After a back-to-back against the Pacers and Nets, the Celtics looked rejuvenated following their rest day, as did the Boston fans. Then again, that is in comparison to how the Celtics fans acted when Jersey was in town, and in fairness to the Boston crowd, that’s like taking an Ambien and going to a middle school chorus recital.
The extra energy, while most noticeable in how the C’s ran in transition all game long, nearly derailed the Celtics at the end, with Boston committing untimely turnovers and ill-advised, near game-costing fouls. Luckily, Captain P came to the rescue, scoring the game winning basket with 22 seconds left, and Boston walked away a 92-91 victor and 8-0 on the season.
In fairness to Miami, the active hands of the Heat defense also accounted for a good deal of Boston’s 18 turnovers. With Dwyane Wade back in the starting lineup, the off-season acquisitions of Smush Parker, Ricky Davis, and Mark Blount started to make sense. This is by far the quickest team Miami has fielded in the last 3 or 4 seasons, and it showed not only on the defensive end, but also in transition. Smush and Davis will not only be able to run with Wade, but will also thrive off of the open jumpers that Shaq and Wade will provide them with when opposing defenses collapse.
Boston’s Hydra was unable to log many minutes together on the court tonight, with Pierce in foul trouble for much of the game. But, once again, the bench proved to be much more effective than any of of the nay-sayers expected prior to the season. James Posey lived up to the game-changing defender status that followed him from Miami, putting in an essential 27 minutes of work in place of Pierce. Ball pressure, a couple strong rebounds, and some timely threes from Posey proved critical in the victory.
Perk and Rondo also continued to impress. Perkins, often left wide open because of good Boston ball movement/poor Miami rotation, showed off his improved finishing skills (good for 10 points). Rondo, meanwhile, is possibly not-so-quietly (boisterously?) becoming an indespensible part of the team. His ball-handling skills and propensity for making strange but effective passes to open teammates cannot be replaced by a Tony Allen or Eddie House. Add that to the huge jumper from the baseline he hit late in the 4th, and it could be argued that Rondo’s performance will effect the success of the Celtics more than that of Pierce, Allen, or Garnett.
Yet, perhaps the biggest story of the game is that it seems we finally have an answer to who will be taking the big shots ifor the C’s this year. With Boston down 1 (after a stupid Garnett foul on Udonis Haslem’s defensive rebound, sending him to the line with the game tied and 30 ticks left on the clock), Boston ran a screen for Pierce, entering the ball to him on the left block, where he reverse pivoted on Haslem, beat him baseline, pump faked to get him in the air, and finished with a strong two-handed lay-up.
That also could have been Doc utilizing what he felt was a mismatch, but I believe Pierce is the best choice to have taking a shot with the game on the line no matter what the match-up. He has proven to be a fearless scorer in pressure situations (the same can’t be said for Garnett), has better dribble moves than Ray Allen, and can work well with his back to the basket. Basically, he’s a combination of Garnett’s and Allen’s skill-sets, and he has no conscience. That’s a good thing.
The Celtics continue their quest for an 82 win season in Orlando Sunday evening at 6 ET.
- Ben Wallace may have been on to something all these years: apparently more fro=more defense. At one point in the first half, Smush Parker was pressuring Eddie House with so much intensity (I know, unbelievable right?) you would have thought there was a direct correlation between creating a turnover and causing Phil Jackson bodily harm.
- Shaquille O’Neal, 145 years old in Giant Years, and so much slower that a near blind Bob Cousy noticed it, still draws a crowd on the road.
- Speaking of Cooz, when did he forget how to speak? Have I just not noticed this before? All of a sudden he sounds like a mild-mannered Elmer Fudd (and if he had a stroke in the last couple years that caused this new speech pattern, I’ll be sure to say “hello” to Barry Bonds down there for all of you).
- Perhaps a bad sign for the Celtics (hopefully me reading into things too much): With under 2 minutes left in the game, Garnett, inbounding the ball off of a strong Wade finish, looks off Rondo on his right, opting instead for Ray Allen on his left (a Heat defender guarded the middle of the court, forcing Garnett to choose a side). Allen brings the ball up, and once KG gets to the three-point line, he and Allen try and run a screen-and-roll. Allen gets double teamed, loses the ball, and Daequan Cook ends up with an and-one break-away dunk, tying the game. Rondo may be young, but I want him bringing the ball up against pressure and initiating the offense every time. Ray Allen needs to be running off screens, not trying to play an unnatural position.
- As the game was winding down and the intensity was cranking up, Garnett draws Shaq on the right baseline. Shaq fouls KG on the floor as Garnett beats him to the hoop. KG continues to the rim despite the whistle, at which point Ricky Davis leaps to try and block KG’s shot. KG rams the ball home, all over Davis, and then the two stand facing each other, the Boston crowd going nuts, and KG just reeling off a string of expletives that continued for a good 30 seconds after they broke apart. I’m pretty sure KG eats glass for fun.
- Eboy has finally gotten so pale that he disappeared–his impact on the game tonight was exactly “none.”
- In yet another genius Doc Rivers coaching moment, he decides that it’s a smart idea to let Wade, with the ball in his hands and 20 seconds left on the clock (the shot clock is off), dribble down as much time as he wants unpressured. So Wade kills clock until about 5 seconds remain and pulls up for a top-of-the-key J. Now, Wade of course missed, but if I were coach I would have done everything in my power to make the time leading up to that shot uncomfortable for Wade. The reason Dwyane Wade is Dwyane Wade is because he MAKES SHOTS LIKE THAT ONE! But hey, when your squad is 8-0, who’s complaining?
Tags: Barry Bonds, Bob Cousy, Daequan Cook, Dwyane Wade, Eddie House, James Posey, Jason Williams, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Mark Blount, Paul Pierce, Phil Jackson, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Ricky Davis, Shaquille O'Neal, Smush Parker, Tony Allen, Udonis Haslem