April 19, 2007
The Celtics fittingly ended the season with a league minimum eight players in uniform, including just six healthy bodies, and yet again not enough left to survive a last-second shot.
The C's, with late-scratch Delonte West resting an injured hand and a flu-ridden Gerald Green attempting to get up to speed, suffered a 91-89 loss last night to the Detroit Pistons, courtesy of a Flip Murray jumper with one tenth of a second left in regulation.
In what has become a familiar pattern during this healing-up period in the NBA, the Pistons gave their most tender regulars a rest, with Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Chris Webber in street clothes, and Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince making only cameo appearances in the first half.
The 24-58 Celtics, against a lineup of Pistons scrubs in the second half, took the lead four times in the fourth quarter.
After the Pistons regained the lead, Ryan Gomes cut the margin to a basket with a scoop and then rebounded a Murray miss down the other end. Gomes missed a 20-footer, Leon Powe grabbed the rebound and Rajon Rondo called a timeout with 18.5 seconds left. Rondo attempted to drive on Lindsey Hunter, drew the foul instead and hit both free throws for the 89-89 tie with 3.9 seconds left.
Detroit inbounded with 3.9 seconds left and Murray drained an off-balance 10-footer under tight coverage from Rondo.
Gomes and Rondo finished with 19 points apiece. Allan Ray added 18 for the C's and Al Jefferson had 17.
With Jefferson the new standard of how these young Celtics can improve, coach Doc Rivers pondered who might become next season's Big Al.
``It would have to be Gerald Green,'' Rivers said. ``But if he wants to get the minutes next year, he has to defend.''
It sounds like Green has already been given his summer school assignment.
``Defense in the NBA is more about know-how, a sense of urgency and knowing who you're guarding,'' Rivers said. ``With Gerald, they beat him half the time with their minds. So next year he has to be a better defender on the floor.''
Rivers mentioned another possibility for next year's most improved Celtic.
``Me,'' he said. ``We'll be healthy, we'll have a high draft pick, and as a result I'll be a better coach.''
More of the same
It wouldn't be the 2006-07 season without a game-night injury surprise, and last night was hardly an exception.
West strained two ligaments in his left (shooting) hand in the process of scoring 28 points during Monday night's victory in Miami. Brian Scalabrine, who had missed the previous 13 games with a strained left hamstring, was home recovering from hand surgery that was performed yesterday at New England Baptist Hospital.
The Celtics missed 312 player games to injuries. . . .
The Red Sox have rescheduled last week's rained-out pregame tribute to Celtics legend Red Auerbach to tomorrow night. With Bill Russell having returned home, Bob Cousy will throw out the first pitch before the Sox open up a series against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park.