“Our fans won’t let us relax,” (Looks into camera) “Ya’ll won’t let us relax. We going to try to close this out in two games, ya’ll hear me? We coming home to close it out.” (Winks at Camera, before walking towards tunnel and turning to fans) “See ya’ll next year” – Paul Pierce postgame
So let me get this straight. The Celtics get 4 points out of Ray Allen, 5 of 16 shooting from The Big Ticket, and give up 30 points to Dwight Howard and the C’s still win this one? On the road?
Well you don’t get style points for playoff wins in the NBA, but in this case it doesn’t matter. Boston is simply taking care of business right now, giving themselves their fourth straight postseason road victory and a commanding 2-0 lead over the Orlando Magic, as they head back to Beantown.
Now before we get into the specifics of this one, let me just say how much I enjoyed the conclusion of that Paul Pierce’s postgame interview quoted above, as he spoke directly to the hometown fans, demanding they keep the C’s honest for games 3 and 4.
Yet it wasn’t his dialogue that struck me the most, instead it was that little wink he gave at the end. It was almost as if he was saying to his C’s fans back home, “Hey, let’s keep this just between the two of us, but you guys knew we had this all along? Right? Good. Thanks for keeping it as our little secret.”
Because you know what? That’s the irony of this whole situation. Only us Celtics fans were in on this secret. Nationally, the excuses for the C’s success throughout the postseason, came fast and furious, at all angles. First the C’s destroyed the Heat in 5 games. Yet, despite winning 12 of their final 13 regular season games, the Heat were declared as complete frauds that were an easy walkover for the Green.
Then came the LeBron “chokejob,” where he lacked the horses and aggression to hang with Boston, after being dispatched in a surprisingly easy 6 games. Once again minimal credit was given to Doc Rivers and company as the magnified glass remained transfixed on Mr. James.
Finally, we moved to this series, where the Magic still resided as the heavy favorites coming in, after steamrolling their early opposition. Yet the Green teamers knew they were well equipped to deal with Orlando, perhaps even more so than Cleveland. Obviously, no one expected this, for the C’s to come up and steal both games down south. Celtics fans, and bloggers alike were very confident coming into this matchup though. We liked our chances….a lot.
Paul Pierce did too, but the Celtic bandwagon had lots of empty seats once it left New England. Even after a game 1 victory, the C’s were still managing to fly under the radar, with the doubters out there in full force, but that’s exactly how these veterans liked it. They believed and we believed, and quite frankly that’s all that mattered. As Paul Pierce indicated with his wink, it as our little secret.
Until tonight that is. Enough with the banter though, let’s get to some meat and potatoes here of game 2, as the C’s end up taking the first two road games of a seven games series for the first time…..ever.
I’ll start here with The Truth. 28 points on 8 of 16 shooting. Another 11 trips to the foul line, topping his high for this postseason, which was unconcidentally was game 1 of this series. Pierce and his teammates have harped all week long, how much they liked his matchup against Vince Carter. Like KG picking on Antawn Jamison all last series, Carter is Orlando’s defensive achilles heel for this series.
Pierce came roaring out of the gate again tonight, scoring 22 of his 28 buckets in the 1st half, hitting buckets from all over the floor, looking like vintage Pierce, who had been inadvertently well rested after battling foul trouble against Cleveland. Rajon Rondo took over the reigns from The Truth for much of the 2nd half, but Pierce came through down the stretch, with two clutch free throws in the final minute to give the C’s a 3 point lead, his only points of the frame.
On the other end, he gave himself up, fouling out by hacking Vince Carter on his drive to the hoop. It was the unselfish play, sacrificing himself for the chance to save a couple points and ultimately the right one. Carter stepped to the line, and choked away both free throws, adding to his lure of fading from the big moment, when the spotlight shines the brightest.
I liked the way the C’s managed the ball on the other end, with the ball and up 3 with 30 seconds remaining. They kept the ball in Ray Allen’s hands for the majority of the possession, which dissuaded Magic from fouling the sharpshooter and extending the game. Not a great offensive possession, but ran some clock and got KG a decent look from 20 feet. All you could hope for really in that spot if your Boston.
Then, came the rebound with 6 seconds left to J.J. Redick, who made the braindead decision to dribble up the court, before stopping short and calling timeout. Not only did he waste precious seconds by delaying the timeout, his failure to get across midcourt, left the Magic with a lengthy inbounds past from three quarters court with just 3 seconds remaining. For a Duke grad, and a guy with a sharp basketball IQ, you would have expected a better decision there.
The rest of the Magic though bear some responsibility though as well in that scenario. How is Van Gundy not calling timeout immediately right there on the rebound? What are you saving it for? Just poor decisions all around by Orlando, which left them with a half court floater that Jameer Nelson airballed as time expired.
Some quick bullets before we dissect this more later today:
* Rajon Rondo did a tremendous job tonight of picking his spots. After delivering the most lackluster line of his postseason thus far in game 1, with JUST 8 points and 8 assists. Tonight, 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting, picking up the slack in the 4th, with Ray and KG cold, and Paul Pierce being swarmed by Magic defenders. He not only attacked well, but he hit a plethora of mid-range jumpers, making him even more of an impossible cover for any opposing point guard. Also doing it nearly start to finish tonight as well, he will lead the NBA in minutes/game this postseason when everything is said and done. What a trooper.
* Off night for Ray…..only his 3rd stinker of the playoffs through 13 games…..I’ll take that.
* KG with another tough offensive night, he really seems to be laboring around a lot more this series. Still hit the tough turnaround over Howard to give the C’s the lead for good and is still gobbling up boards, coming through with 9 on the evening. Meanwhile, there is an all points bulletin in Orlando in search of Rashard Lewis (5 points, 4 rebounds, 41 minutes)
* Dwight Howard deserves some props for an impressive bounceback effort. He really seemed to gain a rhythm in the fourth quarter there once Perk fouled out. Baby did an admirable job filling in, but Howard got great position and had his jump hook going. He also made his free throws, so he looked like a realistic option down the stretch for Orlando. Thankfully, he failed to touch the ball again in the post after missing one turn-around hook with 5 minutes left. Woo Magic!
* That foulout by Perk was extremely questionable, especially making a call like that with 8 minutes on the clock. Still, C’s can’t complain too much with Baby getting a favorable charge call called on J.J. with two minutes left. Speaking of Baby, standout effort for the power forward on both ends tonight down the stretch. Really liked Doc calling his number too instead of Sheed at that point.
* Again, can’t tell you how much I love this team right now. Having so many different offensive options on any given night, someone ready to step up and pick up the slack whenever needed. This postseason has been the ultimate team effort thus far for Boston.
That’s all for now. Man, I love wins that you have three days to dissect. Let’s hope Boston comes out for a game 3 at home after a long layoff with a little more urgency this weekend.