Boston Celtics Stirring Effort Not Enough in Loss to Miami Heat
The Boston Celtics
didn't deserve to lose on Monday night and they know it.Even the Miami Heat, a team celebrating their 23-game winning streak, knows they should have their heads down in defeat.Once again though it was turnovers that killed the Celtics off. They had an 18-point lead in the first quarter. They had an eight point lead with eight minutes left in regulation. But a brutal 24 points from 21 turnovers for the Heat kept the game close, and ultimately cost Boston the game.Would things have been different if Kevin Garnett had played? Probably. Someone like that can't fail to have an impact. But his absence once again alerted us to the phenomena that is the Boston Celtics.They play better when they are weaker. Try and figure that one out.Without KG, Paul Pierce was the only surviving member of The Big Three on the court at TD Garden. Watching the first quarter though, it was like traveling back in time to 2008.It felt like a playoff game. The atmosphere was electric, most notably when Chris Bosh was knocked onto his backside twice in the space of a few minutes, first by Avery Bradley, then by Courtney Lee.The Celtics ended the first on a 17-0 scoring run. Nobody was expecting that.Cut to a close-up of LeBron James. Head down, chewing on his mouth guard. He looked like he'd lost already.The KG-and-Rondo-less Boston Celtics made the Miami Heat look human.No matter how easy it is to hate the Miami Heat, it's undeniable that they are impressive. They are a colossus, of the like we haven't seen since a certain number 23 lead the Chicago Bulls in the 90s. Very much like the mythical hydra, when you think you've dealt with one problem, two more show up. You think you've got LeBron's number, then Wade and Bosh will turn on their A-game. You try to compensate, but then you forget about LeBron. Sometimes you have to wonder how anyone manages to beat them.But the Celtics nearly did. In fact they already have done this season. And on Monday night they came close. Agonizingly close.There must be some form of consolation in that.Paul Pierce doesn't think so."There's always positives from every game, but you've got to look at negative things when you play against the best team in the NBA right now," Pierce said. "It's always going to come down to the little things and those things really add up at the end of the game when you have a two-point loss.""We feel like we match up with them, top to bottom. But, like I said, no moral victories. Even though it was a close game, we beat them here (in January), the playoffs is a different game."Same old Paul Pierce. The perfectionist who never excepts failure as an option.As Pierce says though, the Celtics proved on Monday night that they can compete with anyone. Even against a colossus looking to extend their impressive winning streak. They know they can step up, they just need better motivation than the absence of a key player.There are plenty of places where they can find that motivation. The image of a gloating LeBron James when he netted the game winner is enough to make even the calmest person's blood boil.At the end of the game, the Celtics' players had expressions like it was game 6 all over again. They know that's not true.There is less than two months to go until the start of the playoffs, and the Boston Celtics are ready.