* One of the things people always say to downplay the importance of any regular-season win is that the regular season doesn’t matter and every game “is just another game.”
The next time you hear someone say that, please show them these quotes from the Celtics:
Ray Allen, via NBA Fanhouse:
“This was a benchmark game for us,” said Celtics guard Ray Allen, who had a team-high 18 points, including four in the final 40 seconds that sealed the victory. “We had talked about this game for some time. This was meaningful.”
And Kevin Garnett, via the Boston Herald:
“Everything’s been predicated up to this game,” Kevin Garnett said. “We thought they were more physical than us (last month). We thought they took the game to us. Then to come down here with all the things, it was one of them games where we had to dig deep.”
Both teams cared about this game. It may not “matter” in terms of deciding who wins the championship (something at least two other teams are going to have a lot to say about), but this simple fact is true: Two elite teams played as hard as they could yesterday, and the Celtics won without one of their top players.
And Stan Van Gundy sure seems upset (even for him), saying the game exposed a larger trend (via ESPNBoston):
“But we’ve had a constant, pretty consistent problem with our offense against them and that is that we just do not sustain good offensive play throughout the game. Now, they’re a great defensive team, but there are ways we can get good shots — we know it, but we just won’t play that way for long enough stretches.”
* Speaking of Stan, he complained afterward that the league should not play on Christmas. Via the Herald:
“I’m a big basketball guy, but this is a day to spend time with your family. I actually feel sorry for people that have nothing better to do on Christmas Day than watch an NBA game. Hey, look, I mean, basketball’s very important to me obviously, but there are some days in the year where it’s got to take a back seat to something. But the league doesn’t feel that way, so . . .”
It’s nice to know that Stan feels sorry for me that I got to watch a competitive NBA game with my father on Christmas, bringing back memories to when we used to watch the C’s together all time during my childhood. Thanks, Stan!
In his defense, Van Gundy does mention the fact that the games force arena workers to leave their families on Christmas, which is not ideal for those workers.
But please remember: This is the same coach who complained (ridiculously, I might add) over the summer that the NBA had disrespected the Magic by having Orlando play Boston on Christmas instead of following an NBA tradition (which doesn’t actually exist) of scheduling an NBA Finals rematch on Christmas.
In other words: Not only was Stan Van Gundy OK with playing on Christmas back in August, but he wanted his team to be playing in what he considered the day’s showcase game.
I have enormous respect for Stan Van Gundy as a coach. He may be the best coach in the league after Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich.
But there may not be anyone in the league hurting their public perception more than Van Gundy is with his constant whining.
* Onto good news: Paul Pierce is feeling a lot better and apparently lobbied to travel with the team to Los Angeles, according to Steve Bulpett in the Herald:
“I think he’s healing faster than we thought,” Rivers said. “Having said that, we’re still not sure if he’ll play quicker that the time we said, the two weeks. I don’t know crap about this stuff, but I know you’ve got to be careful – and you know we’re going to be careful. If it was up to Paul, I can tell you he wanted to (fly) out (today to L.A.). And that’s not going to happen. I can guarantee you that.”
* I somehow missed this quote from Doc on Pierce in Friday’s Herald. Doc is discussing Pierce’s late-night phone call to Ed Lacerte after Tuesday’s game against the Pacers:
“With Paul, because he never calls Eddie, that’s basically what alerted Eddie that he should go to Paul’s house and see what’s going on,” Rivers said. “Honestly, with probably half the other guys, Eddie would have gone back to sleep. But Paul literally never complains. He never misses a practice and it was just unusual for him to complain about pain.”
Some fans will always question Pierce’s toughness because of how quickly he returned from what appeared to be a serious knee injury during Game 1 of the 2008 Finals. Those people would do well to read what people close to Pierce say about him.
* The Magic registered just seven assists yesterday, and that’s a franchise-record low, according to Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post (which used to be called Third Quarter Collapse, in case you haven’t noted the change).
Mr. Rock adds this in his recap of the game:
I’ll leave you with this much, though: in terms of efficiency, Orlando played its 7th-best defensive game of the year; in effective field goal percentage defense, their 9th-best; and in turnover rate forced, their very best. Yet the Celtics still managed to walk out with a win on the strength of their own otherworldly defense.
Cheer up, Ben. It’s one game, and it was only a month or so ago that Orlando made Boston (with Paul Pierce) look awful in Boston.
* That said, there are some observers reading a lot into yesterday’s game. Tim Povtak at Fanhouse is one of them:
If there was any doubt before Christmas who the best team was in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics cleared that up decisively Friday afternoon by pummeling the Orlando Magic, who have become a distant second-best.
Point guard Rajon Rondo, center Kendrick Perkins and newbie Rasheed Wallace are why the Celtics will strangle the Magic if they meet again as expected deep in the playoffs. It was 86-77 Celtics on Friday.
Personally, I’m not ready to go here. It’s too early, too much can happen in the next five months, and yesterday’s win merely evens the season series after an equally ugly Orlando win in Boston last month.
That said, the Magic do have a problem if Jameer Nelson does not progress on both ends of the court to at least near the point where he was before his shoulder injury last season.
Lots of time before we can make any conclusions about that, though.
Enjoy the win. Next up: The Clippers tomorrow. Get ready to see Ricky Davis and Bassy Telfair on your television again!