There has been a lot of mystery and speculation over why the Celtics almost let the Cavs game slip away, as they have so many others lately, and how they responded once they lost the lead. It seemed as if the Cs were trying hard to win this game, which made their near-total collapse at the top of Q4 so worrisome. As it turns out, Doc's explained it. He said this after the game:
"The game wasn't that important as far as winning the game until we had a 20-point lead and then almost lost the game. Then in my opinion the game became important. We couldn't give that game away.... I didn't put an importance on this game (going in) but once we had that lead and lost that lead, the game became very important. I thought: we had to get this win now."
Like ALL recent Cs games, this one had virtually zero meaning in terms of W vs. L. Note: This has become even more true since Bogut went down... since now there's no clear reason to prefer MIA over MIL in the first round, or vice versa. The outcomes of these games is therefore quite meaningless to the Cs.
If the team plays hard in a game now, it's because the PRACTICE is important. They want to build confidence and "momentum" going into the playoffs. That, and pride. But if they get a little tired, or if the going gets particularly hard at some point, there is no motivation on the part of the Cs to step up big.
This helps explain the recent rash of late-quarter collapses. A few missed shots, plus a rampaging opponent star, and the Cs stop caring. But in the Cavs game, as Doc said, "once we had that lead and lost that lead, the game became very important. I thought: we had to get this win now." That, and the personal stuff going on between Lebron, TA, KG and Sheed, explains the Cs' response once the lead was lost. Suddenly, they DID play with urgency and a fierce desire to win. Now we know why.
As for why Paul suddenly appeared to try to take over the game at the top of Q4, Doc gave us the reason for that too. It was because DOC TOLD HIM TO. Doc said in his interview that he told Paul before the start of the 4th: "You know, you're the man now," explaining that he expected Paul to do the scoring now, since he was the one scoring starter out there.
Luckily, Doc also added this: "That's why you try it out, and now you know"... that this plan doesn't work very well when Paul is cold, as he was in the Cavs game. So we can hopefully now hope that Doc won't be doing that anymore... won't be going to the ridiculously ineffective Paul iso unless Paul has previously demonstrated in the game at hand that he's hot.
There is reason in Celtics land after all. We're good.
(Here's the Doc interview. Find the box labeled Celtics: Doc Rivers postgame 4.4.10: http://www.csnne.com/pages/celtics_video)