Now THAT’S what NBA Finals basketball is supposed to look like. Even better, that’s what Celtics basketball is supposed to look like.
Don’t let Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce’s bad games or the Celtics’ unsightly shooting percentage fool you; the C’s played basketball the way they wanted to play it. They made Kobe Bryant a jump-shooter, did a complete 180 on the boards, fed the hot hand on offense and made every play they needed to down the stretch. If that isn’t Celtics basketball — limit the opponent’s top scorer, sacrifice personal stats for the team, do whatever you have to in order to win the game — then I’m not 35 pounds overweight. And I am most definitely 35 pounds overweight.
Ray Allen was historically brilliant (his eight three-pointers set a Finals record), Rajon Rondo did everything down the stretch (from a block of Derek Fisher’s jumper, to a wrap-around steal of Kobe Bryant, to offensive rebounds, to a ginormous 17-foot jumper, to a swooping lefty lay-in over the outstretched arms of Pau Gasol) while putting the finishes touches on an epic triple-double, and the Celtics made all the key plays down the stretch while Kobe misfired.
Kobe was ball-dominant down the stretch, when he probably shouldn’t have been. I know Jeff Van Gundy called Kobe the best closer in the world not named Mariano Rivera, but Pau Gasol has proven himself capable of dominating the Celtics and carrying the Lakers. He at least deserved SOME touches in the fourth quarter, am I wrong? Instead Pau took only one fourth-quarter shot while Kobe forced bad shots (missing five of them in the fourth) and helped shoot his team out of the game. Gasol and Andrew Bynum (who played absolutely of his mind — so well, in fact, that the refs called a foul if any Celtic was within a 5-foot radius of the seven-footer) were forced to be nothing more than designated rebounders and shot-blockers in the fourth. They’d been LA’s biggest strength the whole game, but the fourth quarter is Kobe’s time — the frontcourt was thus relegated to secondary duty as the Celtics pulled away.
The Celtics received another strong showing from Rasheed Wallace, solid minutes from Tony Allen, a couple huge buckets from Nate Robinson and a bundle of energy from Glen Davis (…who also happened to get his shot blocked more times in the second half than Dirk Nowitzki has his entire career). It was a full team effort, one that Doc Rivers and I can both be proud of.
The series is now tied 1-1. The Celtics have stolen homecourt advantage from yet another team.
And Celtics basketball?
After a one-game hiatus, it’s back.