If you read this site routinely, you’re probably wondering why my recap didn’t get posted until the day after the game. I always post my recaps as soon as I can, on the night of the game. So what the hell happened last night?
I went out. Now, you might think I went out and had a great time with my friends, or that I went to a party or a bar and immersed myself in the scene and had a wonderful time.
Come on, guys. You should know me better than that by now. You should know I went to a party and, instead of talking to anyone at the party, meeting new friends or chatting with old ones, I plopped myself down in front of the television and watched the Heat play the Lakers. My friends wanted to leave the party at around 1 o’clock, but it was the fourth quarter! We couldn’t leave in the FOURTH QUARTER! Not in a close game, not in a game featuring Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, not when I knew, just knew, there was going to be a ridiculous finish. I made my friends stay for the end of it, and we watched Kobe Bryant’s amazing off-the-glass, buzzer-beating three to end the game with a one-point Lakers win. I’d like to say I had a good time going out, but I did the exact same thing I would have done if I was home, except for two things:
1) I was sitting on someone else’s couch, rather than my own, and 2) I didn’t write my recap while watching another game. The second one is more concerning; I can adapt to new couches, but leaving to go out without offering my full analysis of the C’s game was certainly troubling. So here’s me righting my wrongs, and finally giving you a recap of last night’s game.
In short, the Celtics did everything I wanted them to do. First, they looked to pound it down low early, starting almost every possession with a paint touch, either by a post-up or through dribble penetration. It seems strange to say, with Paul Pierce having 21 first-half points including three three-pointers, but Boston was completely intent on pounding Oklahoma City into submission down low. Actually, they have been looking down low to initiate offense for a long time. The Celtics seem to have become aware of just how big and skilled their post men are, and have made an effort every game since the Toronto game to at least start the game off by getting paint touches. They no longer act like three-pointers are worth five points, and they certainly understood last night that a front line starting Jeff Green and Nick Collison had absolutely no business defending Garnett and Perk.
The player of the game was Paul Pierce, despite the facts that a) he scored a whopping zero points in the second half and b) He gave up 36 points to Kevin Durant, the man he was defending. So how in the hell was he the player of the game, on a night when Garnett and Rajon Rondo led the way in a dominant third quarter that, for all intents and purposes, ended the game? Well, first off, Pierce was completely in control in the first half. He had 21 points, and he did it in such a cooly efficient manner I don’t even think he broke a sweat. He started off by making three wide open, in-rhythm three-pointers, then took it to the rack, attacking the rim and finding himself easy looks and free throw opportunities. He disappeared in the second half, but it wasn’t because Pierce didn’t play well; it was just because everyone else was so unconscious he didn’t even have to do anything. Pierce is like that; he bides his time, allowing his teammates to make plays when things are going well, but at the first sign of trouble, or if the C’s need a bucket, Pierce becomes the Truth and demands the ball. So, with the C’s playing so well, he was happy just watching the Rondo-and-Garnett show in his limited second-half playing time.
Now, on to his defense. Pierce gave up 36 points, but actually did a hell of a job on Kevin Durant. How the f— can someone give up that many points, all while playing good defense, you ask? Durant was just so good that Pierce’s great defense didn’t matter. Remember last year’s playoffs, and the job Shane Battier did on Kobe Bryant? I’m pretty sure Kobe scored 30+ points per game during that series, but every time he shot, it was a contested, tough jumper with Battier’s hand directly in his line of vision. How did he score all those points when Battier’s hand was just about poking his retinas on every shot? Good offense is more or less unguardable; Battier played about as well as a man can play defense, but Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant, and, as long as he’s playing well, he can’t really be stopped. Unfortunately for Pierce, Kevin Durant was Kevin Durant last night, and he’s pretty damn good. How do you stop a 6’9″ wing-man with freakishly long arms, the ball-handling skills of a guard, and the soft touch of a goddess? You can’t, but you can make him work for his points, and that’s precisely what Pierce did.
