This was Delonte West, addressing the "desperation" of the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road without Kevin Durant:
"This team didn't even have to play with desperation to beat us tonight. I'm not taking anything away from them, they played their hearts out and they took it from us. But it seemed like almost the whole game, we were searching for a challenge. Then in the third quarter, it was like 'OK, we got a game now, we're down 10, let's play.' But the basketball gods don't reward you for things like that."
This was Doc Rivers, whose Celtics allowed the Thunder to shoot 6-of-9 from 3-point range en route to an 89-84 victory:
"They're the worst [3-point shooting] team in the league. But the basketball gods, shoot. You play like crap, you play with that energy, and they'll give you a couple bank threes."
This was Kevin Garnett, explaining the loss:
"I just thought for the most part, they just made shots, man. Royal Ivey hit a banker, and that's the basketball gods talking to you."
You'll notice the same phrase in each of the three quotes — it sounds as though the Celtics blamed the "basketball gods," those strange mercurial powers controlling the TD Garden from up above, for their first home loss of the 2010-11 season. It's an interesting choice of words, to say the least.
Some people use faith to explain the things in life they can't explain. Some use it as a crutch, or an excuse for when things go wrong.
The Celtics are not some people.
The Celtics didn't blame the basketball gods, per se, for losing on their home floor to a young Thunder team that lacked two of its best players. They blamed themselves, and justifiably, they admitted that the gods were there to smite them.
The C's earned this loss, and they knew it. They heard that Durant wasn't playing, that Jeff Green wasn't coming back, that the Thunder would be shorthanded and going small, and they let their guard down. That's why the powers above punished them.
They played 36 minutes of let-down basketball, and a valiant effort in the final 12 wasn't enough to atone for their sins. They'd buried themselves in so deep a hole that even a terrible fourth quarter effort from the Thunder — who missed their last 13 field goals over the last 9:27 — was enough to bring them back.
The C's were alive and well with 13 seconds to play, down 87-84 and within one West 3-pointer of coming all the way back. But the shot rimmed out, and the gods got the last laugh.
But no one in the Celtics' locker room had much to say about the final possession. This game, they'd lost from the opening tip.
"We just didn’t start the game with the right mindset," Paul Pierce said. "I think we kind of eased into the game, and then once when we got into the game, we’re down, and we're trying to claw our way back in. That’s what happens when you've got a team who’s desperate without two of their best players. You give the other guys confidence, and you can get surprised any given day in the NBA."
The Celtics had countless games like this last season, where their effort was lacking from the start and they never recovered. They were hopeful that this year would be different, but Friday night was more of the same.
The C's didn't show up on Friday night ready to work. The gods were there to punish them.
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