PHILADELPHIA — Kevin Garnett was ready to admit a lot of mistakes the Celtics made on Friday. He acknowledged a loss of defensive intensity, failure to crash the boards and carelessness with the ball to explain the Celtics' surprising loss to the Sixers.
One thing Garnett was not about to admit, though, was that the Celtics settled for jump shots in the disastrous second half, when his team let an 18-point lead evaporate into a 92-83 loss in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"The shots we take are our shots," Garnett said. "I feel like we missed some easy shots at the basket. For the most part I thought we did play decent defense until the last four, five minutes of the game."
The Celtics take more midrange jump shots than almost any team in the NBA, and every handful of games, they have a clunker like Friday's game. Their shooting stroke does not even need to escape them for a full 48 minutes to cause problems. Sometimes, as in Game 4, less than 24 minutes of poor shooting can doom them to an unsightly loss.
The Celtics shot almost 53 percent from the field in the first half on Friday, jumping out to a 15-point lead at halftime due in part to the effective jump shooting of Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass, who were 10-for-15 from the field at halftime.
In the second half, though, the Celtics went to Bass only once and only a few times to Garnett. The Big Ticket has carried the Celtics at times during the playoffs, but on Friday he helped bury them by shooting only 2-for-9 from the field in the second half.
The Celtics had been able to hide their nine turnovers in the first half with solid shooting, but with their field-goal percentage plummeting to 31 percent after the break, their eight turnovers and 28-17 rebounding disparity in the third and fourth quarters propped up a Sixers offense that has flailed at times.
The Celtics shot only 12-for-33 from midrange in Game 4, according to NBA.com, and they attempted 12 shots from more than a foot behind the 3-point line. Not surprisingly, they missed all but two of those shots.
Still, the Celtics insisted they would not have adjusted their shot selection in the second half.
"We're a jump-shooting team," Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said. "We made those shots in the first half. We made those shots in Game 3. [Friday] they sped us up a little bit.
"We don't want to say that we settled because a lot of those shots were wide open that we usually make," Rondo added. "Some were not, but that's what we do. Kevin's a great shooter, Brandon, Paul, Ray [Allen], obviously. The guys that've got jump shots, we want them to take them. Even Avery [Bradley's] corner threes were good looks. We usually make those shots and today we didn't."
The Celtics' issues in Game 4 were not so much their shot selection as other areas — areas the Sixers thrive in. If the Sixers win the games within the game of rebounding, turnover and free-throw differentials, they are usually victorious. On Friday, they won all three.
The Sixers' 52-38 rebounding advantage (17-5 on offensive rebounds), 17-11 command of the turnover battle and 36-19 advantage in free-throw attempts combined to make the Celtics' choice of shots almost irrelevant.
The Celtics have two days to go over the plays in their minds and in film, but one thing they do not intend to change is their shot selection. A poor shooting half will not prevent them from putting up the next jump shot that comes along in the next game.
That is the mentality of a shooter, after all.
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