I called it! And by “I called it” I mean I absolutely did not call it. Despite writing in the preview that last night’s game was a recipe for a C’s loss, I believed the C’s would win- just a hard-fought close game. I thought the C’s would get out of this road trip with a much-deserved trip home to rest and recuperate. That, I was right about. While the Celtics didn’t need the starters for the fourth quarter, it’s what they did in the first three that gives them the right to put their feet up until Tuesday (or until practice, whichever comes sooner).
Last night, the Lakers’ edged out a squeaker against D-Wade and the Heat. In the post game interview, Kobe made a comment about how gutting out wins really shows what really makes up a team. While that is true, I’d much prefer last night’s win for the C’s in terms of how they did it. The most obvious reason for that is being up by ten for most of the game keeps my ulcer at bay, however, the not so obvious resides in the psyche of the team. This win against the Thunder was all about execution and to some extent perseverance. They didn’t have to grind out every possession like the Lakers last night, but they did have to have the intellectual fortitude to run their stuff, they did have to have the will the push the ball knowing that others would follow, and everyone had to know their role and play it.
Last night was the perfect example of how there are no egos on this team. Scratch that. There are a TON of egos on this team (Pierce, Garnett, Wallace, Rondo, need I go on?), but in terms of battling egos within the team, it just doesn’t exist.
If you don’t believe me, take Paul Pierce in last night’s game. Pierce struggled against the Spurs (only scoring 8 points) and, as predicted, came out firing tonight hitting his first three threes. He looked good, poised, and primed to have a forty point night where the offense is “GET THE BALL TO PAUL” in big, black dry-erase marker.
The Thunder is the perfect team to lure a player into that trap, too. For much of the night, it seemed like Kevin Durant was trying to win the game offensively all on his own and, hey, he was doing it (36 points, 19-13 from the field). The Thunder were riding the hot hand all game and the Celtics could have easily done the same after Pierce’s fast start (21 points by halftime).
This is where the C’s egos didn’t come in to play. At the start of the second half, Pierce missed his first three attempt and it was as if he said to the team, “That’s it for me for now, everything’s got to come from what we run or when we run.”
Speaking of the Celtics running, did anyone see the third quarter? I can only speculate without being the that locker room or in those practices, but when the Celtics get a steal or force a team into a one and down, I believe they really relish in making teams heads spin by their fastbreak execution. It’s just amazing how every player picks it up and gets down the floor. They not only get down the floor well, they also get to where they need to be very well. For example, on one fast break off a steal, Rondo failed to finish at the rim, only to have the miss cleaned up by KG. After getting the steal and passing it to Rondo, Garnett didn’t stand their and watch what he created. He ran straight down the floor and didn’t even break stride to clean up the miss. Garnett knew that Rondo finishing that lay in wasn’t guaranteed.
Want to know what happens when someone stands and admires what they think will happen? Just think back to last night on one of Jeff Green’s wide open threes (0-5 from three, and I counted at least three wide open ones) from the near corner. After the shot, Green stood pat with the goose neck up, only to see the ball doink off the front rim and get passed out to Ray for an easy lay in. Green tried to recover but it was clear he spent too much time watching something he should be able to do on a regular basis.
Half of being at the right place on the court is knowing what to do and the other half is knowing who you’re playing with. This is no more evident than when Rondo drives in and curls around the hoop only to rifle a pass out beyond arc. He almost always finds an open man. In the third quarter last night, Mike Wilks tried to pull this off and threw the ball out of bounds prompting the fans to call for his expulsion from the arena. I actually felt bad for Wilks because this turnover could have easily been Durant’s fault, but the casual fan in the ten thousand dollar seats only know that Kevin Durant is a Bob McAdoo/ Michael Jordan hybrid and can do no wrong.
