Game Four is a turning point for Best of Seven series. Being down 3-1 is worlds apart from tying the series at 2-2.
You can ask Chris Webber. “Big Shot Rob” Horry shot that historic buzzer-beater in the 2002 Western Conference Finals right in his face. It tied the series at 2-2, and the rest is (controversial) history. If Horry didn’t make that shot, the Kings would be up 3-1 with homecourt advantage. Webber would have avoided the “No Rings” club.
We should ask Webber on what was the worse nightmare — the image of Horry shooting that three, or him calling a time out in the NCAA title game against North Carolina, which also robbed him and the Fab Five a college title.
When the Boston Celtics convincingly beat the Milwaukee Bucks at home in Game 1, Paul Pierce made the overreaction of the year when he said, “I think it’s over.”
In the same video, Pierce also said: “I don’t know where the Milwaukee Bucks go from here.” Apparently, to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now that the Bucks are up, 3-1, the Celtics are being indicted. Blame gets around: Kyrie Irving for going 7-22 after going 8-22 the previous game, Gordon “$31 million Invisible Man” Hayward, Brad “Genius Coach” Stevens, Al “Greek Freak stopper” Horford, and even Jayson “future of the NBA” Tatum.
For all we know, we could also be overreacting, as there is still one more game to be won. Kyrie Irving was part of a team that overcame a 3-1 deficit. He had a stern, stubborn leader named LeBron James with him. Now, as the leader, he doesn’t look inspired, nor interested. And most of his teammates share the same sentiment.
A bitter farewell
Irving left the Celtics homecourt while getting booed. Boston has always had a high standard for their sports teams. We must remember that Kyrie was traded to the Celtics, and we don’t know how much influence he had in that choice, if he had any at all.
This was a team that made it to the Conference Finals against LeBron James, all the way to Game 7. They did it without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Thus, it was sky’s the limit for them when they return.
Apparently, basketball is not as simple as addition and subtraction, and their genius coach could not figure it out. College is simply not the same as the NBA, and that is probably why figures like John Calipari of Kentucky and Coach K of Duke have shied away from titanic offers to step up to the pros.
Stevens is still brilliant, and by no means should the Celtics replace him. But handling superstars is something that collegiate X-and-O experts cannot develop overnight. It is also why we could not fault the Lakers if they settle on Tyronn Lue. Does LeBron need an Xs and Os coach at this point?
Kyrie was in a hurry to leave the arena he called “home.” Or was it ever “home” for him? He already has an exit cab waiting. The destination is worth another column to discuss.
What’s next for the Celtics?
Players like Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier had their full potential under Stevens, went one game away from the NBA Finals. Perhaps that is something Danny Ainge should consider this offseason.
Al Horford has a player option and some desperate team might make offers, but the Lakers, Clippers or Knicks are likely to pursue players like Irving before considering Horford. Boston may even be better off without Kyrie and award Rozier the starting point guard spot, which he deserves.
The Celtics should probably not be baited into the superstar arms race after this glaring lesson. They have a chance to contend on a blueprint that’s different, and not derived from the Super Team manual. They have the assets to trade and build a team in any direction they wish.
Brad Stevens is still their best asset, specifically how he draws out the full potential of young players. The roster should revolve around that reality.
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