An abominable first quarter, followed by three more quarters where the sole participants in the game that looked like they had too much of a clue what to do out there were Paul Pierce and LeBron James. The only thing I was particularly convinced of was Pierce’s ability to step up; what got swallowed up and forgotten in the narrative about Kevin Garnett coming into Boston was Pierce’s ability to simply score. What Pierce did with his 41 is not something KG has done in his career regularly come playoff time — absolutely take a game over, establish his will upon another team. Pierce is free to do this because Rajon Rondo has blossomed — well, at least at the Garden, he has — James Posey has been valuable on defense, KG has been KG (even when he is not scoring a ton he has an impact on the game), and P.J. Brown actually emerged to pick up quality buckets down the stretch that the Celtics needed. But really, this is about Paul Pierce, watching him scramble for the loose ball like his rep and his life depended on it; no one else was permitted to grab that ball in his mind — he was just there, feeling it, and we were all the better for being able to see that from him on a big stage.
And boy, did Boston need Pierce to have that game, because LeBron James had finally snapped out of the funk for the most part. 14-for-29 for 45 points is a vast improvement over the shooting nights he had in the first six games, but essentially, it was too many shots in the sense that it only validated the belief that Mike Brown’s game plan on offense is to give the ball to James and everything will work itself out. When Delonte West is the only other Cavalier in double figures, it’s a problem (and West and James were the only Cav starters to score in the first half, another ugly stat.) West is at least trying and the team missed Daniel Gibson badly; Danny Ferry doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank for a Lancelot for King James, but it seems Brown needs the offensive version of a Tom Thibodeau to take advantage of the players he has.
Imagine an NBA game if they actually called traveling consistently. I point this out because LeBron gets away with steps all the damn time, but he’s not the only one who gets an extra step on a lay-up or dunk that just doesn’t get called at all. A lot of your slashing-to-the-basket guards do it; D-Wade’s a big offender too and I’ve caught Kobe a couple times that the refs haven’t, as well as Manu Ginobili.
I’ll say that Boston’s going to lose the next series to Detroit. I don’t believe you can get to the NBA Finals, much less win a championship in the Association, without winning a road game, and I’m really not convinced that the Celtics won’t give one up to the Pistons at the Garden. Regardless, watching Ray Allen struggle is painful to watch, especially because his shooting ability is really the difference between the Celtics losing in seven or in five games to me.
Photo: AP/Winslow Townson