BOSTON — Down 0-3 to the New York Knicks in their first round series, the Boston Celtics can do nothing but focus on Sunday’s Game 4 (1 p.m. ET, ABC). One game at a time and all that.
“You can’t win four without winning one,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Saturday.
“They haven’t won anything yet,” a somewhat defiant Jeff Green added. “They’ve just won three games. The objective is to win four. So, we still have a chance to do that.”
But, while Rivers and company have to figure out a way to score points in Game 4, we are free to wonder what becomes of the Celtics after this series. No team in NBA history has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit, and with how awful their offense has been, the Celtics aren’t going to be the first.
They may win a game, because they do have the ability to beat the Knicks on any given afternoon and they should be plenty motivated on Sunday to avoid getting swept. But the Celtics will eventually be knocked out in the first round for the first time since they acquired Kevin Garnett in 2007.
Questions surrounding the Celtics’ future begin with Garnett. The 36-year-old has two years remaining on his contract (though 2014-15 is only partially guaranteed), but has been surrounded by retirement talk for a while now. Paul Pierce has just one partially-guaranteed year left on his deal, and has been surrounded by trade talk for a while now. Both veterans still have something left in the tank, but clearly can’t carry a team like they could in the past.
As this series has clearly shown, the Celtics’ aging stars don’t have the supporting cast needed to beat the best teams in the league. And we really don’t know when they’ll have Rajon Rondo, who tore his ACL in late January, back at 100 percent. If Garnett and Pierce come back back for another year, the Celtics will be competitive, but probably not much better than they were this season. Given Rondo’s status and how much they’ve regressed in the last two years, it’s fair to assume they’ll be worse.
So, Celtics president Danny Ainge faces another crossroads this summer. He has to decide where the Celtics go from here, and the decision won’t be easy. Ainge has long made it clear that he holds no loyalty toward his players and that he’ll do what’s best for the Celtics. That could mean that it’s time to sever ties with Garnett and Pierce, because the longer Ainge keeps his two stars on the roster, the longer it will take to rebuild.
Finding another team (or teams) to trade for Garnett and or Pierce is another question. And Garnett has indicated that he doesn’t want to play for any other team. But in terms of their long-term future, the Celtics need to take a step back before they move forward. And now may be the time for Ainge to pull the trigger.
Celtics record and efficiency, last six seasons
|2008-09||62||20||.756||108.1||6||99.4||2||+8.7||2||Lost in conf. semis|
|2009-10||50||32||.610||105.4||13||101.1||5||+4.3||8||Lost in Finals|
|2010-11||56||26||.683||104.0||18||97.8||2||+6.2||6||Lost in conf. semis|
|2011-12||39||27||.591||98.9||24||95.5||2||+3.4||7||Lost in conf. finals|
|2012-13||41||40||.506||101.1||20||100.4||6||+0.7||14||Down 0-3 in first round|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions