It’s been 30 hours, so I think we’re ready to reminisce about how great that Game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals was. To evaluate the up-and-down moments of the game, I invented these things called “Top Three” and “Bottom Three” lists where you rank things by putting numbers in front of them. It’s sort of complicated but you’ll catch up.
1. Rondo’s backcourt violation. This was in the midst of a 10-0 Heat run when Rondo, I guess, decided that his team needed to hit absolute rock bottom in order to start on the road to recovery like in Intervention. Master interventionist Jeff Van Vonderen would call that backcourt violation a cry for help.
It’s a little weird that Rondo, maybe more famous for his “court awareness” than anybody on Earth, has a recent tendency to not actually pay attention to the lines that the court has drawn all over it. Twice in the last two weeks he’s set up for threes with one foot halfway across the line, and now last night he nonchalantly tosses the ball back to Ray after he’s already a healthy two meters across halfcourt. For a while this moment was in danger of being the most memorable thing about this game, until Good Job Good Effort Kid cut its head off and burned the stump.
2. Pietrus biting on Wade’s pump fake with 6:40 to go. In a series of falling for every pump fake he sees, this one was somehow the worst, in the worst situation, off the worst fake. All Wade did was gently wave the ball upward and Pietrus was already nine feet in the air, making sure to jump forward too so he could completely mush Wade on the way down.
This moment sucked because it seemed to prove that all the terrible things that were hamstringing the Celtics in this series would just keep happening unabated. Pierce would keep missing shots (I think he’d just airballed a three right before this), Bass would keep out-mediocring everyone, and if Wade or James said jump, Pietrus wouldn’t ask how high because he’d be too busy landing on them. Although I did really like Pina’s bit in the recap last night about Pietrus biting on pump fakes he sees on TV. Just leaping off his couch and crashing into his flatscreen, exploding it.
3. Wade’s block on Bass. This was darkest night. Is there a more miserable feeling than being forced to admire someone you despise? Because that block was A++++++ GREAT SELLER WOULD BUY AGAIN. Yeah, he’s taking advantage of Bass’s doll hands, but…lord. That block should be made into a diamond sculpture. Really hated how good it was.
That combination of pure athletic transcendence and the bloodlust it would have brought out of the crowd at that moment, with the Heat ahead by six with six minutes to go, should have absolutely ended the game. Just shut it down. There should be no recovery from that. The curtains were basically falling as Wade poked the ball away, and NBA arenas don’t even have curtains. But then something utterly butternuts happened.
3. Rondo’s fingertip pass. Seamless time continuity from Bottom Three to Top Three! Something to strive for in the list business.
I’d like to think that, in the Pentium 11 processor that is Rondo’s basketball mind, he redirected that ball to Pietrus just to get revenge for that Shane Battier three that robbed Avery Bradley’s equally weapons-grade block on Wade in the regular season of its relevance. So Bradley’s block is going to be lost to history because it led to more points than Wade’s shot would have given up? Fine. Now nobody gets remembered. Kudos bars to Jeff Van Gundy for recognizing the importance of what Rondo did in real time. Before the replay it kind of just looked like the ball doinked off LeBron’s shoulder right to where Pietrus happened to be chilling.
2. Pierce’s three. By my metrics, Pierce loses 1000 respect points for taking a contested three with less than a minute left and a one-point lead, and then earns back 950 for making it. So that’s a net loss of 50 respect points, roughly equivalent to what you’d get for watching the Kiss Cam during a timeout. As much as I now realize that I wouldn’t have preferred any other eventuality to that shot over that defender in that specific moment…I still can’t condone the decision making. Before you argue that he “knows” he’s going to hit that shot when he goes up: please listen to yourself. Also completely hilarious how Pierce brings up that the “shot clock was running out” when he put it up, given that he had just DRIBBLED OUT SIX SECONDS 23 feet from the basket and there were still five left.
But, again, while it doesn’t bode well for future Pierce decisions, it was still the greatest thing that anyone could do ever, except for hitting that exact shot and getting the foul call Pierce clearly earned when LeBron slapped his elbow. I read somewhere today (I forget where) the following description of the shot: “That wasn’t a dagger. That was Excalibur.” Enjoyable.
1. The merciful end. Having any moment other than the end in a “Top Three” is a little misleading, because every moment prior to the end was just different kinds of torture. I spent the whole second half in kind of a silent, closed-mouth scream. Some people bite their nails when they get nervous, some grind their teeth, some smoke. I eat Otter Pops. They’re like these plastic-tube popsicles that come in boxes of 10,000 for two dollars. In New England they’re called Fla-Vor-Ice. Anyway, from the second quarter of Game 5 to the end, I consumed roughly 59 Otter Pops. I also bite my nails.
The end, the moment when Keyon Dooling threw that ball up like he was setting it free, finally released all that gut-bunching tension. It’s an easy number one, because the game was only fun after it was over. The minutes after the buzzer also provided us with Good Job Good Effort Kid, whose story is probably already being turned into a network pilot, and KG’s postgame interview where he revealed that he’s still weirdly furious at that Hawks owner the rest of us had already forgotten about. But everything before that was largely unpleasant. All the free throws in the final minute, for example, were completely unwatchable. I’m going to be peeing rainbows for days because of that game.