1. Sometimes in basketball a game ends and the result just feels like the correct one. Other times, it feels like an injustice. This result resembles the former more than the latter.
The Boston Celtics opened the game on fire in the first five minutes or so. They spent the next 38 minutes playing lazy, undisciplined and uninspired basketball. They rallied with about five minutes to go to force overtime.
The extra period was a microcosm of the whole game. Boston started off well, then kind of fell apart. In only a five-minute period, there wasn’t really enough time left for another rally.
The Celtics could have stolen one that they didn’t deserve to win, but the New York Knicks came away with what feels like the correct result.
2. We aren’t going to kill Jaylen Brown here. He had a rough shooting game, but Brown was far from the only one. He had some costly turnovers, but so did others.
On the flip side, Brown played some inspired defense on both Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, the former to open possession and the latter on switches. That helped get the game to overtime in the first place.
But the taste we’re left with in our mouths is a really bitter one. With 7.6 seconds to play, Brown had a chance to give Boston the lead with a pair of free throws. Brown missed both, RJ Barrett rebounded and made two free throws of his own. Jayson Tatum and Malcolm Brogdon missed potential tying three-pointers and the Celtics have a three-game losing streak.
Brown missing the free throws was tough to swallow. He had been 5-of-5 at the charity stripe on the night. Even making one would have given the Celtics a chance at getting it to a second overtime.
But what sticks here is what happened after the second miss:
Having missed both, time is as much your enemy as the score is. Brown missed the second one. Instead of attacking the ball, or immediately fouling, he did nothing. 1.9 seconds ticked off the clock. When this loose ball found Malcolm Brogdon, don’t you think he would have liked just enough extra time to fake the shot and let the defender fly by before shooting?
Now, that’s projecting, to be sure. Who knows what Brogdon would have done? Maybe nothing more than what he did in a scramble situation.
The bigger point is that Brown missed. Alright, that happened. We can, and unfortunately will for the entirety of Friday, argue “Is Brown clutch?”.
But what really stinks is that he missed and got in his feelings. He lost the moment. When you do something bad in sports, you can’t go back and fix it. You move on to the next play. The one thing you can’t do is to do nothing. That’s almost as disappointing as the free throw misses are in the first place.
3. Boston has hit another rough patch. They aren’t a historically great team, or probably even a team that wins 60 games. That means losing streaks are going to happen. It’s snapping them before they spiral out of control that is important.
Last time Boston lost three in a row (all in TD Garden, mind you), they ripped off one of their better stretches of the season. They won four in a row and 13-of-15.
Not only have the Celtics not let losing streaks spiral too long, but they’ve come back from them in a major way. It’s time to do so again.
4. The countdown to the trade deadline has ticked under two weeks. This is a tough time for players. They hear and read all the same rumors as we all do. Most players will admit they spend some time scrolling the various rumor-collecting sites and Twitter. Of course, they may say they do it to see what other teams are doing and what is happening with other players, but that’s one of those forgivable lies of protecting their own egos.
The reality is, as fun as this period on the calendar is for fans and the media, it’s not very fun for the teams and players. Even those who make a move to bolster their roster still send someone away that they’ve likely spent years with. And it’s often after weeks or months of rumors of doing so.
It all weighs on teams and players. There is a certain feel of heaviness around even the most-together of locker rooms at this time of year. Add to it that some are looking forward to the All-Star break, either as an All-Star participant or vacation-goer, and teams aren’t always at their most focused at the end of January and early-February.
None of this is meant as any sort of excuse for Boston. They aren’t going through anything the other 29 teams aren’t also going through. It’s just a bit of context, should it feel like players and coaches are a bit testier and a bit distracted at this time of year.
5. The NBA’s supposed “Rivalry Week” hasn’t started well for the Celtics. (As an aside: the Celtics and Knicks aren’t rivals. Outside of brief periods, and most of them 40-50 years ago, Boston and New York haven’t been good at the same time. Celtics-Lakers, Celtics-76ers, even Celtics-Heat of a more recent vintage, have been better rivalries. Unlike in other sports, Boston and New York has never really had that rivalry feel in the NBA.)
Now, the big one looms. Celtics vs Lakers. No matter the records and the stakes, this one always feels bigger.
Boston snagged a crazy comeback victory in Los Angeles in the middle of last month. That helped during a rough patch in the schedule. That’s where the Celtics find themselves again. Can they get another big win over their most-hated rival to get back on track? We’ll find out in the Saturday night showcase game.