“I thought the fouls on Kevin were horrendous and had a huge effect on us. He never got in his rhythm when you could see he was going to have a good game. It hurt us,” Rivers said.
Doc’s right, but it’s no real excuse for the Celtics’ effort. Boston had a six-point lead going into halftime, and Rivers stuck with KG in the third quarter even once he picked up his fourth foul. He was a huge part of the team’s third quarter collapse, and that wasn’t due to his foul trouble. It was largely self-inflicted.
So why the rant from Rivers? Part of me thinks this is a bit of gamesmanship here by Doc, knowing his team is going to need help back in Boston in the form of the hometown whistle.
The Celtics weren’t going to get a friendly whistle last night, not after they got a fair game in Game 1, shooting more free throws than the Knicks at the Garden. That didn’t happen in Game 2, and that couldn’t be unexpected on the road in the NBA most nights.
Instead, KG dealt with some questionable calls, and was saddled with foul trouble. The C’s probably should have led by 15-20 points at half, rather than just six after shooting 58 percent over the first 24 minutes. KG’s limited minutes got in the way of that possibility, reducing their margin of error in the second half. Ugly offense was the bigger factor, but we’ll get to that later.
So what did Kevin Garnett have to say about the calls?
Aa usual, he took the high road:
“At times it’s frustrating, but fouls are part of the game. Refs are calling things; it’s an aggressive time in postseason play. I just have to be consistent and continue to put the onus on the refs. And position myself not to foul so much,” Garnett said.
“It’s tough when you don’t have one of your inside presences out there,” Paul Pierce said. “With Kevin being in foul trouble, we couldn’t establish him.”
Make no mistake, the Celtics once again lost this one all by themselves. They know they need to be better to stop a savvy Knicks squad that is punishing them at every turn and smell blood. For now, returning to the friendly confines of the TD Garden is probably the best thing going for them. They’re going to need their stars on the floor to make it a series.