woodwork.

-  8:08: He missed a straight on jump shot from about two feet inside the three point line

- 6:55: With the C’s up by three KG got the ball on the baseline where he was defended by Josh Smith. He held the ball for 5 seconds, which allowed the Mike Bibby to double. At that point KG threw it out to Eddie House who then kicked it to Ray Allen for a wide open three that did not go down.

- That Ray Allen miss was followed by a Joe Johnson bucket, which cut Boston’s lead to one – 79-78. The C’s came down and threw the ball to KG in the post who was defended by Al Horford this time. Bibby made a half-hearted double. While this did not put a lot of pressure on Garnett it did free up Eddie House. KG kicked to House who launched a three pointer that hit nothing but the opposite side of the backboard.

-  5:33: The C’s finally got the ball back, still leading by one, and KG inexplicably traveled out on the wing while looking to pass the ball. He took three steps from a standing position. On the following possession the Hawks tied it a after a defensive three seconds call and took the lead on a Josh Smith jumper.

-  After Paul Pierce missed a jumper and Johnson hit a highlight reel three while Leon Powe lay on the ground Garnett got the ball in the post and earned a trip to the line. He went 1-2. Hawks 84 – Celtics 80.

-  Johnson got in the lane for another basket after the C’s made a stop but could not corral the rebound. At the 3:12 mark Garnett went hard to the basket. Unfortunately Smith rejected the shot. Hawks 86 – Celtics 80. 

To be fair Garnett did make some shots after that, including an impressive drive to the hoop where he finished over Smith. But the sequence I just outlined above saw the Celtics go from 3 points up to 6 points down. It gave the Hawks a ton of swagger and electrified the entire building. At one point I thought, WWKD – What Would Kobe Do? And I think we all know the answer.

But back to Joe Johnson. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter alone. How terrifying was that? Ignoring the fact that this Celtics team is now in a dogfight just to get out of round one, I was terrified to think about possible future match ups. Not to take anything away from Johnson because he was spectacular. Yet he’s not on LeBron or Kobe’s level. Granted I don’t even like to look ahead right now. But there is no denying the fact that the vaunted Celtics defense disappeared last night. Also if a team can’t keep Atlanta from grabbing key offensive rebounds explain to me what the plan is if it comes across Dwight Howard. Not a good loss last night.

Throughout a by and large positive regular season there was one negative spot. And that was Tony Allen’s inability to get back on the court with confidence to play consistent ball. Several times in the 4th quarter Celtics fans had to think about the former Oklahoma State standout. Sam Cassell, Ray Allen and Leon Powe at one point (shades of the Nuggets sending Kenyon Martin and Eduardo Najera at Kobe) simply could not stop Johnson. Boston needed its best wing defender. Unfortunately Tony Allen just didn’t get there this year.

The C’s still have home court advantage and now is not the time to panic or jump off the bandwagon. The home crowd has to be ready to go tomorrow. In the meantime hats off to the Hawks and their fans. That was an impressive two game run. Let’s hope it ends there.

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