The C’s were great last night in terms of offensive execution, getting out and running, and playing defense, but perhaps better and more important than any of those things is what happened when they put those things together. Because of their effective play, Doc was really able to limit the starter’s minutes (Pierce 31, Garnett 25.5, Ray 33, Rondo 31, Perkins 25.5). When the starters get to rest, the bench gets to play, which if you’ve read any of my posts here, you know I love.
I still believe that Doc can get Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens in earlier. Last night he experimented with putting Giddens in early for a few minutes. Offensively he wasn’t very effective, giving up a wide open foul line jumper. He still looks so afraid to make a mistake and it’s not helping his case at all. Still, he passed up that shot to get ‘Sheed a three (which he made) so all’s well that ends well right? On the defensive end he actually did an excellent job using his length to guard Durant. He was able to get a clean strip of the ball on a Durant jumper which was unfortunately called a foul (Donaghy!). I really like this move by Doc though. Putting Giddens on a superstar where he can test his skills with little worry about having an effect on the outcome of the game right now is exactly what J.R. needs to get better. In terms of Scal, he just does everything so well. He’s always in the right place at the right time, getting his hands into passing lanes, making threes from the corner, and being in position to take charges. It’s funny how effective Scalabrine is while he’s kind of the butt of every joke. He’s definitely beloved here in Boston, but more as the lovable tramp (a la Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times).
Alright, that’s all I got for last night’s game. Well, not counting a few bullets that is:
- Did you see Perk fly in the first quarter? He received the ball while cutting to the basket and while he definitely traveled, he jumped up and double-clutched it on the way to the hoops for a semi-awkward lay in. A cross over against the Bobcats and a double-clutch against the Thunder? Who does this guy think he is? Whomever he does, I like what he’s doing- expanding his offensive repertoire while staying within the offense. (As an aside, Mike Gorman told a quick anecdote of a Perkins and fan interaction. I guess during the second quarter, Perkins was walking up to check in at the scorer’s table and a OKC fan shouted, “Smile!” Apparently Perk just looked at him and said stoically, “That’s not what I do.” Hilarious.)
- I’ve decided that I don’t mind trading baskets when the Celtics are up by ten, which was what the entire second quarter was.
- Durant showed how much more offensively versatile he’s becoming with a great cut without the ball in the second quarter. While on the near baseline, He faked using a back-screen and V-cutted back for a wide open 15 footer. I dubbed it the “Now you see me, now you don’t.”
- In the beginning of the second half, the Thunder seemed like they could have made a run to cut into the C’s lead. Here is another example of the Celtics veteran poise I wrote about in the body of this post. After a quick basket by the Thunder, they seemed to play with some renewed vigor on defense. Garnett used this to his advantage on two straight plays. First, he up-faked on an 18 footer getting Jeff Green to nearly jump over him and ended finishing a tough lay up after being fouled by Nick Collison. The next play down the court, KG and Rondo ran a simple pick and roll and KG winds up with a wide open dunk. Demoralizing.
- Rondo Jumper Watch: 0 for 2 tonight. While his confidence and knowing when to take these shots are definitely here to stay, he seemed like he was pushing the ball too much instead of shooting it. Pierce does this too but he shoots very effectively. So I guess Rondo should watch more Price than Pierce?
- Tell me you saw the play with six minutes left in the third? You did? Good, you can tell Etan Thomas about it. There was so much ball movement, Thomas had no idea that Rondo ended up with the ball under the basket which he was able to just put in. Definitely the craziest, yet most under control play of the season.
- Despite Perk playing so well, whenever he gets the ball in isolation on the block, I can’t help but think that it cannot end well. The only difference between now and seasons’ past is that I’m not surprised at all when he hits the shot or makes the right pass.
- One of the more funnier camera shots of the game: Late in the fourth, D.J. White was at the free throw line and James Harden can be seen standing behind him. These guys have to be brothers. Honestly, for a second I had to think who was at the line again.
- Last point about J.R. Giddens. He had a little offensive redemption in garbage time by making a good cross over into the lane and making a strong move to basket. He missed the shot but got to the line. What else can you ask for? I guess maybe that 13 footer too.
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