Posted by: Nate | June 13, 2008

Just Call It A Comeback!

What a game. I was up, then down, then up and pacing and fist pumping, then swearing and banging the wall, then ecstatic all in the span of a couple of hours. After that roller coaster ride I wasn’t sure if I should celebrate or drink a glass of water and lie down for my health. I can’t wait to watch that on ESPN Classic in a few years.
I’d also like to point out that I really like the “Wired” feature ABC has running for the Finals, it really adds a cool element to the games. Not only do I get to hear the pre-game and halftime speeches from each coach, but other lovely snippets throughout the game that have the potential to be expletive laden. Great feature.

Speaking of the pre-game speeches, I wasn’t exactly jacked up by Doc Rivers address to the team before game 4, where he told them 63 different ways that they ought to be focused on winning the game. I also really disliked his decision not to foul at the end of game 3 and force the Lakers to make some free throws to really ice the game. It isn’t like they were doing all that well with the avalanche of opportunities they were getting all game. Why throw in the towel there? I didn’t get it. Follow that up with the bizarre speech and his T in the opening minutes of the ensuing first half train-wreck and I was looking for hit man.

I have to give credit where it is due though, and I think Doc has done a good job in this series as a whole, especially going small last night which spread the floor and sparked the run and harping about defense over offense (which won us the game). So, good job Doc and keep it up. I was questioning your job as recently as the East Finals, and you’ve finally shown flashes of competence and are making me and many others look foolish for our predictions of a lopsided coaching battle against you this series. Don’t let us down. You’ve already talked me off the ledge.

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have been absolutely awesome this series, especially Allen who had turned in 4 great games in a row, and Pierce who continues to get to the line, make clutch shots and play outstanding D. Take out his stinker in game 3 and he is turning in one of the great performances overall in recent finals history.

After the first quarter, when the Lakers were making the extra pass, being aggressive to the hoop and helping off of Rondo to pressure KG, Pierce and Ray, I didn’t feel very good about this game. The Lakers looked like the team everyone thought they were when they picked them to win the series and they were making all the adjustments I thought they needed to in order to get back into it. Couple that with horrid play from our point guards early (I still don’t know why Cassell is getting into these games) and shaky performances from Pierce and KG on the offensive end again and we’re down 18 at the half and showing few signs of life.

Now, courtesty of “Wired” we got to hear Doc’s halftime speech to the guys that spurred the great comeback. Roughly: “Guys, we have to make plays defensively. Do that and the scoring will come.” Either they edited out some key inspirational part to that (unlikely) or Pierce made some comments in the huddle about sucking it up, playing hard D and recounting tales of the ’02 comeback against the Nets and the time he got stabbed 11 times and was playing ball again soon after (very likely). Whatever really happened, the ensuing half was THE BEST defensive basketball I have seen played in the NBA for a half ever. Considering the Lakers scored 58 points in the first half, and only finished with 91 is a remarkable turnaround. The Celtics were swarming around the court on the defensive end like a next of angry hornets, giving up very few good looks to anyone the rest of the game. That right there should be shown in basketball camps around the country as the crowning achievement of how defense wins games (and championships).

Huge contributions from James Posey and Eddie House off the bench, with House finally getting some minutes over the shooting machine Cassell and the hobbled Rondo. Can’t say enough about the big shots these guys hit down the stretch, the defense they played and the way that having a shooter that needs defending (House) on the floor opened things up inside for KG and Pierce to get to the rim. Kudos, Doc, on going with the smaller lineup and making the right adjustments. Maybe you just needed 15-20 playoff games in the same season to get the hang of it, who knows.

Series Notes So Far:

1. The Celtics have been successful when they establish an inside presence of some sort early. It can be KG, Perk, Powe or PJ but they need to take advantage of the foul-prone Odom and defensively soft Gasol. We saw what Odom can do when he is on the floor in the early going last night, so taking it to him early is critical.

2. Which leads into number two, as establishing the inside early allows Rondo and Pierce to slash through the lane and get to the hoop or kick out and give the shooters some open looks. Floor spacing is critical for this Celtics offense in the half court set and it all starts with making them respect you inside.

3. Cassell should not be playing in these games. When he is in, the offense stagnates as he wastes half the shot clock dribbling around before shooting a fadeaway 15 footer. You know a guy shouldn’t be playing when even Celtics fans are upset when he hits shots, since it just encourages him to shoot more. Give me Eddie House the rest of the way.

4. A few interesting numbers through 4 games:

Rebounding: Total: Boston +14
Offensive Rebounds: Boston +3
The Celtics have had an edge on the boards, giving them more second shot opportunities and more importantly, limiting the number of looks the Lakers get on offense.

Shooting Percentages: With the exception of the Game 3 loss, the Celtics have shot better from the floor, from 3PT range and from the line than the Lakers have. The other key component to winning playoff basketball next to defense is making your free throws. It also doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that more often than not, making more shots than your opponent will win you the game.

Hustle Plays/Heart: This is just an outside observation from a biased source, but outside of Trevor Ariza, Sasha Vujacic and Kobe Bryant does anyone on the Lakers team even seem to care about this series? I don’t see any of them on the floor, diving for loose balls, taking the hard foul, stepping up to take charges – nothing. Granted, not every player on the Celtics is doing all of these things either, but you are seeing a lot more hustle, diving and stepping up from Boston so far. Makes you wonder the toll a season of getting reamed out publicly by Kobe for mistakes has taken on some of these guys.

5. Ray Allen. The guy has come to play and has turned in four very steady performances and I was raising doubts about his ankles and ability to be consistent. He has shown up in the Finals as advertised, draining 3’s, nailing free throws and making some great passes. Hell, he’s even been pulling down a healthy amount of rebounds each game too. It’s everything we hoped for when we traded for him and the horrible visions of his dreadful first 2+ playoff series in a Boston uniform are long gone.

6. Two days from now could be a very sweet day here in Boston and work productivity on Monday could be very, very diminished across New England. I’m certainly ready.

Bonus Trivia: Other than Bill Russell, what NBA player has won more than 3 consecutive NBA titles? With which team/teams did he do this with?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: