Please don’t blame this on Garnett’s injury

It sure would be easy to blame today’s loss by the Boston Celtics to the Chicago Bulls, both of game 1 and home court advantage, on the fact that Kevin Garnett wasn’t playing due to injury… easy, but not ENTIRELY correct.

Certainly if Garnett had played, the Celtics would have won, however, the Celtics still had ample ability and opportunity to win this game but failed to step up. For example,

__ Ray Allen definitely failed to step up. He shot 1 of 12 for a mind bending 8 percent. Of his 12 shot attempts, 10 were jumpers, and other 2 was a missed layup and a missed dunk. Had Allen had just an average performance, much less a stepped up one, the Celtics would have won in regulation.

__ It is a real shame Paul Pierce‘s only missed free throw of the game came at such a bad time, but I don’t have much to say about that. Sometimes you miss. Sure, at THAT critical juncture he should have knocked it down, but it was pretty close and he did make all his other free throws. Where Pierce failed to step up was in the first half where he was M.I.A. The Celtics only scored 16 points in the second quarter and pretty much spent the rest of the game trying to overcome it. Paul Pierce only attempted 1 shot that dismal second quarter.

__ You might look at the box score and assume Rajan Rondo had a great night (29 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists), but he gave it all back and more with the defensive job he did on Derrick Rose. Rose shot 63 percent, was 12 of 12 from the free throw line, had 11 assists and 4 rebounds against what is supposed to be one of the better defensive teams in the NBA. Rose, in fact, tied Kareem Abdul Jabbar for the best ever debut performance by a rookie in the NBA.

__ And what about the contribution of Stephon Maurbury? 10 minutes, 0 for 2, zero points. The Celtics should definitely play Gabe Pruitt more.

__ For the final shot of the game, Ray Allen had a clear pass to Paul Pierce who was open and closer to the basket, but Allen elected to take the shot himself. Now maybe that’s how Doc Rivers drew up the play, but 3 seconds was enough time to make the better play. Speaking of 3 seconds, I’ve used my DVR’s super slow mo and Ray Allen catches the ball, pivots, dribbles once and rises to shoot before the Boston clock operator starts the clock. Talk about home cookin’!

__ Chicago ended with a 24 to 13 advantage in fast break points… that is a lot of easy points to give up in a 100 point game, especially when you are the home team in the playoffs.

I’m thrilled for Chicago, and for the success of their budding young star, Derrick Rose.

But to my eyes at least, Boston played like it knew it had an excuse.

Oh sure, Boston WANTED a win, but they didn’t hunger for it and fight with heart for it like they did in last year’s playoffs.

Example? It’s crunch time and all-star 6 foot 8 inch forward Paul Pierce has a breakaway… but instead of dunking the ball and sending the home crowd into a rabid frenzy he laided it in?! Huh?! Isn’t this the guy who bragged after last year’s playoffs that HE was the best player in the world? I thought I’d see Pierce in a Lakers jacket carrying Kobe’s bags before I’d see him without his swagger.

Last year the Celtics looked like they were on a mission, like they believed the Larry O’Brian was theirs for the taking. Today, even the crowd looked like it didn’t believe it was theirs any more, after all, Garnett IS out.

Yes, yes, yes, I agree that if Boston had Garnett, they would have won…

But even without him they should have and didn’t.

That’s why I say don’t blame it on Garnett.

All things considered though, I guess I still favor the Celtics in this series. I just don’t see Ray Allen (who has a career average of shooting 46 percent in the playoffs and is number 2 all time career 3-point shooting in the NBA) putting up a 1 for 12 performance again, or Paul Pierce taking the first half off again, or the Celtic defense allowing Derrick Rose to run where ever he wants again… unless the Celtics have just given up because they don’t have Garnett and believe probably can’t get past the Cavs without him anyway.

But they can and should win with what they have, assuming they still believe they can and should.

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