The first thing you want to say is, 'No excuses.'
You don't want to bring up the injuries and the long minutes on a short rotation, as if to say that despite what the Boston Celtics have endured this season, they still should have won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on their home court.
It doesn't matter. Use the excuses. They don't change the fact that, in losing 101-82 to the Orlando Magic, the Celtics ran into a team that was just playing better basketball. And in turn, Boston couldn't find enough of it's old self to combat an oncoming buzzsaw.
The Celtics may have fallen to the Magic, but there is plenty to be proud about... and plenty to look forward to.Steve Babineau/NBAE/Getty
"We've been a multiple-stop team for two years and that's how we score," Doc Rivers said. "And just every time we got it down to seven or four they made another big shot."
That was the night in a nutshell. The Celtics, with only Ray Allen shooting well (23 points), had neither the firepower to engage in a shootout -- an option used so often in the Chicago series -- nor the defensive wherewithal to get stops.
So, the Celtics would make a big shot, like Rajon Rondo's buzzer-beating jumper at the end of the third which brought the Celtics within five, and the Magic would reply with force. Just twenty-four seconds into the final period, Mickael Pietrus drained a triple to extend the lead to eight as part of an 11-0 run to start the period. And later, with the Celtics on their last legs, Allen pulled them within 12 only to have Hedo Turkoglu twist the already protruding dagger with back-to-back jumpers.
"Our defense was good for eighteen seconds, and then they'd make a three with two seconds on the shot clock," Rivers said. "And honestly I thought towards the end it broke our spirit, because they were fighting so hard."
As weird as it is to think of the formerly-reigning champions as broken, or even more so, as defenseless, those things didn't define the night. Previously, the team had found the offense to push forward. But with the Magic -- more than due for an accurate night from long range -- shooting 13-of-21 from three, the Celtics could not keep up.
During a timeout with 10:30 to play in the fourth, the crowd rose to its feet, chanting and urging the team to a victory. And yet, that run, the one that always seems to come on the parquet floor, never came. The Magic opened the quarter on an 11-0 run and there was no response. The Celtics scattered a few nice plays and jumpers here and there, but they were mostly trading baskets.
"You always felt like we were gonna make a run but it just never happened," Brian Scalabrine said.
"It just really felt like we ran out of gas," Paul Pierce said.
And still, no excuses of fatigue or injury were served. The Celtics had simply offered all they had to give. They did not fold, they did not get out-desired; they just got out-hooped.
"I'm really proud of my team," Rivers said. "Clearly tonight we didn't play well. I thought we had the right spirit."
And maybe that's why Pierce said that he would scrap the game in his mind. Game 7 didn't reveal any weakness in the psyche of the Celtics. The warrior's pride was still there. But what they had on the court wasn't enough and they got beat, and that's ammunition enough for next season.
As Rivers told the team after the game, "Remember the feeling."