Sixteen Thoughts on a 16-Point Win

Sixteen Thoughts on a 16-Point Win
May 17, 2012, 3:55 pm
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Well, they did it again.

Here are 16 thoughts on the Celtics 16-point victory:

1. A performance like last night justifies all the anger and frustration that we felt on Monday.

Know what I mean?

Getting bent out of shape when losers play like losers is unhealthy and dysfunctional, but when a team with the ability to play like the Celtics did in Game 3, plays like they did in Game 2, its only natural to blow a gasket. And thanks to last night, we know that gasket wasnt blown in vain. Were reminded, once again, that the Celtics are worthy of our high, sometimes-silly standards. Its a gift and a curse, but theyve earned it.

2. Early in last nights broadcast, TNT cut to an interview with Paul Pierce, where he admitted that this is the Big Threes last stand (as Rajon Rondo somewhat symbolically clanged a jumper in the split screen).

When they cut back, Chris Webber who looks like a senior at Detroit Country Day again while sitting next to Dick Stockton made a point that Ill now paraphrase: You know, Dick. These guys clearly know that this it, and theyre more motivated than ever!

In Webbers defense, hes not the first one to say this. Commentators and analysts spew this junk all the time. So while Im not hating on C-Webb (I love C-Webb!), Ill still ask the question: Are we actually supposed to believe that the Celtics are more motivated to win a title this year than they have in the past?

That might actually be a funny thing to ask Kevin Garnett at his next press conference (if you find public decapitation funny): Hey, Kevin. I cant help but notice that you guys care a little more this season. Your thoughts?

Listen, theres no question that the Last Stand is a motivating factor for the Celtics, but motivating factors exist every season. No matter what the situation, guy like Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen will always find a reason to convince themselves that theres nothing in the world more important than bringing home a title. Its part of the game. Its part of being a champion.

3. I tweeted this last night, but for you carpetbaggers who dont follow me, Ill repeat it again: Last two games: Rajon Rondo's played 80 minutes, with 27 assists and two turnovers.

Thats robotic. Rajonny 5 is Alive! (Or should it be Rajonny 9? Eh, lets just move on.)

But even more impressive and refreshing than those numbers (if thats possible), is the determination Rondo showed in getting to the hoop. As we learned in Game 2, high assists and low turnovers dont always result in a cohesive offense or a Celtics victory, but when Rondos attacking the way he did last night, the Cs are hard to beat.

Naturally, the one night Rondo attacks the way we want, he ends up sitting at the post game podium with his wrist wrapped (an earlier injury that popped back up in Game 2 and was re-aggravated last night). Thats the biggest drawback to a guy of his still-somewhat fragile physical make up constantly taking it to the trees. But thats a risk that Rondo and the Celtics need to take it.

4. If theres one knock on Rondo in these playoffs, its that his perimeter defense stinks worse than the bathroom in Shaqs TNT dressing room. In Round 1, Jeff Teague drove the lane at will (and it would have been worse if not for Atlantas insistence on letting Joe Johnson squeeze the life out of the offense). In Round 2, Ive already lost count of how many times Jrue Holidays blown by while Rondo futilely flails at his patented back door tap.

Maybe those are chances you can take when one of the best defenders of all time has your back, but it wouldnt hurt for Rondo to take a little more time and effort to stay in front of his man.

5. ESPNs John Hollinger has a formula called Game Score, which provides a rough measure of a players productivity for a single game. (You can check out the details here.) By Hollingers mathematical standards, 10s considered an average Game Score, 40 is out of this world and everything in between can be judged accordingly.

Anyway, in 60 starts this past regular season, Kevin Garnett produced only six Game Scores of 20 or higher, with his best 22.5 coming against Utah on March 28.

In the playoffs, Garnetts already bested that 22.5 on three different occasions, including last night, when he posted a 24.5. Hes now shooting 63 for the Philly series. Hes shooting 55 for the playoffs. His defense is far and away better than its been at any point since his injury.

What else can we say? Hes absolutely unbelievable.

Let this serves an inspiration to all the 7-foot, soon-to-be 36-year-old mega-millionaires out there. Its never too late, fellas.

6. Brandon Bass jumper is still a mess. You hope that it will bounce back, but with every passing game, that hope fades a little more. At this point, someone might need to go back in time and make sure Bass parents kiss at the Enchantment Under the Sea before his whole game disappears.

However, if theres one play to build on, its that early drive and dunk on Spencer Hawes.

Its clear that Hawes cant hang with KG, and moving forward, the Sixers will likely lean on Elton Brand to deal with Garnett. That leaves Hawes to cover Bass, and as we saw on that one explosive slam, Hawes has no shot in that match-up either. So now, when Bass gets the ball on the wing, in a position where he usually sizes up his man and pulls up for a cool J, he needs to drive. Best case scenario: He booms it on Hawes head. Worst case: Bass gets to the line.

7. Brandon Bass hasnt missed a foul shot in the playoffs (Hes 20 for 20).

8. Take away Paul Pierces two early dunks, and the Captain was 4-15 from the field. Not his best work; hes still not right. But, when Rondo and KG and play their games and allow Pierce to serve more of a complimentary role, the Truth (in all his gimpy glory) will be enough. He might not give the game everything that it needs, but hell be able to conserve energy, pick his spots and play an essential role down the stretch.

9. In Bostons six playoff wins, Pierce is averaging 9.67 free throw attempts per game. In Bostons three losses, hes averaging 1.67.

10. In 46 regular season games, Ray Allen missed nine of 106 free throws attempts. In seven playoff games, hes missed eight of 20 attempts.

11. Avery Bradleys line was somewhat troubling last night. 20 minutes, two shots (three if you count whatever he got before the game) and zero points.

Am I concerned? Sure, but no more than I was before Game 3. At this point, we know that Averys shoulder is going to be an issue. As the long as the Celtics are alive, hes going to be playing through pain, and wont be able to contribute as much as any of us would like. But at the same time, his jumper doesnt look any different, his defense is still tenacious (remember that early block on Evan Turner?) and you cant touch his toughness.

Even if he was healthy, Bradley wasnt going to be a big part of the Celtics crunch time strategy, so lets just be happy with what he can give, while keeping an optimistic eye on everything hell bring to the table next year and beyond. Deal?

12. Streaky shooters are amazing, arent they? For the first seven games of the playoffs, Mickael Pietrus was not only a non-factor, he was a detriment to the Celtics cause. Not even a shadow of a shadow of himself. Next thing you know, something clicks and hes draining shots like Bob Cousy in Blue Chips.

Of course, the terrifying thing is that, at some point, the streak will come to an end, but for now, Pietrus re-emergence is a thing of beauty (and a major factor in tempering our concerns over Bradley)

13. I nearly threw up when Pietrus was undercut on that late-game fast break and found his body temporarily parallel to the ground. And by the look on Pietrus face, he felt it too. In that split second, the world stopped and his worst fears were realized on the same court where it almost all came to an end a few months back. Frankly, one of the most amazing things about that entire game was that Pietrus bounced back from that scare and hit both free throws.

If it was me, Id have airballed both and burst into tears.

14. If there was bright spot in Phillys otherwise awful night, its that Thaddeus Young finally arrived. The 23-year-old slasher has played through shin and ankle injuries for the entirety of the playoffs, which has resulted in some pretty putrid play he scored a total of 17 points in Philly previous four playoff games.

But last night, Young Thad exploded for 23, and showed glimpses of a guy who could give the Celtics a lot of trouble.

15. As great as Young was, and might continue to be, it wont mean a thing unless Andre Iguodala lays off the pre-game hippo tranquilizer.

Gross effort by Iggy Hop last night.

16. And finally, every good playoff run needs a goofy gimmick. And this year, weve got flexing. And you know what the best part of flexing is?

You don't need to an professional athlete. You don't need any special skills. You don't need to possess any particular level of rhythm. Flexing is easy, and fun for the whole family. Anyone can flex! Shabba Ranks would be proud.

And after last night, we're all proud of the Celtics. They've restored our faith, wrestled back control of the series and will take the court tomorrow night looking to deliver a death blow.

I'll see you then.

(But also much sooner than that.)

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine