I didn't realize this until finally looking at the numbers (it took a few hours to summon the courage!), but here is why the Celtics lost the game...
You know how when playing basketball, if you get up by too many points too early, you suddenly slide into "complacency mode?" Well, the Celtics are one of the best teams at sliding into complacency mode - they lack a "dagger" by which to kill their opponents. They get up by a dozen or so and then immediately take the foot off the gas and begin to slow down at a steady rate.
Note: They have their Game 3 blow-outs (happened in Game 6 in '08 and in the first round against the Hawks), but those come from a determined effort from the starters AND the bench, and a psychological collapse by the opponent. You don't always have Pietrus with 10+ points, and the rest of the bench between 4-8 points, and you don't always have the opponent folding over and playing subs and forcing bad shots in the 2nd half.
Usually, if the starters take their foot off the pedal, the bench follows suit, and you wind up with what occurred tonight.
- 32% of the Celtics' shots were 3-pointers. Many 3-pointers come from proper spacing and ball movement. Some come from lazy and/or forced shots. Tonight the Celtics got lazy and forced (or settled for) too many 3-pointers. As a result, they took only 19 free throws. I don't care if KG shoots 6 for 24, you keep giving him the ball down low and FORCE HIM to force the action.
- In Game 3, 14% of their shots were 3-pointers (11 of 77), and they finished with 28 free throws (in Philly!). And, they blew out the 76ers.
- In Game 2, 23% of their shots were 3-pointers (18-79), and they finished with 9 free throws (in Boston!). 9!!! In this game they settled for way too many loooooooong 2-pointers.
- In Game 1, 22% of their shots were 3-pointers (18-82), and they finished with 18 free throws. 18 free throws is respectable, and they attacked the basket a bit more than in Game 2, but they also only hit 2 of 18 3-pointers, which is abnormal.
The point is that the Celtics CANNOT settle for 3-pointers against a 76ers team that struggles to defend them when driving to the basket. If the Celtics had continued to drive to the basket in the 2nd half of tonight's game, they would have won by at least 10. They grew COMPLACENT and chucked up too many poor, long shots.
Therefore, they lost.
p.s. I am a full believer in the "secret" corrupt nature of NBA officiating. I hate it. I hate Stern. I hate most of the officials, even when they blatantly call everything in the Celtics' favor. I play ball twice a week in leagues, and I hate the refs in those leagues. Refs ALWAYS play a role in the outcome of a game. But, like ALL coaches and players say, "You should never put yourself in a position where a ref's call determines the outcome of the game." Yes, the Celts were hosed by the officials tonight, but they still had many, many opportunities to put the 76ers away for good, so that no ref call could influence the outcome.
That being said, I am soooooooooooooooo sick of this roller coaster ride. The only way it'll be worth it is if it ends in Championship DVD that I can watch time and again and laugh over (like in the '08 season). The Celtics need to take care of business like professionals. Go out and win Games 5 and 6.