Defensively there are traits of past teams, but then come stretches, such as the one in the third quarter, when the Celtics allow poor offense to penetrate their defense, and they simply relent. How else would you explain the Knicks going 12 for 17 from the floor in the third and 20 for 59 the other three quarters? In that third quarter, Pierce and Garnett accounted for 9 of the 11 Boston points.
The reliance on Pierce and Garnett was supposed to decrease as they aged, and it hasn’t. Jeff Green is now 1-for-11 shooting in the second half of the two games. While he is progressing, Green isn’t quite ready for the enormity of these moments.
So what now? The Celtics try to make this a series. They put their fortitude into Game 3, hope the Knicks are basking in the ease of their first two wins and enter Friday unfocused. They hope some of their jumpers fall through the friendly nets of TD Garden and the sellout crowd provides some salve. But honestly, it just would be a temporary ointment. The obvious is apparent. The Celtics are far from a championship-caliber team. They are competing. They are trying, but eventually they are chased and caught like a gazelle in the wild.
The Knicks and Heat are predators and the Celtics can do nothing this season to break into that category. This is who they are: flawed and shorthanded. But we knew that, didn’t we?
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.