The C’s turned this one into a laugher with a terrific third quarter, led by the efforts of Rondo and Garnett. What did they do that quarter? Well, Garnett was simply 5-5 from the field, while Rondo actually missed a shot in going 6-7. (What the f—, Rondo? A miss???) Rondo and Garnett were hotter than Jason McElwain out there. Garnett was great for the whole game, starting and finishing the game off by looking for his shot against the smaller Green, who couldn’t match up with Garnett’s height and length even if KG was 55 and in a wheelchair. And Rondo was aggressive on both ends, harassing Russell Westbrook into a poor game while getting into the lane on the other end. About the only thing he didn’t do was make free throws but, then again, does he ever make free throws any more?
Other than Rondo’s free throws, it was an offensive clinic for the boys in Green, who moved the ball seamlessly and found make-able shots just about every single possession. Plus, they actually hit their damn threes tonight, something it seems like they haven’t done since a few months ago. 9-17 from behind the arc, even on a night when Ray Allen couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, is a pretty damn good performance from the land of the trifecta. The threes were a product of looking first for a paint touch, working inside-out and taking the open ones rather than forcing outside shots.
On the other side, the Thunder were pretty much a one-man team. (No, that man was not Mike Wilks.) What else can you say about Kevin Durant? One of these years, he’s going to lead the league in scoring, and I expect that day to come sooner rather than later. It’s not just that he scores, but how he scores, so effortlessly and gracefully. Watching Durant is like watching a figure skater. Everything he does is done with such ease and smoothness you expect him to whip out some triple-axles and double-lutzes, and the only way he can probably be stopped is if the Russian judge decides to screw him out of his deserved points. (Well, either that or someone goes all Tonya Harding on his ass.)
Besides Durant, though, nobody for the Thunder did much of anything. Westbrook scored 15 points, but took 16 shots to do so, and nobody besides Durant and Westbrook even reached double figures. OKC was completely overmatched by a bigger, more physical, and more experience Celtics team that was on a mission from the opening tip.
Despite the fact that he didn’t play too well, I was impressed by Serge Ibaka. He’s all arms and legs, but he has the length and athleticism to become a valuable player in the NBA. He screams potential, and he already seems to realize he’s going to affect games mostly by using his superior athleticism to block shots, rebound, and score easy buckets. Another thing I was impressed by? James Harden’s beard. That thing is rugged, man. At night, he takes it off and Earl Boykins uses it as a blanket. What I was not impressed by? Thabo Sefolosha. I know he’s a very good defender, and did a good job on Ray Allen, but I don’t care how many points you hold someone to if you score zero points yourself, in over 32 minutes. If you are that bad offensively, and I was your coach, you wouldn’t be playing a single minute. I don’t care if you’re a mixture of Bruce Bowen and Ben Wallace in their primes on defense, if you are that big an offensive liability you shouldn’t be on the floor. I’m not saying Thabo is always that bad — although he’s never very good — but, last night at least, he would have been just as helpful to the Thunder’s cause if he’d come down with the swine flu and had to miss the game.
My other thoughts? Rasheed Wallace continues to cut the bad threes out of his game and focus more on his post play. That’s a good thing. Eddie House is the king of garbage time, Jeff Green had a really sick baseline dunk, Kendrick Perkins continued his super-solid play, and Etan Thomas should shut the hell up the next time he realizes he’s screaming and yelling after a putback basket with his team down 22 points. (I don’t know if anyone else even remembers that play, but it happened in the late third quarter when Thomas started woofing after he ripped a rebound from a Celtic and put it back in. Your down more than 20, Etan. Just shut your mouth, run back on defense, and know your role. I know you were excited to score your only bucket of the game, but act like you’ve done it before.)
Anything else? Nope, I don’t think so. Actually, yup, there’s one more thing. I can’t believe I almost forgot:
Kobe definitely didn’t call glass.