Great wins, games in which both teams performed to capacity and your team won, those you can carry with you. They inspire minor positive changes in how you interact with the people in your life for a couple of days. They mean something. But what does this game mean? Or yesterday’s?
All I can come up with is this: two games in a row, the Celtics scored more points than the Knicks on the last two possessions. They didn’t prove they were better. The only individuals who proved anything were Carmelo Anthony and Jared Jeffries: Carmelo proved he could make any shot, and Jeffries proved he could make a shot given the right circumstances and a few chances.
I just don’t think I agree with this idea I’ve been hearing that whatever happens in the first forty minutes doesn’t matter, because GREAT TEAMS COME THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH. It feels like the argument that all that counts for a pitcher is that he “got the W,” even if he allowed nine runs in five innings. Honestly, I think great teams play great basketball through almost all of the game, and the Celtics have been dramatically not-great for long stretches in each of the last two. They almost both to a Knicks teams that A) is defensively all over the place, B) has pretty much shot terribly, and C) was missing two of its three best players tonight.
That’s why this game recap is just going to shift around between bullets that are positive, negative, and neither. That’s how the thought process for this game goes, right? Every positive brings up a negative and vice versa, for me anyway. Of course, the important thing is that all of these back-and-forths end with a positive, which is that the game is over and the Celtics won. They did something twice that the Lakers haven’t done once.
“Rajon Rondo, rim reunite.” That’s a headline I wrote for an imaginary newspaper that uses alliteration for every headline. Rondo was 13-23 from the floor, but that’s somehow even more impressive when you remember he was as terrible as he’s ever been from outside. He went 1-6 anywhere but at the basket, but he just obliterated defenders on his drives. Dudes were forced to just pivot as Rondo blew by them, because the time it took him to get from one side of them to the other was too fast for them to take a step towards the basket. Yes, it’s the Knicks, but this is as big a positive sign as you’ll get from this game. When Rondo’s that motivated, he can take enn-ee-wonn.
The mainstream postgame coverage was in large part about how this game proves again how Doc is a brilliant play-caller out of timeouts with the game on the line. That’s probably true, fine, cool, yes, great. But because of what happened tonight? Because Garnett just backing down Jared Jeffries to shoot a difficult turnaround floater on a night he was 5-15? That’s a brilliant play? Is it called a play if you can draw it up on the blackboard with one straight arrow? KG had just been scored on by the league’s worst offensive player when he should have just put him on the line, so I’m pretty sure he physically put his teeth around Doc’s neck and demanded that he get the ball alone.
Continuing in this vein: I get that they worked a bunch of times in a row, but are we really back to Pierce isos? Where is the ball movement in this series? Why can’t anyone get Ray Allen free anymore? At one point in the game Big Baby set a pick on Bill Walker that basically put him in the hospital. MORE OF THAT. I also think that, for whatever reason, the decision-making on this team isn’t as snappy as it used to be. The new players are contributing to that, for sure, but guys are just making their passes a split-second too late, and that’s causing turnovers but more commonly drops and aborted opportunities.
I’m not sure how they can gameplan for this, but the Celtics have to do something to stop Carmelo from feeling whatever stuff he felt tonight. He looked like nothing short of the league’s best player. It’s almost a referendum on how he plays the rest of the time: if he can do that, why doesn’t he always do that? In any case, I have a feeling the biggest step toward the Celtics solving the Carmelo problem would be Amare returning.
The rebounding in this game was an unrelenting nightmare and, if Shaq is out or in the form he exhibited for about a third of his games this season, there’s really no end in sight even once (if, for purposes of jinx prevention) the C’s get to the next round.
I can’t tell you how beautiful this play is. Every facet of Garnett’s movements is perfectly composed with the ball and the geometry of the court. Look at his hands once Jeffries gets the ball: there’s basically no way Jeffries is getting a pass through those hands. Then, watch how when Garnett falls he doesn’t move forward on the ground at all. That’s because he’s totally aware of the inbounds line and basically digs his elbow two inches into the parquet to stop his momentum. Then there’s the timeout. A lesser player would wait for the foul, or even the jump ball. But a timeout gets them the inbounds so they can knock off a few seconds and get it to the shooter of their choice. That’s Reggie Miller stealing the inbounds pass and stepping back over the arc. That’s presence of mind.
Jeff Green. Okay, say when: Not hitting wide open jumpers…not finishing under the basket…almost fouling out in twelve minutes…committing pointless fouls at the end of the quarter instead of letting the clock run out…not rebounding even though he was de facto PF for minutes on end…having a larger but inadvertant effect on the team’s rebounding and spacing in general by being traded for Kendrick Perkins…When? Gotcha.
Glen Davis is trying very hard. He’s minimized his offensive usage, having received threats of personal injury from many individuals who comment on this blog, and he’s trying to make up for it by working his giant butt off on defense and on the boards. That’s great, but the visual effect is not always pleasant. He sometimes looks like he’s focusing so hard on his motor that he’s actually losing track of what he’s supposed to be doing. I’d rather see Jermaine out there in crunch time. Glen’s defense was okay today, but someday soon he’ll be matched up with a capable offensive player in the frontcourt.
The game is over and the Celtics won. See you in the concrete jungles where dreams are made.