I’m about to write a sentence that nobody would have believed a month ago.
“The Boston Celtics are one win away from another NBA Championship.”
They would have said, ‘Nice fiction writing. The Fantasy section is two aisles over.’
As amazing as the Celtics run to the 2008 NBA title as, and it was amazing, it won’t really compare to getting title 18 this season, if they get that next win. Incredibly, they now have 2 chances in L.A. to do just that. They head to L.A. up 3-2.
As I wrote before the game on Celticsblog.com, they should have too many weapons for any defense. They are finally proving that they do.
Paul Pierce led a solid team effort to a Celtic 92-86 win over the Lakers. They are the first team to win 2 games in a row. He scored 27 points and got the Celtics going with 8 first quarter points, 15 at the half, and 26 at the end of three periods on 12 of 18 shooting.
The Celtics rode Pierce as he had it going all game. He was in rhythm and created space with jab steps, feints and step backs all night. He hit 2 threes, had a steal and 2 blocks. Ron Artest was the victim most of the time and he couldn’t do anything about it. At one point Kobe asked to guard Pierce, but Phil Jackson didn’t let him.
It was the same with Pierce. He wanted to guard Kobe during Bryant’s 3rd quarter hot streak. Doc Rivers also declined the request. It wasn’t that Ray Allen wasn’t playing good defense. He was playing very solid defense. Kobe was just making shots no one else could.
It was shades of Pierce’s shoot out with Lebron James in their game 7 two years ago. This time Kobe Bryant had 38 points, including 19 straight to Paul’s 11 in the 3rd period. During Kobe’s one man barrage, the Celtics not only weathered it, they extended the lead to 11, before the Lakers climbed back at the end of the period.
Let me repeat, Kobe Bryant scored 19 straight points for the Lakers in the 3rd period. He was the only one who scored for them until the very end. It was a deadly and magnificent scoring exhibition by the Laker shooting guard. It was also neutralized by some nifty scoring by the Celtics as well.
2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad; It is a Victory
The Celtics finally got strong games from more than one of the Big Three. Kevin Garnett was masterful at both ends of the floor, adding 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists, 2 blocked shots and 3 turnovers. Those are a lot of stat lines being filled in for the big guy. His defense was excellent on Pau Gasol and the Lakers.
Rajon Rondo played an incredible game at both ends of the floor. He finished with 18 points on 9 of 12 shooting, with 8 assists, 5 rebounds, a huge steal from Kobe and a block. He had a huge steal right near the end and shortly after made an incredible lay-up off a Paul Pierce save of an in bounds pass with 45 seconds left to give the Celtics.
Rondo also had a big tip-in off a missed shot in the 4th quarter, and was fouled by Lamar Odom who knocked Rondo to the ground, as was clear on re-plays. It wasn’t called.
As big as Rajon played, Rondo did play a schizophrenic game by making a number of very bad passes. It was his worst passing game in the series by far. It did hurt the Cs and kept them from extending the lead a number of times. Luckily, he was also the one making incredibly big plays for the Celtics. Antoine Walker-ish, but with much more important big plays.
Normally, I put the team stat lines at the end of recaps. But they do a fine job of telling the story of this game, so here they are:
1) The Celtics shot an incredible .563 to the Lakers .397.
2) The Cs slightly outrebounded the Lakers 35-34
3) The Celtics had 21 assists to the Lakers 12.
4) The Lakers shot 26 foul shots to the Celtics 13.
5) Celtics had 16 turnovers; Lakers = 13
6) Celtics blocked 7 shots; Lakers blocked 1
7) Cs won the points in the paint: 46-32
8) Points off TOs: Lakers 18, Celtics 15
9) Fastbreak Points: Celtics 14, Lakers 2
The biggest difference was that the Celtics had 4 guys solidly in double figures. The Lakers had Kobe’s 38 points. Next highest was Pau Gasol with 12 points and no one else made double digits.
Turnovers Played a Big Part
While the Celtics almost gave their lead away in the first half with 10 aggressive but mostly careless turnovers, the Lakers had only 5 but added 8 more in the second half. The Celtics constantly stole the ball on entry passes to the middle and turn them into fast breaks.
There were a number of them already mentioned.
6’ 4” Tony Allen had the block of the night on a 7’ 0” Pau Gasol drive to the rim, saving a sure 2 points. Fantastic, athletic play and a momentum killer.
Rasheed Wallace hit a huge three pointer at the start of the 4th period when the second unit was in but struggling to score. It extended the Celtic lead to 76-67 with 10 minutes left. It also loosened up the second unit and bought time.
Rajon Rondo had a number of highly difficult lay-ups again, as he cut and zig-zagged through the forest of Laker big men to somehow find the rim on a number of occasions.
Nate Robinson made two big shots but his biggest play was to find Ray Allen open underneath the rim and the Laker defense for an easy two points.
True to Form
Even as the Celtics buckled down to get this crucial win, they continued to have a few issues with each other. It will all come out in the off season, but it has become a slowly unfolding story that the Celtics have had internal squabbles this season.
A hot shooting Paul Pierce was clearly perturbed with Rajon Rondo ignoring him when he was open and was supposed to get the ball as the first half neared the end. Instead, Rondo passed the ball to Ray Allen who ended up being covered and passed the ball back. Rajon then looked for Pierce after Paul had his back turned and was heading off the court before the buzzer sounded.
Pierce denied it as he was being interviewed coming off the floor at half time by Doris Burke. Doc Rivers acknowledged it but down played in the post game press conference, saying ‘that’s our team this season.’ (paraphrase)
The Celtic bench extended the lead in the first half, but didn’t do quite as well in the second half, observed Doc.
Kendrick Perkins played pretty well, grabbing 7 rebounds, 4 offensive and played solid defense in the middle. He finished with 4 points on 2-2 shooting.
The Celtics simply had too many weapons. According to Rick Kamla of the NBA Channel, this is the first time ever in the playoffs that Rondo, Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen all shot 50% or better in the same game.
Battle of the History Statistics
The Celtics are undefeated when they have a 3-2 lead in the Finals. So take that with your Phil Jackson 70 something and zero statistic when his team wins the first game. Something has got to give.
Creative Writing or Creative Playing?
With a story line that seemed straight out of a creative writing assignment from high school, the Celtics have come alive in the post season. They have taken down the league’s best two teams in the regular season, and now are on the verge of re-writing “How to Win an NBA Championship.”
It might be called ‘How to Win the NBA Title Without Really Trying (In the Regular Season)’
‘We Were Really Dragged, But Nothing Gets Us Down – Once the Playoffs Begin.’
All they have to do is burst the national media’s bubble and their love affair with Kobe Bryant and his assumed right to a 5th NBA title.
I couldn’t think of a better ending to a crazy season.
Most called it a fantasy. Others will call it a mystery. I’m just hoping it becomes history – NBA history… soon.