Who would have believed it? After this tumultuous regular season, easily the most challenging of The Big Three era, would in turn, start their 2010 Playoff run with the easiest series victory of the last three years, dismissing the overmatched Miami Heat in five games.
While the series may have been close to a walkover, tonight’s clincher was anything but that, with the Celtics fighting a battle all night against a four headed monster consisting of Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, those guys in the stripped shirts and their biggest obstacle; themselves.
There will be plenty of time to dissect those unpleasant elements of this victory later on though. For now, let’s get to the good stuff as there are plenty of game balls to be passed around here. I’m going to start though with giving the nod to a guy who didn’t even see the floor tonight and that man is Doc Rivers.
Doc has taken his lumps this year, but I have to hand it to him. He managed this entire series brilliantly, cultimating in his 2nd half decisions tonight. You see, the C’s played a lot of this contest like a Friday night home game in January. There was a lot of sloppiness early, unforced miscues, missed defensive assignments, ultimately the kinds of plays that defined and this 09-10 Celtic squad.
Despite the lack of urgency throughout much of this one, Doc played this one smart with his guys. He had his older horses very well rested for the majority of this series, waiting for a night like this to completely take the leash off them.
With a series win and a few days of pivotal rest looming, Doc rode Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen all night long, keeping them on the floor for 46, 44, and 40 minutes respectively. Those three handled all of the offensive heavylifting, combining for 61 points and 21 assists on the evening to make sure the C’s avoided a return trip to South Beach.
Most of the credit Doc earns from tonight though originated from an extremely risky move that paid huge dividends in the final frame It was just under the 10 minute mark in the 4th, with the C’s clinging too a 4 point lead, after blowing most of their 21 point spread from the 3rd quarter. Ray Allen just picked up his 5th foul of the night, sending Dwayne Wade to the line for two more free throws. I groaned in disgust at the scenario, knowing our most reliable offensive shooter would be heading to the bench for at least the next five minutes when the C’s need him the most.
Except, Ray never came out. Instead, Doc switched Pierce onto Wade and rolled the dice with Ray being able to play smart and avoid his 6th foul for the final 10 minutes. It was a risky move….a ballsy move if you will, akin to pushing all in during hold em with just a flush draw. It could pay off big time, but it just as easily send you home broke.
Well, luckily for the Celtics, the flush hit. Ray was able to stay on the floor, and scored 11 crucial points in the 4th quarter, including a back breaking 3 with 2 minutes left to put the C’s back up 11. Meanwhile, Pierce did a phenomenal job on Wade, limiting him to just 3 points in the final eight minutes of this one, while the C’s stretched out their lead to double digits.
So while Paul and Ray deserve much of the kudos for stepping up in their respective roles in the 4th, I have to hand it to Doc for having the guts to make the move. He sensed the momentum turning in the 4th and had seen his offense look stagnant without Ray on the floor. The C’s desperately wanted to close this out tonight, and in order to guarantee that outcome, Ray had to be in the 4th. Thankfully, Doc knew it too and trusted Ray enough to let it happen.
Bullets on the way as we break down the rest of this one………