Nearly seven minutes without a field goal.
Ten percent three-point shooting.
Twenty-eight personal fouls.
Nine missed free throws.
Yet somehow, it was the Celtics running off the court in celebration with a Game 4 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Both teams will watch film on Monday and shake their head in frustration. The game was highlighted by could haves, would haves, should haves. And although the Celtics came out on top at the buzzer, this game could have ended adversely thanks to missed opportunities.
It took less than a minute to establish the underlying theme of the game. Glen Davis was sent to the bench with his first personal foul just forty-six seconds after tip-off. At halftime Davis, Paul Pierce, and Brian Scalabrine had been called for three fouls each. Kendrick Perkins and Mikki Moore had been whistled for two apiece. Not only was the already-depleted Celtics front line in jeopardy, their No. 1 offensive weapon had to be pulled.
The Celtics were not the only team being whistled in the first half, though. Rashard Lewis and Marcin Gortat picked up three fouls while Dwight Howard and Courtney Lee were assessed two. Howard was sent to the bench in the first quarter with the Celtics up 13-10. Rather than taking advantage of the inexperienced Gortat, the Celtics failed to capitalize at the basket. They were actually down by one, 28-27, when Howard checked back in early in the second.
Thanks to their bench, the Celtics battled through foul trouble in the third quarter. Brian Scalabrine and Eddie House were able to step in and take on some of the burden, allowing the starters to stay on the court. The Celtics outscored the Magic 31-25 in the third and entered the final 12 minutes up by eight.
But the whistle woes nearly cost the Celtics the game. The C’s had a five-point lead when Pierce was sidelined by his fifth foul with 7:47 left to play. Doc Rivers subbed in House for an offensive spark. It wasn’t there. Even when Pierce checked back into the game with five minutes remaining, the Celtics continued on a nearly seven-minute field goal drought.
During that stretch, Pierce and Ray Allen shot a combined 0-for-5 from the field while the Celtics committed three turnovers, were called for two fouls, and had two shots blocked. The Magic went on a 10-2 run before Davis broke the streak with thirty-two seconds to go. This stretch cornered the Celtics in do-or-die mode on the final play of the game.
It was more than just missed shots, though, that put Game 4 on the line for the Celtics. In fact, their struggles at the line nearly cost them the win. Even though the Magic missed a quarter of their free throws, the Celtics shot 18-for-27 from the line. Five of those misses came from game-winner Davis, who connected on just three of eight overall.
While Davis struggled at the stripe, Allen never got there. The team’s leader in this category did not take a single free throw for the first time since the Celtics April 12 loss to Cleveland. (This is not the only time this has happened to Allen in Orlando, though. He did not attempt a free throw during their January 22 victory over the Magic, either.)
Free throws were not the Celtics only area of concern. They hit just one of ten on threes, including an 0-for-5 night from Allen. But unlike the Magic (5-for-27 on threes), the Celtics don’t focus their offense around the arc.
As mentioned earlier, the Magic bigs were in foul trouble. There is no more glaring sign to attack the basket than seeing Howard on the bench. Had the Celtics penetrated at the hoop, not only would they have had a chance for higher percentage shots, they could have also kept the whistles blowing on the Magic.
Even though Game 4 will be remembered for Big Baby’s game-winning jumper, the Celtics have to remember how they ended up in that moment of desperation. Sunday night may have ended in celebration but there is no guarantee next time that they can make up for missed opportunities.