There are a number of reasons not to get too excited about this win if you are a Celtics fan. The C’s beat LA, but they didn’t have Kobe. They still had the 2nd half collapse and couldn’t score when it mattered in the 4th quarter. The C’s undoubtedly just got “lucky” tonight. That’s one assuredly fair assessment of this contest.
Of course, for every point, there is a counterpoint. Yes, the Celtics beat the Lakers without number 24, but this was the same Kobe-less team that crushed Utah, easily the hottest team in the league last week on the road. Yes, the Celtics collapsed in the early part of the 4th quarter but they did not fold altogether. Instead, they held the Lakers to just 2 points in the final 7:13, enabling them to escape Staples Center with a one point win.
They showed the mental toughness to handle the adversity that lay before them in the final 12 minutes.They battled hard on both sides of the floor until the bitter end, when Ray Allen stripped Derek Fisher, forcing him to throw up a prayer that had no chance in the final 2 seconds of this contest. 11 points on offense in the 4th quarter wasn’t pretty, but it was a better 11 points than we’ve seen in previous contests if that can be possible.
Sure, there were major problems on the offensive end, but the C’s maintained their aggressiveness and kept attacking the basket despite their struggles. In turn, they felt the repercussions of the officials swallowing their whistles (on both ends undoubtedly) at the end of this one, took some bad shots all the while, but also some good ones too that just didn’t go down. In the past few weeks, those kind of missed opportunities kept this team from victory. Tonight was a different story.
They did not become discouraged when faced with these struggles. Instead, they buckled down the old fashioned way, the Championship Celtic way, winning the game with defense. Everyone pitched it and came through when it mattered. It wasn’t pretty but it usually isn’t going to be for this team when they beat elite competition. Style points don’t count in the NBA. Wins do.
I was chatting with Brendan Jackson throughout the conclusion of this game. The C’s were clinging to a 1 point lead with just over 3 minutes left, Paul Pierce had just missed 2 crucial free throws. I remained surprisingly confident, despite the bad fortune, informing Brendan there is no way the Celtics lose this game.
The veteran savvy, the swagger, the grittyness was apparent with this team tonight. They didn’t panic, and they showed a confidence I hadn’t seen for weeks. They kicked it up a gear and pulled out a win against elite competition they so desperately needed. Was it a turning point? It’s too early to tell in all likelihood. But if the Celtics make a deep run this year, look bad to this game as the one where they started to put it altogether again.
Quick bullets here with much more to come tomorrow.
* Ray Allen showing why he still has to be considered one of the best shooters in the game. He just carried the team for 3 quarters. Went cold down the stretch, but that seemed to be more due to tougher defense by the Lakers on him, as well as tired legs given his 41 minutes. 24 points overall. So nice to see a night like this from Ray, after he had struggled for so long, in the face of all the rumors. His defense too was terrific down the stretch on Fisher and on the Lakers 2nd to last possession, forcing a turnover after the Gasol pass. Brendan Jackson has more on Ray in the DailyDime today. Check it out.
* Can’t say enough about Perk’s play in the 4th quarter. Kudos to Doc for finally giving him the run late in games he deserved. If nothing else, this team needs his D more than anything else late in contests and he did a fantastic job on Bynum and Gasol in the 4th quarter. Huge help block on Artest as well in the final couple minutes.
Perk also regained his confidence around the bucket tonight, coming up big with a layup plus the foul to put a stop to Lakers 13-0 run in the 4th quarter. Great putback dunk as well in closing minutes. All in all, shows how much more dangerous C’s can be when Perk becomes a capable offensive player out there around the basket.
* Bench was bad tonight, could have really used TA’s energy after he went down. Marquis Daniels coming through with the turning point of game, drawing an offensive foul on Odom in midst of 13-0 Laker run. C’s came down and got a bucket after that foul call, closing the deficit to 1. Under the radar play, but a much needed play by the veteran.
* KG still isn’t back, but showed more flashes tonight athletically than we’ve seen in awhile. Seeing any signs of him getting back to where he was back in December before the hyperextended knee is huge in my book. We saw that for the first time this evening. His jumper was definitely not on down the stretch though.
* I hate Sasha Vujacic
* Refs swallowed their whistles for the 4th quarter and I can’t say i minded it too much. Reminded me of a good playoff game. Pierce definitely deserved a foul call on his drive to the hoop in the closing seconds however.
* Rondo had great numbers tonight (14 and 11) but his 4th quarter inconsistency makes it very hard on this team.
* Tonight’s 4th quarter offensive effort makes me very excited to see an explosive offensive player like Nate Robinson join this team. Don’t be surprised to see him take Rondo’s crunch time minutes before too long if he is hot or Rondo isn’t attacking/shooting confidently like tonight.
* Only 10 turnovers tonight! And just 5 from the starters! Amazing!
* Minutes were as good as Doc could have been with them tonight. TA getting hurt and the team being shorthanded without Eddie hurt a lot obviously. Tomorrow will be rough in Portland, but hopefully the team will ride the momentum. Nate Robinson in uniform would help a great deal as well. Doc didn’t sound optimistic after the game that he would get there in time, but my money says the C’s will find a way to get him out there. If not, C’s will be down to 10 players if TA can’t go. And two of those players are Brian Scalabrine and Shelden Williams. Hurry up Nate!
That’s it for tonight, much more tomorrow. For now, a very satisfying win at the end of a long day.