After faltering in over time to the Miami Heat, 111-115, the Boston Celtics are knee deep in an 0-2 hole against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals despite playing one of their best games of the season in Game 2.
Rajon Rondo lit up Miami for a career high 44 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, Paul Pierce added 21 points, Kevin Garnett had 18 and even Ray Allen managed to battle for 13 points despite a bum ankle that has hindered his shooting.
The Celtics held a seven point lead at the half and got outscored 35-22 in the third quarter, but recovered enough to send the game to overtime. However, Dwyane Wade scored eight of his 23 in the overtime period and the Celtics couldn't hang.
The teams head back to Boston for Game 3 on Friday, but after looking at both teams it is hard to see a scenario where the Celtics are able to get back into the series.
The writing has been on the wall for Boston throughout the playoffs. They needed six games to finish off the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, which was probably a fair result but cracks in the armor started to show in the second round.
The No. 8 seed Philadelphia 76ers took the Celtics to an excruciating seven game series. Along the way, Boston fans saw exactly how old and tired their team have had become.
Paul Pierce at age 34 is averaging career lows in points and minutes per game in the playoffs, while Allen has completely fallen off the map, averaging 9.8 points per game, down from 18.9 one year ago.
The Celtics are also wilting in the face of some of the fiercest competition possible in the NBA. Wade and LeBron James are playing at the top of their games spurring the Heat to a five-game winning streak.
Over the final three games against the Pacers and the first two games against Boston, James is averaging 32.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists, while Wade averaged 28.8, 6.2 and 4.4 over that same stretch.
Celtics fans knew this would be a tough year for them to make a real run at the title. Everyone knew what the ages of Pierce, Garnett and Allen would mean eventually. In fact, prominent members of the Boston media even predicted a quick ugly win by the Heat.
Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote on the morning of Game 1, The party is over for the Morgan Freeman Five, the Duct Tape Five, or whatever you want to call the ancient warriors who patrol the court for the Boston Celtics. It's now time for serious basketball and there will be green blood when this next round is over.
Though the Celtics are only down 0-2, it isn't long before they are eliminated by the Heat. Once that happens, they will begin one of the most piviotal offseasons in recent franchise history. Garnett and Allen are both in the final year of their contracts,and $54 million of the Celtics $88 million payroll is not under contract for next year.
How Danny Ainge rehapes this roster and surrounds the 26-year old Rondo with a championship caliber nucleus in his prime could define the next decade of basketball in Boston.