Last night, the Celtics turned in their sloppiest game of the series - failing to execute plays and take advantage of opportunities. Unable to sweep the Magic, they've now extended a series that nearly everyone thought would be over last night. Additionally, they've given life to a team that's 10x more dangerous than they looked in the first three games. With the stink bomb that was laid in the Garden two weeks ago still looming, it's hard not to mention it now. That is, the Bruins blowing a 3-0 series lead.
In some ways, the Bruins-Flyers series was eerily similar. The first two games were extremely close. They could have easily gone either way. Game 3 was a blowout. Boston manhandled the Flyers on their home ice, winning 4-1. With all the momentum, they were just one game away from sweeping Philly - something no one had expected to happen heading into the series. Game 4, like last night's Game 4, went into overtime and the Flyers were able to get away with a win. The rest is history.
The 2009-10 Bruins and 2009-10 Celtics share another similarity. In the post-season, both seemed to have flipped a switch. We all know about the Celtics' regular season struggles - the Bruins were even worse. Yet, once the playoffs started, they suddenly starting playing like a team rejuvenated. The team Bruins fans had watched half heartedly skate around the ice all season looked to be gone. They were now replaced with this new team that was playing together - with passion and toughness. However, the regular season team wasn't gone at all. It spontaneously returned - just in time to lose 4 games in a row...
Are the post-Christmas 2009-10 Celtics back? Last night, the Celtics looked downright awful at stretches, yet, they were never out of reach. After the game, Coach Rivers said: "We didn't make the next rotations, we didn't make the next pass. It was amazing how bad we were, execution-wise, and we still had a chance to win that game. That was amazing to me". With the game tied and the final seconds of regulation ticking down, Pierce had the ball with a chance to personally complete the sweep he'd promised down in Orlando last week. Yet, the ball ended up on the floor instead of the basket. "It was a pick-and-roll, me and Ray Allen," Pierce said. "I just pretty much screwed it up, pretty much turned the ball over, and that's all it is. I couldn't get the final shot. Sometimes it happens that way, but that's no excuse. We still had opportunities in overtime and we didn't take advantage of it."
Despite the poor showing last night, there's still reason for optimism. The Magic, by far, played their best game of the series while the Celtics played their worst. Yet, Orlando still gave up opportunities for Boston to take the game and needed OT to get the win. Either way, Boston must now head back down to Amway Arena. The place that, after Game 2, Pierce told Magic fans he wouldn't return to until next year. A broken promise that is sure to give the home crowd plenty of fuel. So far this series, the Celtics are undefeated on Orlando's home turf - a hard record to hold onto. In order to avoid inching closer to the Bruins' epic collapse, the Celtics will have to.
The comparison between the two teams and series is, yes, an overreaction. The Celtics have the make up of a championship caliber team - and have gotten their rings before. The Bruins' success on the other hand, was a complete surprise. Still, it's something that's been in the back of the minds of Boston fans. And, as the Celtics' series lead grew greater and greater, the memory of the Bruins' collapse was pushed more and more to the forefront. If the Magic take Game 5, it's hard not to get at least a little scared.