CLEVELAND - The maddening trend continues. The Celtics were soft road-trippers again last night, and now they have only the Garden parquet floorboards to keep them alive in this way-too-difficult postseason.
The Celtics were 31-10 away from home during the regular season. In the wake of last night's 74-69 Ugly Betty Game 6 loss to the Cavaliers, the Green Team is 0-6 on the road in the playoffs.
The mighty Celtics have been exposed in the tournament, but still have the only thing that matters in the NBA this year: home court. Sooner or later, of course, the pattern will be interrupted; the Celtics sincerely hope it's not tomorrow when they play Game 7 at home against LeBron James and friends.
If the Celtics advance/survive, they'll face the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals. This will challenge the fraudulent formula that's keeping the Celtics breathing. Neither Charles Barkley nor Tim Donaghy would bet on the Celtics to beat the Pistons four times at home in the next round.
Tomorrow's joust marks the second elimination game in two weeks for a team that dominated the NBA with a 66-16 record this season. It's risky business. It is not a championship prescription. The only reason the Celtics are still playing is because they crushed the competition November through March. Who knew they wouldn't be able to win a road game in the first two rounds of the playoffs?
"I have never seen this before, home teams going 20-1 in this round," Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said before the game. "I don't think it's a pattern, it's just happening right now. We have not played well on the road and I would be concerned if it continues, but I have a hard time believing it's a pattern."
The NBA should be concerned about the home-road disparity. Why even bother to play the games when we all know ahead of time which team is going to win?
Last night at Quicken Loans Arena we saw a little something that explains the advantage. The Cavaliers benefited from some home cooking by the officials.
The Celtics were mounting a furious comeback in the final minute and had cut Cleveland's lead from 13 to 5 when they were stopped by a brutal call. Paul Pierce was tagged with a charging violation after a collision with LeBron James with 49.9 seconds left. James did not have his feet set and was reaching in to slap the basketball when Pierce barreled into him. It was potentially a game-changing whistle and Doc Rivers had a hard time holding back when he met with the media after the game.
"I thought the charge call on Paul was . . . well, you guys can take it from there," said the Celtics coach. "I mean, that's a huge call in a game to make, but listen, we played hard. I'm just going to stop there."
Pierce (5 for 15 from the floor) chalked it up as "part of the game," but he was clearly disgusted.
"I got the ball clean," said James. "I knew he was going to drive left. At the same time he went through me. I didn't foul him. I thought it was just out of bounds on me, but he called a charge. So, that's what it is."
James will not be intimidated. After Game 5 in Boston he said, "A LeBron James team is never desperate." He made only 9 of 23 shots last night but came through with 12 rebounds and went to the line 15 times (two more than the entire Celtics team).
Rivers had cause to be angry about the officiating, but Boston was outrebounded, 45-37, and the Celtics allowed Cleveland a whopping 16 offensive rebounds. In the category of second-chance scoring, Cleveland beat Boston, 17-2. That's not officiating. That's hard work and hustle. That's how you lose to a team that shoots 33 percent.
The Celtics also have no excuse for getting outscored, 19-0, in one stretch and going more than nine minutes without a basket.
Fortunately for the Celtics, they should be on the receiving end of the close calls tomorrow.
"I think all the teams in the playoffs are really even," explained Steve Pagliuca, one of the Celtics owners. "That's why home court makes such a difference. There's not much other difference between us."
That said, is management's confidence shaken by the Celtics' road show in this postseason?
"No," said Pagliuca. "We're a good basketball team. Things will start to go our way. We're looking forward to [tomorrow]."
"It's going to be electrifying in that building," said James. "It's going to be a hostile environment. They're a very, very, very good team at home."
Not so good on the road anymore, but the Celtics and their fans are betting that it won't matter in Game 7.
See you tomorrow.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.