Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Instant Analysis: Why the Celtics Won!

I have to start with full disclosure here. I only caught the very end of the first half and entire second half of this game. That's probably for the best though because from the way it sounds, the first quarter and a half could have very well sent me into a homicidal rage so I'm glad I missed it.

Onto the game though and why the Celtics WON!

1) For the first time in the playoffs the Celtics actually resembled the regular season juggernaut that they were. For the first time these playoffs with the exception of Game One of this series - such a shit show offensively you really can't draw too many conclusions there - the Celtics played well in a closely contested game. They ran their offense, attacked the basket, exploited advantageous matchups (poor Delonte West looked like a rented mule out there with Rondo and Pierece taking terms abusing him and Ray Allen finally brought it to Wally Z), and of course played outstanding D. I'm not kidding, for the first time these playoffs I watched the Celtics play and thought to myself, "now THAT is a championship caliber team".

2) Finally, Doc realized that it was not mid-March and that he could ride his starters for more than 33 minutes a game. Myself and I think about every other Celtic fan has been crying for 40+ minute nights for Pierce/Allen/KG/Rondo and Doc finally acquiesced. What was the result? The most crisp offensive game they have played this postseason featuring aggressive, team play with a lack of chucking. Oh, and gee whiz, Sam Cassell played only five and half minutes and zippy in the second half which just so happened to be the time when the C's took over the game. Again, this is not a coincidence. Now hopefully Doc learns from this and decides to ride Rondo through any ups and downs he may have moving forward instead of yanking him at the first sign of trouble as he has been apt to do because we all know what happens next. Sam Cassell comes in and submarines the offensive rhythm for the game while chucking bad shot upon bad shot.

3) Paul Pierce finally showed up with 29 points and 7 rebounds in 42 minutes. Plus he was money from the line down the stretch. I hope this is a building block for Pierce. Maybe on Friday he full on carries the team to a road victory with 35+. I'd love to see it. I don't want it to sound like I'm dogging the guy though, he played GREAT and I loved every second of it.

4) KG was outstanding too going for 26 and 16. Most impressive and encouraging were the few in-traffic dunks he had instead of dishing the ball to unsuspecting teammates or settling for jump shots. The jump shots he did take were predominantly when he was in rhythm and those are good shots for him. And of course he was stellar on the defensive end too. Really an all around great game for him. Oh yeah and he played 41 minutes.

5) The real key to the game for the C's offensively though was Rajon Rondo. Not only did his numbers dazzle with 20 points, 13 assists, 2 steals, and just 1 turnover in 42 (finally!!!) minutes but he did everything in his power from barking at his teammates (in a good way) to demanding the ball to make sure that they continued to run their offense and they continued to attack. KG is the unquestioned leader of the team and Pierce is probably their best offensive option but I truly believe that from an offensive standpoint the entire team feeds off of Rondo's energy and aggressiveness. Yet another reason why I hope there are many more of these 40 minute a night games to come. It's the playoffs! These guys can log big minutes now, that is why you rest them during the regular season!

6) The TNT announcers touched on this and I too want to mention it because I think it truly shows what kind of player Ray Allen is. Finally, Ray Allen was more aggressive in Game 5 than he has been all series but he still could not get on track scoring the basketball. You can tell he wants to hit some key shots more than anybody but he just can't seem to connect. And then on the Celtics last real possession of the game, up 4 with 16 seconds left he fights on the boards to tip an offensive rebound out to Paul Pierce. By putting in the extra effort on the glass - not Ray Allen's calling card I don't think - he made the key play late in the game that allowed the Celtics to ice the game with an extra possession which he created. If he does not tip that ball, Cleveland has the ball and all the momentum - it was almost like the Celtics were trying to make it interesting in the last four minutes with their sloppiness both offensive and defensively - with 15 seconds left, down four with a chance to cut it to two or one. Who knows what happens if that situation presents itself, but it did not because Ray Allen, despite his shooting woes went out of his way to make a different contribution to the team and that contribution was a nail in the coffin play, no different really than hitting a big three that helped seal victory.

7) Well done Big Baby. Loved the enthusiasm you were playing with out there tonight.

8) Yes the Celtics still need to win a road game, but Game 5 left such a fantastic taste in my mouth with almost too many positive developments to mention that I truly think they have turned the corner and will now go back to being the Celtics we came to know and love during the regular season. And seriously, keeping Sam Cassell on the bench for all but six minutes is absolutely a crucial ingredient to sustaining this momentum.

Let's wrap this bitch up in Cleveland on Friday.

No comments: