Today would have been The Notorious B.I.G.s 40th birthday a fact that hit me with a range of emotions when I came across it this morning.
Most of these emotions revolved around two harsh reminders:
1. How long hes been gone: 15 years now.
2. How young he was when died: That he was and still should be the same age as Shaq. Only one year older than the Fab Five. Less than four years older than Kevin Garnett.
On so many levels, its hard to imagine what it would be like if Biggie was still around today (assuming he's not actually off getting high and getting on the beach).
On so many others, its clear that he never planned to be around.
Either way, as small birthday tribute, heres a quick look at tonights Game 5, with five Notorious talking points.
Things Done Changed
Or have they?
Despite all thats happened in the five days and 96 minutes of basketball since the Celtics last graced the Garden, this series looks very similar to the way it did after Game 2. There've been no major injuries, no extenuating circumstances, no real shifts in momentum andor overall confidence.
The biggest development is undoubtedly the emergence of Lavoy Allen and the Born Again Thaddeus Young, as the pair now gives Doug Collins the luxury of a larger, more athletic line-up (A. Sherrod Blakely breaks it down here) that presents a wrinkle that hadn't previously concerned the Celtics.
But as Doc Rivers said at yesterday's practice: "In the fourth game, our small lineup hurt us. In Games 1, 2 and 3 the small lineup, defensively, changed the game."
And as I'll say now: "It's one thing for Allen and Young to have a game-changing performance at home. Let's see them do it on the road before calling that line-up a series altering development."
Bottom line: The Celtics are still the better team in this series. They still have home court advantage. Sure, there are plenty of ways in which they can lose, but there will be no excuses if they do.
Well never know exactly how much pain Avery Bradley's in right now, or has been for the better part of these playoffs. All we know is that he's tough as hell, and what he's lacked in production, he's made up for in respect and admiration earned from coaches, teammates and hundreds of thousands of fans.
But in terms of tonight, what can we expect?
Well, Game 4 marked the third time in these playoffs that Bradley's shoulder popped out.
The first time was Game 3 against Atlanta. In Game 4, he only played 19 minutes, and scored only six points on 2-7 shooting (1-5 from three).
The next time was Game 2 against Philly. In Game 3, he only played 20 minutes and scored zero points on 0-2 shooting (0-1 from three).
Not so great. Then again, Game 4 against Atlanta and Game 3 against Philly were far and away the Celtics best two performances of the playoffs. On both nights, they took an early lead and Bradley was free to rest. Perhaps more importantly, those two games prove that the C's are able to click and play some of their best basketball without Bradley heavily involved.
Moving forward, I think all we can do is look at anything Bradley brings to the table as a bonus, and hope that 1) Ray can crank the energy back up (at least to what it was against Atlanta). 2) Mickael Pietrus can convince his Frenchy Godmother to give him a few more nights as the Good Mickael Pietrus before turning him back into a streaky pumpkin.
The NBA playoffs are supposed to be nasty. But to this point, the CelticsSixers series has been relatively timid.
We had Garnett's missed elbow in Game 4 (which was nothing), followed by Elton Brand raking him across the face. We had Evan Turner clapping in Paul Pierce's face as the captain frustratingly pushed him away. We've had a fair amount of pushing and shoving, and a few double techs (Bill Kennedy factor). But in general, the on-court feistiness has been at a playoff minimum.
As a fan, four games into a series, there are typically at least two or three guys that you've grown to despise; whose mere existence drives you insane. Is there anyone on Philadelphia that has you feeling like that? Not really, right?
And that's a credit to Doug Collins. He's kept his team level-headed and focused. He knows that if they lose their cool, that's not all they'll lose. They'll be playing right into the Celtics trap.
But thus far, Philly's handled it perfectly. They've stayed respectful, without losing confidence, and I think that's one of the major reasons they come back to Boston tied at 2.
But tonight will be a serious test. Tonight, emotions will be higher than any point in the series. Any point in the season. For some of these guys, higher than at any point in their careers. Meanwhile, the C's have been here before, and know what it takes.
By the end of this game, Philly will know what beef is. How they handle it may very well determine their fate.
Would You Die For Me
"Man, I would die out here if I had to, real talk."
That was Kevin Garnett, a few weeks back during an interview with WEEI, and while Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge surely appreciate the dedication, I'm positive that they'd much rather Garnett just go out there and return to the form that's carried the C's for the better part of these playoffs.
At this point, we've stopped trying to figure when and where the good KG will show up. It's a waste of time. There's no rhyme or reason. No good explanation for where this ridiculous resurgence came from, and even less of one for why it randomly disappears.
All we know is that the Celtics need THAT Garnett to win. There have been times during the past five years when the C's have known KG wasn't at his best, and have found ways to work with and around him. But right now, with Pierce and Allen at less than 100, and the rest of the rotation no where near as consistent as they need to be, the Celtics need the dominant KG. Tonight, and always.
Skys the Limit
If the Celtics lose this series, Game 4 will be remembered as the one that got away, but their performance in Game 3 will be most be the most haunting. As I've written before, it was on that night that this team showed exactly how good they can be; when they raised the ceiling on all our expectations.
Whether or not they show us that level of dominance again remains to be seen, but we know it's in there. At this point, that knowledge serves as a point of optimism and inspiration. If they fall short, it's a nightmare.