BOSTON - As the Hornets and Celtics took the floor with first round seeding on the line, it looked like a battle of emerging star point guards was to take place between Kemba Walker and Isaiah Thomas.
But Jeremy Lin stole the show, becoming the first player in the NBA this season to come off the bench and score 25 points while swiping five steals.
His dominance was established during a Charlotte run over the second quarter that saw their halftime lead balloon to 63-41.
"We laid an eight-minute egg at the end of the second quarter and we just couldn't overcome it," Brad Stevens said. "We tried to dribble through traffic and it was like we were driving through 5 guys and 10 arms."
That leaves the Celtics with a must-win game Wednesday against the Miami Heat if they want to secure home court advantage. But while the game is crucial, the overall state of the team is an even bigger question.
"This is part of competitive sports, right? You get your butt kicked. Do you get back up or not?"
The defense that has been so reliable this season has shown cracks since Jae Crowder's injury. Even with him back, teams are scoring at alarming rates while the Celtics' turnovers forced declines.
"Do you have all your T's crossed and I's dotted is the question we have to have answered," Stevens said. "Are you able to adjust on the fly and is everyone ready to compete on a high level? I do know this: everything rests after Wednesday. So obviously we do want to be playing better on Wednesday night than we did tonight."
So after Wednesday, Stevens will have to sit down, pick apart his opponent and look to his own roster. He has ran with a 9-10 man rotation most of the season, but he knows that he has to tailor it even more tightly to work in the playoffs.
"We'll talk about what we need to fix. Whether it's personnel or what we are doing. Then we'll go from there."
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