Nothing positive. Those were two of the first words uttered out of Doc Rivers’ mouth when asked what the Celtics would take out of this crushing triple overtime setback.
The comment initially seems to be a rather harsh assessment of the team’s play in this back and forth thriller that will likely keep Danny Ainge under close doctoral supervision for the remainder of the playoffs.
Doc’s comments though are telling of the missed opportunities and spotty execution that plagued the C’s in spite of a magical performance by Ray Allen. The Green have a sour taste in their mouth after this one, and they have no one to blame but themselves for giving a resilient Bulls team an opening in the closing minutes that they seized immediately and led to another overtime showdown that took 63 minutes to settle.
I could tell from early on that something was a little different about this contest. When I watch Celtics games, I generally always like to have a box score nearby on my laptop. It’s nice to be able to keep an eye on the shooting percentages, turnovers, the little things that indirectly tell the story of the game even if distracts you from the action for a minute or two.
Tonight though things were a little different. I kicked the computer to the curb in the 2nd quarter and didn’t look at any stats until after the game had ended. This was a game that deserved…..no demanded your undivided attention.
If you looked away at any moment you were bound to miss Ray Allen hitting another clutch trey or Brad Miller redeeming himself with a night of flawless shooting hours after choking at the line in game 5. There were a endless and ever changing array of heroes, goats, and even a “fight” to top it all off.
Hollywood couldn’t write a script like this for the mere reason that so much happened so quickly no one would believe it. Both teams had players that stepped up repeatedly but neither squad made things easy on themselves. The combination of those factors has transformed this battle into arguable the most entertaining 1st round match up in NBA history.
I don’t really no where to begin in attempting to dissect this heavyweight bout. To start, even before this game began, I had a sneaking feeling that the Bulls would come out guns ablazing and make this one a laugher early. Their performance out of the gate confirmed my suspicions as Chicago looked absolute unconscious early on, shooting 64 percent from the field on their way to putting up 37 points in the opening frame behind 17 points from John Salmons.
Fortunately, the Celtics were able to tread water and weather the storm behind some early sharp shooting by Ray Allen. Little did we know that the 9 points by Ray in the first quarter was just a precursor to a phenomenal 51 point performance which ranks as the 2nd best scoring output for a game in Celtics playoff history.
After witnessing Allen’s incredible effort, I think it’s appropriate that all Celtics fans send the game 5 officials a belated apology for our harsh words and instead thank them for fouling out Ray so early in game 5. It’s clear that the added rest and motivation for Ray Ray came in handy tonight as the future hall of famer single handedly brought back the C’s into this contest, accounting for 20 of the Celtics 31 points during the 2nd frame that allowed Boston to close the deficit from thirteen to just two at the half, to counter continued hot shooting from the Bulls themselves.
Minus a cold patch in the 3rd quarter when Allen went 1 of 6, Ray was hot all night long shooting an unfathomable 57 percent from the field while attempting 32 shots. The numbers are even more eye opening when you consider number 20 was 9/18 on the night from downtown. There weren’t many wide open looks among those 32 shots either, as Ray earned each and every one of those 51 points with a steady diet of strong drives and floaters to go along with his outside marksmanship.
The degree of difficulty on the two shots at the end of double overtime which extended the game speak for themselves and will no doubt are all ready being broken down in the editing room to be released with the next batch of NBA playoff commercials. I mean at this point, it’s just a pleasure to watch Ray do what he does best and it’s nice to know he has made enough incredible buckets in this series to further cement his reputation as one of the best clutch shooters this league has ever seen.
That being said, when someone takes 32 shots in a game, you generally don’t hear any grumblings about that being too low of a number of attempts. 32 is a lot of shots, even in a triple overtime game. As the dust settles after this one though I can’t help but wonder aloud whether Ray should have taken more. A closer inspection of the game’s final three frames reveals Allen only took 6 shots in all three overtimes collectively.
Perhaps even more disturbingly Ray took only one shot during the decisive third overtime. Credit the Bulls defense for stepping up at this juncture to limit his scoring chances but I cringe knowing that on a night when Allen was making a historic run at the record books, he didn’t get a chance to touch the ball on offense in the closing two minutes of the game.
Despite Ray’s lack of involvement in overtime, this game was really lost by the Green in the final four minutes of regulation. The entire sequence stems from a spot early in the 4th which was eerily reminiscent to game 5. The C’s looked to be left for dead, down 12 with 10 minutes remaining as the Bulls began to wear down what appeared to be a Celtic team that was running out of gas.
Like clockwork though the C’s awoke from its slumber and stormed out to a 18-0 run behind more shooting theatrics from Ray Allen and a healthy balance of scoring from the rejuvenated and suddenly aggressive starting five. All of a sudden, the Bulls looked vulnerable and the Celtics were on the verge of achieving the series ending blow, up 99-91 with three minutes remaining.
Doc Rivers put it best in the post game news conference in describing these final three minutes by simply stating, “We stopped playing…..we tried to hold on to the game.” Doc’s diagnosis was right on the ball as the team began to play with a lack of urgency, by failing to get into the offense until the possession was deep into the shot clock. This lack of timeliness and aggressiveness led to rushed shots including TWO by Tony Allen during crucial possessions in the final 90 seconds. (Why TA was in the game on offense at this point is a question that deserves more discussion on its own).
The fact of the matter is Tony taking two shots over the course of a playoff game is a rarity at this point, so TA being forced to put up those pitiful attempts as the shot clock expired on both possessions demonstrates just how out of whack the C’s offense looked as they failed to shut the door on the Bulls. More thoughts after the jump
The C’s passiveness carried over through the majority of the overtime periods with a few glimpses of magic from Ray sprinkled in. The truth is though this team can’t afford to go to overtime with this Bulls team. Even after Ben Gordon fouled out in the first overtime, they still are a much deeper team than these Celtics, rotating seven players who would all be reasonably capable of starting for the majority of the teams in this league.
The Celtics right now have five great players in their starting lineup that combined for 114 of the team’s 127 points. The guys that came off the pine for the Green tonight would have trouble cracking the rotation on any team in the playoffs. Tonight those guys had to play crucial minutes that which became more prevalent the longer this game went on.
All bets were off when this game went to overtime, there were just too many variables most notably foul trouble that go beyond the C’s control. The Celts had their chances to step on the Bulls throat in regulation but instead decided to let them up for air. That’s why we will be going back to Boston for a game 7.
Before I wrap this up, I have to comment on how tumultous watching this series has been for fans on both sides. I dearly wish at many points this evening I was a neutral observer and could be spared the heartache that unfolded. One of my first calls post game was to my buddy JRo who politely informed me he would have to call me back since he was busy preparing his will since he wasn’t sure how much longer he would be able to last after witnessing a series where four of the first six games needed more than 48 minutes to be settled. Here’s hoping that JRo along with the rest of the Celtic faithful can all make it to Saturday in one piece.
It’s fitting that I’ve gone on for over a thousand words here and feel like I have barely scratched the surface of this one. Check back later today with Celtics Hub for more analysis on game 6 including thoughts on the Celtics bigs, Rondo’s lack of aggressiveness, Doc’s lineups down the stretch and he stellar play of Brad Miller and John Salmons.
Also be sure to check out additional post game thoughts on this instant classic from Celtics Hub’s Zach Lowe.