Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Celtics are the more talented team. They’re the better team. But they are not the more tested team, and the Raptors — fearless, poised in the big moment, steely in fortitude, and loaded with savvy tricks — are feeling pretty good about themselves right now after showing what they are made of.
You know what, though? This is good for the Celtics. It is. They need this if they’re going to become everything they can be. They got a lesson in not letting down their guard, in what happens when you fail to communicate, even for half a second. They picked up a battle scar, and probably a necessary one. Bouncing a defending champion, even one diminished since its title run, should not be easy. Now, it won’t be.
Nothing wrong with learning a lesson, but a 3-0 lead would’ve been much better.
Obviously, though, the Celtics weren’t going to have a 16-game winning streak in the playoffs. Being realistic, here’s what I tweeted after the shocking finish.
A half-second away from 7-0, and it took a miracle shot to prevent it. At least we weren't screwed by a bad call. Celtics will bring it Saturday. And with all that said… pic.twitter.com/xP8Mi9TC8s
— Mike Dynon ☘️🏀 (@MikeDynon) September 4, 2020
That’s reasonable, isn’t it? Acknowledging that the Raptors pulled off an amazing play while also admitting to being stunned like never before.
In their long postseason history (660 games), the Celtics have now lost four playoff games at the buzzer. This was different because the first three times, the winning shot only broke a tie. Game 3 was the first in time in Celtics history that they had a playoff win in their pocket and allowed it to get away to a buzzer-beater.
We’re going to find out a WHOLE bunch about the 2020 Celtics in Game 4 against the Raptors on Saturday. In a postseason in which just about everything has gone right, we’ll see how Boston reacts to the gut punch of all gut punches.
NBC Sports Boston: Celtics can’t let history repeat itself vs Raptors
It’s a fact of NBA life that teams who become contenders must go through a learning process on their way to the top. Anyone who watched “The Last Dance” knows the Bulls had to figure out how to beat the Pistons before winning a ring. And the Pistons before that had to get past Boston and the Lakers, a trial that took them several seasons.
Can the Celtics win it all this year? They absolutely have the talent. Now we need to know: Have they learned a lesson? Will they turn the Game 3 loss into a character-building moment, no worse than a footnote in franchise history? Or will they allow it to become a soul-crushing turning point in a series they had under control? We might know after tonight.
Boston Sports Journal: Celtics eager to bounce back against Raptors after ugly Game 3 finish
On Page 2: The Kemba Factor
Walker’s on-off splits in this series are startling. The Celtics are plus-33 during his 105 minutes on the court and minus-13 during his 35 minutes on the bench. The offense with Walker has produced more points per possession (116.4) than the greatest regular-season offense in NBA history. The offense without Walker has been like a fish trying to swim on concrete. Boston has turned the ball over a remarkable 31.6 times per 48 minutes with Walker on the sideline. For the sake of reference, no Celtics team has ever committed more than 28 turnovers in a game. So, without Walker, Boston has been sloppier than the sloppiest outing in franchise history.
It has been a pleasure to watch Kemba this postseason. He’s explosive on offense. He works hard on defense. He has a positive attitude, always. Even when he hasn’t played well, he comes through in the clutch.
Sorry to any Brad Wanamaker fans out there, but it’s too bad Kemba can’t play all 48. And this also confirms how much the Celtics miss Gordon Hayward, who often directs the offense with the second unit.
Tonight is the biggest game of the Celtics season. I fully expect an appearance by Cardiac Kemba.
And, finally… A word about replay reviews
You’ll recall that in Game 3, as Rob Williams went up to dunk, he was pushed hard by Pascal Siakam. Timelord completed the dunk, but landed awkwardly and was fortunate not to be injured.
Pushing someone in the back while they’re in the air is a dangerous play, but Stan Van Gundy’s reaction was to have a chuckle.
“This tells you how the game has changed,” SVG told his broadcast partner. “I came into the league in the mid-’90s as an assistant at Miami. I’m not even sure that’s a foul in the Knicks [vs. Heat] series in the ’90s. Now they’re looking at it as a flagrant. That would’ve been incidental contact in the mid-’90s … One of the assistant coaches with Chuck Daly [in Detroit], Brendan Suhr, just texted me and said, ‘With the Bad Boys, that would’ve been a play-on.’”
Hardy har har.
You know what, Stan? I get it. We all get it. The refs are replay-happy. Every time someone gets hit in the face, even accidentally, there’s a video review. But ask yourself why, Stan. How did we get here?
A quick history: From the beginning of the NBA, players beat the hell out of each other. Fights were frequent and rarely resulted in ejections. It wasn’t just players either. Red Auerbach punched Ben Kerner, owner of the Hawks, in the face, on the court, during a dispute over the basket height, right before a 1957 Finals game. Red got fined – no ejection, no suspension. Everyone lived with this because the NBA wasn’t popular on the level of baseball or football.
Then the ’80s came, and the league finally became big-time during the Bird vs. Magic era. But at the end of the decade, those Bad Boy Pistons surpassed Boston and LA by using mayhem as a weapon. Blood was spilled as they beat up and intimidated their foes, but that helped them win back-to-back titles.
So then in the ’90s, everyone played rough, especially the Heat – where SVG was an assistant. It was a decade of ugly basketball, where playoff scores of 77-73 happened far too often.
Finally, that led to the ugliest night of all: the brawl known as the Malice at the Palace. A national TV audience saw the Pacers and Pistons lose their minds and some fans lose their teeth. League executives vowed it would never happen again, so that brought zero tolerance for fighting or any type of confrontation. There are no more “playoff fouls” because every hard hit is now a potential flagrant. And with today’s technology, we have replay overkill.
So if I could tell SVG one thing on this subject it would be: You and your colleagues from the ’90s helped create this. Stop moaning about it, or give the microphone back to Doris Burke. (Actually, maybe give it back regardless.)
The Rest of the Links: