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Game 3 Recap: Pierce’s performance…and other thoughts

 

These “vintage Paul Pierce” games are the best.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the way the Celtics play team basketball. Nothing makes me happier than watching Boston’s 5-man unit work together to overcome a 45-point performance by LeBron, Kobe or Dwight in the playoffs.

But sometimes, it’s fun to watch your guy dominate under the bright lights, and that’s exactly what Pierce did last night.

Pierce finished the game with 38 points in only 33 minutes. He shot 14-19 from the field (74%). He was 6-8 from 3-point range, and he didn’t miss a free throw. It was essentially a perfect offensive performance.

We didn’t see Pierce attack the rim as often as we usually do, but that’s because he didn’t need to. He had that little 8-foot jumper working for him all night. Pierce got wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. He hit 3’s in transition, and in the half-court set. Carmelo couldn’t hang with him, so Mike D’Antoni just tried the next guy (and then the next guy). Nothing worked.

But Pierce didn’t do it alone. In fact, the Knicks had their hands full with another Celtics’ veteran, as Ray Allen shot 8-11 from 3-point territory and finished with 32 points. If there’s one thing we know about Pierce, it’s that he doesn’t shy away from the big stage. Or competition. So you knew he wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to get in a shootout with his teammate in Madison Square Garden.

“After a while, I started feeding off of Ray,” said Pierce. “It was like he was making every shot and it was putting pressure on me to make shots. I couldn’t let him down, so it was fun to be a part of, just to kind of watch him take those shots, because I was looking at him saying how on fire he was. But then everyone was saying I’m on fire, so it was good to be a part of that and just have teammates that can really put on a show like that.”

Most likely, Pierce won’t replicate this performance in Game 4. If he goes for an efficient 18 points and the Celtics sweep the series 4-0, we’ll all be happy. But last night was a treat, and I’m hoping we get to see a few more this playoff season.

STARTERS:

While this game was certainly one of the best games of the season for the Celtics, it was definitely THE best game for this starting five. There’s nothing more you could ask for from your starters. Pierce and Allen were exceptional, KG and JO did what they needed to do, and you could still make the case that Rondo was the best player of the floor tonight.

-Rajon Rondo: I think it’s safe to say that “Playoff Rondo” is back. After the 30-point outburst in Game 2, Rondo followed that up with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 20 assists.  And he’s gotten back in the habit of pushing the ball up the floor as quickly as possible. Whenever the Celtics were in transition, Rondo would get right to the top of the 3-point line, and with his head on a swivel, assess the situation and make the right play. That’s when he’s at his best, and we saw that on display all night against the Knicks yesterday.

-Jermaine O’Neal: I haven’t been able to watch any of the Oklahoma City Thunder games so far, so I can’t comment exactly on how Kendrick Perkins is playing right now. But I’m willing to bet that Perk cannot be playing all that much better than JO, because O’Neal has been terrific. Listen, I’d never thought I’d say this, but JO is doing all the little things that the Celtics relied on Perkins for. He’s playing very good defense. He’s blocking shots. And more importantly, he’s simply been a presence. Is there anyone else besides me that thinks JO is the best fit for this team, even if Shaq is healthy?

BENCH:

Well, you can’t win ‘em all, right? But at least we’re getting to the point where the starters can play 44 minutes a game and Doc won’t have to rely on his bench so much, because last night was not pretty. Brendan posted the +/- numbers in the previous post, and it’s a little concerning. It must be frustrating for the starters when they build up a nice 1st quarter lead, but as soon as they leave the game they know it’s going to evaporate.

To give Doc some credit, though, he’s mixing up his 5-man units as he tries to figure out something that will work. Yesterday we saw Jeff Green and Big Baby Davis playing mostly together, and Delonte West out there with Rondo. In Game 4 I bet we see a slight variation.

It’s hard to put your finger on the problem because the talent is there. Although they haven’t played like it, Green, Davis and West is a bench that you SHOULD feel comfortable with. They just all look a little lost right now.

REBOUNDING:

A great sign for Celtics fans. The C’s made a point to improve in this area. They talked about it. They worked on it in practice. And then they went out and got the job done. In the playoffs, it’s all about making minor adjustments from game-to-game, and hopefully this is a trend in the right direction.

The Celtics out-rebounded New York 43-33 and took down 13 offensive rebounds. You have to credit Garnett, who clearly made it a point of emphasis and backed it up with a game-high 12 boards.

“One of the things we worked on in practice was rebounding better off the help,” said Garnett. “We are a help defensive team, but our second effort has to be better and it was tonight. We got bodies on bodies and we were able to get rebounds.”

And while Garnett also added 4 rebounds on the offensive glass, we all know that Rondo was the real key for the Celtics here. The point guard had 6 offensive boards, some leading to very easy put-backs. He created havoc for the Knicks throughout the entire game, something we really didn’t see from Rondo during the latter part of the regular season. But I guess that’s why we call him Playoff Rondo this time of year.

  • Robert

    Rondo!!!!!!

  • jay cilas

    Truly a tremendous performance. But the Lakers put on a dominating show as well and if I may look that far, Andrew Bynum is a man possessed.

    • Batman

      I'm sorry guys, I'm the biggest Celtics Homer in the world but if Andrew Bynum is playing his best then I only see a 10% chance of us winning. His play raises his team so far.

  • http://twitter.com/M_DeVelaine @M_DeVelaine

    I think the most surprising thing about Rondo's game last night was that he had his triple-double by the end of the 3rd quarter. And he still played in the 4th. I have a feeling he's going to go off for at least two more before their run is over this season, unless he pulls the 2009 Playoff Rondo out against the Bulls. That'll be fun to watch.

  • Batman

    It's ridiculous how talented the bench is and how little they are giving us
    Delonte is the 2nd best backup PG in the league
    Glen Davis is a solid player
    Jeff Green is a pretty good player too
    Delonte being the best player on the bench has to bring them together

    • http://gymratrants.blogspot.com Tom W

      Krstic is pretty good too. He just hasn't been playing very well, like the rest of the bench. Definitely a good back up center, if Shaq can't come back for a while.

      • Batman

        Oops forgot about Kristic
        Just shows how his play has made him invisible

  • http://gymratrants.blogspot.com Tom W

    The funny thing is…it seemed all night like Pierce and Allen had to compete (in a friendly, supportive way, obviously) against each other to stay motivated, cause the Knicks sure weren't putting up a fight.

  • kricky

    This was just an awesome effort by the Starters:

    Paul got the team off to a great start and had big buckets to put an end to NYs mini runs in the 2nd and 3rd Qs.
    Ray's shooting opened up the rout.
    Rondo was masterful in every facet of the game and just owned the tempo.
    KG was a beast on the boards, making sure there would be no repeat of game 2.
    JO played some inspired D and gave us that toughness and intimidation inside with some big blocks.

    Time for the Bench to take note and step up. I think it has to start with Delonte and expect a big game from him on Sunday.

  • ttt

    did anyone else hear someone yell "F**K" at the rebound just before 2:24 in the 3rd?

    • Steve B

      Thought that was Melo when he got fouled, missed the shot and grabbed the ball. Seemed clear as day.

      • Jmt

        Yup. And 2 seconds later yelled out "SHIT!" Neither expletive was censored; it was kinda funny.

        • http://gymratrants.blogspot.com Tom W

          Haha, it was definitely Melo. I started laughing really hard but nobody watching with me heard it, which bummed me out.

        • misel

          Haha heard that too. My friend also texted me that when landry fields was fouled by rondo (almost flagrant foul), rondo tried to high five fields when he was shooting free throws. I didn’t see it but I thought it was funny.

  • greenman

    I think the bench will come together as the 2nd season progresses. I think the real key as that the guys didn't have a ton of experience together since the trade. Scheduling called for limited practice, then we had injuries to key guys. I'm curious to know how many actuall practice days BBD, West, Green, and Kristic actually had together before the playoffs started. My guess is under 10, maybe less.

    The playoff format and the rest is going to be huge for this team. Practice together will be key and inevitably they will start to play better. Like Mike said, the talent is there. THe deeper we go into the playoffs the better this second unit gets. Offensive and defensive chemistry to me stands out right now as the problem, they are at times late on rotations and confused when on defense and lack the chemistry on offense as well. THey will get better though. IF you look at the possible upcoming matchups, it is plausible to say that they are the most talented bench in the Eastern Conference, they just have to put it all together. I hope and think they will and we will be Shooting for #18 baby!

  • Steve B

    I think Doc needs to change up the bench rotation a bit. Maybe keep 2 or 3 starters on the court and stagger the substitution pattern. Whoever plays center usually goes out about 6 minutes in. Maybe give one other starter a rest at that time and then again before half time. Closing this series out tomorrow would make rest a non issue for a little while at least. It seems any plays that are run for Green seem to work out well so maybe they need to draw up a few more sets for him. Wafer should also be getting a few minutes out there since he usually hits the court at full speed whether he's scoring or not.

    • Mike

      Yep I agree the bench needs more than one starter out there with them.
      And how can people say stuff about Krstic play when he's only getting 4 min a night? (and still gets as many rebounds as davis…)

  • WTF

    Ha, Rose just tweaked his ankle. Down the road it could be huge for ECF and finals.

  • J Raymes

    Ridiculous game – Ray, Rondo and Pierce were en fuego like no other

    I agree that this game was pretty much an abberation offensively- Ray and Pierce were making tons and tons of jumpshots (granted they were literally all wide open), but the box score tells a better story: 24 points in the paint- we'll need better than that to advance, but very encouraging all the same

  • http://gymratrants.blogspot.com Tom W

    I have a friend who is a huge OKC fan, he says we need to give Jeff Green a chance. He says he was almost as bummed about losing Green as we were about losing Perk.

    I dunno if I agree with him, just thought I'd pass it along. Maybe we should give Green a chance to have an impact in the playoffs. I wouldn't write it off.

  • johnschaffer

    the subs need to play as one ,it seems they all try and be a hero , you can see the starters play totally together ,where it seemd the second team, is looking to be heroes ,and dont play together

  • ianthepd

    HAH!

    J.O. has been playing as well as Perk my ASS! Your damn right you didn't watch the games, Perk is huge down there. Hes an enforcer, had a game changing play (that was a missed call, but hey) and hes playing probably the 3rd best center in the league, Nene, on a team that is much much better than the Knicks.

    Perk is having an amazing serious, don't try and assume. And newsflash, Ronny Turiaf is a f'ing joke. We'll see what happens when Jermaine has to guard someone with skill.

    • diehardceltic

      wow so much for believing in your team! Take a chill pill and get over Perk, he is not coming back!

  • James

    Playoff Rondo is truly a wonder to behold.

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