That was an exciting game with a couple amazing performances, but make no mistake, the team as a whole was bad. I’m going to borrow from a 1966 Clint Eastwood movie, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, with something I am going to call, “The Great, The Good, The Bad, and The So Terrible I Considered Cutting My Eyes Out and Cryogenically Freezing Them Until This Iteration of The Celtics Is Over With So I Never Have to See this Type of Play Again”. So it’s not that catchy of a title but I think it perfectly captures last night’s Game 2.
Rajon Rondo: 14 points in the first quarter and 30 overall. Constantly out ahead of the pack or forcing the issue against some indifferent defenders. Some great switches onto Carmelo in the second half. I think my favorite part of the night though was a series in the fourth quarter with the Celtics down 2 and 7 and a half minutes left. At this point the team had scored just 2 points in the quarter and the Knicks had climbed back from an 11 point deficit late in the third. So what does Rondo, a guy who usually vanishes in the fourth because he fears getting fouled and having to make free throws, do? Driving layup, driving layup, post-up layup that would give Kevin McHale a chubby. Just an incredible night from the undisputed best player on the team. As long as he stays focused, this team has a shot to win every night.
Carmelo Anthony: A lot of people have been hard on Melo this season. He handled his situation in Denver with the finesse of an old man trying to send soup back at a deli and then when the Knicks gutted their depth to get him on the roster they actually started to play worse while his old team played better. He also came under the ire of the statistical community, who said his ball hog nature and lack of defense make him something less than an elite player. But one thing I don’t think anybody questioned was his ability to score. The Sports Guy loves to compare Melo to Bernard King, especially with his move to New York, and this game is exactly what he means when he says this. Melo is probably the greatest scorer in basketball right now (with apologies to Rose, Durant and Kobe). He’s a cross between a young Paul Pierce and an old Michael Jordan. There were 3 shots last night that you just don’t see other people make. The first was a play where he was fouled shooting a 20 foot jumper by either Jeff Green or Big Baby (more on them later) and Tim Duncaned the ball home off the glass. The second was off a tipped offensive rebound (more on this later as well) that he gathered under the hoop, then exploded into Jermaine O’Neal for the And 1. The last one was what looked like a desperation 3 with the shot clock winding down in the fourth with Pierce’s hand in his face that swished through effortlessly. And oh ya, he also had 17 rebounds and 6 assists to go with his 42 points. He took a team without 2 of its 3 best players and really no other above average players and almost single handedly beat a team that is supposed to be a championship contender. If he pulled it off this goes down as one of the greatest playoff performances ever. Still might be.
The Big 3: KG had another well rounded game and had the game winning offensive and defensive plays. Pierce had a strong second half scoring the ball, successfully doing his hero thing in the third to extend the Celts to a double digit lead. Ray hit three huge 3-pointers in the third and played solid all around. With Rondo putting on the Bat Man cape for the night, the Big 3 did just enough to support his efforts. I would feel a little more comfortable with our chances to win this year if we could get 2 of these four playing excellent games on any given night. The biggest drawback from this group last night was the lack of big rebounds like they had in game one.
The Knicks bench: Already down Chauncey Billups, the Knicks lost Amare Stoudemire in the second quarter leaving Melo and a cast of scrubs. Well for one night, that cast of scrubs did all they could to stay out of Melo’s way and provide just enough support to almost steal one. Of note was Jared Jeffries, a 240 pound small forward masquerading as a center on this team. While KG absolutely destroyed him on both ends in the last 20 seconds, Jeffries was finding empty spots when the Celtics were double teaming Melo, pulling down some clutch rebounds and blocking a couple shots. This may have actually been a good strategy by the Knicks. Play a bunch of shitty guys so the Celtics think they are playing against Sacramento in February and they won’t try hard. Very sneaky Mike D’Antoni.
Jermaine O’Neal and Delonte West: Two guys that are going to be key role players in the push for 18, had not so good nights. After a throwback performance in Game 1, Jermaine seemed a step slow on his rotations and timid on the boards (although he ended up with a plus 10). Delonte was just a total non-entity last night. When he comes into the game with Rondo at the point he really looks like he doesn’t know what to do. I don’t think either really contributed to how poorly the team played on the night, but I would like to see a lot more out of these guys.
The So Terrible I Considered Cutting My Eyes Out and Cryogenically Freezing Them Until This Iteration of The Celtics Is Over With So I Never Have to See this Type of Play Again
The Rebounding: Look, when you run out a power forward at center and a small forward out at power forward for large chunks of a game, you aren’t going to be a good rebounding team. I get that. I also understand that Doc prefers to have the guys get back on defense rather than trying to get offensive rebounds. But it legitimately seems like they do not know how to rebound. When a shot goes up, you find your man, stick your ass into his gut (no homo) push him backwards, and explode towards the ball. When a shot goes up against the Celtics, they slowly turn their bodies to follow the flight of the shot, move underneath the hoop, bunch together, either jump right as the ball hits the rim (way too early) or not at all, and then turn around because they have to now return to defense because they’ve given up another offensive rebound. There is no better team in the league than the Celtics at forcing bad shots and causing teams to shoot for a low percentage. Last night the Knicks shot 35% from the field and lost by 3! This is absolutely mind blowing. I legitimately think we could send my freshman basketball team out there and do a better job rebounding than the Celtics and our starting center was 5’10’’.
Jeff Green: What would ya say…ya do here? Please tell me because I would like to know. We know you can’t rebound because nobody on this team can rebound except our 6’1’’ point guard. Supposedly you are athletic but you got blocked 2 or 3 times around the hoop last night. Tommy Heinsohn repeated several times last night that you are a “scorer” but you shot 2-8 from the field and missed layups. 5 fouls in 12 minutes. Worst yet, we traded away the only guy on our team who loved to rebound for you. I am so against Jeff Green right now I would rather see Von Wafer get some run. God help us all if Danny signs this guy to a long term deal to try to salvage that getting worse by the day trade.
Glen Davis: Speaking of guys who could push me towards religion if he is signed long term, Big Baby was atrocious last night. It may not have looked that way as he wasn’t doing typical Bonehead Big Baby stuff like shooting 20 foot jumpers, but I promise you he was terrible. The rebounding scenario I described above starred Big Baby every single time. His rotations were terrible. His lack of shooting long jumpers has actually turned him into a completely useless offensive player because now he just catches the ball 20 feet from the basket and holds it and looks around like he has no clue what to do. And his “defense” on Jared Jeffries for what could have been the game winning shot was the exact opposite of what a person who has played basketball his whole life would do. He was behind Jeffries! I know he was sort of trying to hedge on Toney Douglas coming behind, but he was behind him! He left a terrible offensive player a clear path to the basket and then barely tried to chase him down! Not only that, but this is supposed to be our 6th man. The first reserve of the bench, basically the captain of the bench. In the two extended stretches that the Celtics had mostly bench players in tonight, they gave up a lead of 10 points in the first and 11 points at the end of the third. You want to be our 6th man Glen, that is on you.
All that said, a win is a win. We are fortunate to be up 2-0 to a clearly inferior team. Maybe the team is trying to keep some things close to the vest before we have to play Miami. Whatever it is, they better figure out how to rebound and the bench better remember how to play basketball before the next round. Not a fun game, but I will take the win.