The word “Resolve” really does say it all. The Celtics got annihilated in their own building on Friday night only to come back and beat the Cleveland Cavaliers handily. “Handily” may have not be entirely accurate as this game was not without it’s own adversity for the Celtics. Paul Pierce was another near-no show today. It was not until the fourth quarter when Pierce decided to check-in, and he did in a big way with probably the single-most important play of the game. Naturally, this play came off one of Rajon Rondo’s 13 dimes (Yeah, 13. We’ll get to that later.) as Pierce executed a textbook backdoor cut only to finish hard with a two handed jam on LeBron James. Pierce continued on with making his presence known by stealing a bad pass by Mo Williams on the very next play. This sequence was the catalyst for the C’s to put this Cavalier team to bed and send this series back to Cleveland with a two-all tie, as well as possessing all the momentum.We have much to get to, so let’s get to it:
Rajon Rondo had a historic performance, posting a Magic Johnson-like triple-double with 29 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists. Unbelievable- especially for a guy that can’t shoot from the outside right? Wrong. Rondo made 3 of 7 shots from outside the painted area with one being an end-of-the-shot-clock three point attempt. Don’t believe me, check out the shot chart:While Rondo was able to hit from the outside effectively this afternoon, his success getting to the bucket may be even more surprising given the Cav’s front court depth. The Celtics were at their best this afternoon with Rondo pushing the tempo, forcing the issue in the lane, and making adept passes for easy buckets. Rondo almost did all he could to undo all the good work he did by trying to get too fancy in the fourth quarter. You could really tell how badly Rondo wanted to completely destroy this Cavalier team with back-to-back touchdown pass attempts. Luckily, tightend Glen Davis made an amazing behind his head catch from an under-thrown Rondo pass. Davis collected the ball and finished strong to seal the momentum in the Celtics’ favor.
One of Rondo’s favorite targets today was Tony Allen. When Ray Allen cannot get open and Paul Pierce is lost somewhere worrying about the Bruins Game 5, Rondo deferred to…Tony Allen? Well, sort of. TA deferred to himself by fiending off his own energy on the defensive end. While Paul Pierce expends all his energy on the defensive end he cannot push the ball when he forces a TO, TA seems to only get better. Tony used this propulsion and some timely help from Rondo to contribute 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting. This type of production, however, was the not the biggest asset TA brought to the table today. TA was able to nearly completely stifle James with his quickness on the defensive end. TA’s contribution was encapsulated by two palindromic plays- both involving Rondo. On one, Rondo pushed the ball up the floor, made James commit to jumping on the chase down block attempt, and made an amazing behind the back pass to a streaking Tony Allen. A little while later, Tony returned the favor by making a great pass to Rondo for an easy layup that left James’ head spinning.
Speaking of James, the best player on the planet and the reigning MVP put up a pedestrian 22 points on 7-of-18 shooting. This can be attributed to two parts Celtics’ team defense and one part the two-headed Allen monster on the defensive end. Both TA and Ray-A really hampered LeBron by challenging his quickness. It seems as if the Celtics are taking stabs in the dark on how to play LeBron one-on-one. In Games 1 and 2, they tried to size him up by playing Pierce and a little bit of Daniels on Pierce. In Games 3 and 4, the Celtics put quick, annoying players on James to force him farther off the three point line. Both styles have proved effective and awful. So what gives? Team defense. When the Celtics are cutting off James’ ability to penetrate, they also force him to jump to pass the ball. This has been James’ under-the-radar Achilles heel. The Cavaliers love to dribble-drive but almost exclusively make a jump stop in order to dish out to open men. the Celtics play such good team defense that this has really presented a problem for the Cavaliers.
On paper, the bench play was the comparative difference in this game. Usually reliable Delonte West could not find his game going 0-for-7 from the field. Conversely, usually unreliable Tony Allen was electrifying. Obviously, this kind of production or lack there of cannot be counted on for any stretch of time. Rasheed Wallace, while a statistical no-show, he contributed four hard fouls that made the Cavs big men become slightly hesitant going to the basket. Glen Davis also contributed 20 energy-filled minutes that include stellar defense on Shaquille O’Neal and a loose-ball snag for the ages.
Kevin Garnett had another solid game in this series with 18 and 6. This type of consistency is much-welcomed considering his reputation of being a no-show in the earlier rounds.
Dominate the glass and limit the turnovers and the Celtics win. It really could be that simple. The Celtics out-rebounded the Cavaliers 47 to 33 on the glass and had 5 less turnovers (12-to-17). These are not your regular season numbers and these are not your regular season Celtics.
That’s it for now, more later. Just think C’s fans. Pierce has to wake up one of these games. Right? Enjoy this one.