Do you remember those Kevin Garnett commercials after the Boston Celtics won the NBA title in Year One of the Big Three era? “It’s all about eighteen.”
The 2015-16 Celtics may not be quite ready to contend for the franchise’s 18th championship, but Wednesday’s loss was all about the number 18: the first quarter lead the Celtics held over the Dallas Mavericks before blowing it all in a 106-102 loss at home in the TD Garden.
A blown early lead isn’t particularly shocking in the NBA, as the tide almost always turns. (The Celtics could hardly be over .500 otherwise.) But what was frustrating was that the 31-13 advantage was just one of many sizable leads the Celtics held throughout the night. They led by 15 after one, 9 at halftime, 8 after three quarters, and another double digit lead early in the fourth. With less than eight minutes to play, Brad Stevens’s squad was still holding on to a seven point lead.
But alas, all good things must come to an end, and the Mavericks went on a run to take their first lead of the game (!) with 4:31 remaining. Behind Dirk Nowitzki’s ageless (and game high) 23 points, and Deron Williams’s improbable resurgence after escaping Brooklyn Nets purgatory, the Mavs surged ahead to a seven point lead of their own late in the game, and it seemed that the tide had irrevocably turned, with no winds to fill the Celtics’ sails.
But these overachieving Celtics, as Stevens has always had them do, scrapped their way back into the game by forcing some timely turnovers, making some big shots, and getting some help from Raymond Felton at the charity stripe. That left the Celtics with the ball in Isaiah Thomas’s hands, trailing by two with the clock winding down. The script was on schedule.
But Thomas lost his handle as he tried to drive into the lane, the Mavs’ Williams upped his streak of consecutive free throws to 30 to start the season, and Mark Cuban got some measure of revenge for the ill fated Rajon Rondo trade last year by celebrating a Mavericks win on he parquet floor.
Not only did the loss drop the Celtics to 6-5, it represented a missed opportunity to capitalize on a doubly meaningful win. No, it wouldn’t have counted twice in the win column, but the Celtics own the Mavericks top-seven protected pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Adding to the Dallas loss total while also walking away with a win would have helped the Celtics cause both this year and next year by perhaps inching the Mavericks that much closer to the back-end of the NBA lottery. Blast!
Luckily, the Celtics are going to have two more chances to help their own cause in more than one way with a home-and-home against the one and only Brooklyn Nets. The Nets, of course, owe the Celtics their unprotected first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft thanks to their trade for Paul Pierce and “all about eighteen” star Kevin Garnett. And with just two wins on the season (really, Rockets and Hawks??) are poised to deliver a prime pick at the top of the lottery. A couple of wins over their divisional counterparts will only push those lottery odds higher (can you say Ben Simmons??).
Hopefully the Celtics can do a better job of improving their playoff odds for both this season and next against the Nets than they did against the Mavericks. That way the next “all about eighteen” is actually about another Celtics championship, not a lost opportunity in November.
Tags: Ben Simmons, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Deron Williams, Dirk Nowitzki, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Garnett, NBA Draft