About five minutes before tonight’s game ended, I read a tweet from J.A. Adande that said, “Vinny Del Negro sums up the NBA in 5 words: ‘The best teams have closers.’” At the time, the Celtics were down one point to the Cavaliers and in a dog fight. But I thought to myself, “The Celtics have closers. Vinny Del Negro, God bless his haircut and offensive simplicity, is right. The C’s are going to win this game.”
A couple minutes later, Anthony Parker caught an inbounds pass with one second left on the shot clock. He caught, pivoted, took a quick power nap and, at least two seconds after he caught the pass, fired a three-pointer. It went in, all net, and somehow the made basket stood up after an official review. The Cleveland lead was five, and it would extend to eight by the final buzzer, 95-87. Vinny Del Negro? I let Vinny Del Negro’s opinion soothe my nerves?
The Celtics do have two certified closers, but both of them took tonight off. Ray Allen missed two big threes, and Paul Pierce missed two patented, clutch midrange jumpers. The Cavs hit their free throws and that was that. The best teams have closers, of course, but when you let a team hang around too long — closers or not — anything can happen. The Celtics could have won this game in the final stanza. But they lost it in the third quarter, when they failed to close the door on a pesky Cavaliers team after opening up a 66-55 lead.
After the win, confetti streamed from the rafters. At first I was confused that confetti would be used after a team improved to just 1-0. But the Cavaliers — and all of Cleveland, really — have been searching for something, anything, to cheer about in the post-Lebron era. Tonight’s win doesn’t make the Cavs a contender and it doesn’t mean much in the long run, but at least it gives the city hope. Plus, as Mike Gorman noted after the game: the confetti had probably been waiting in the rafters since last year’s playoffs.
The loss, and the ensuing confetti, overshadowed big performances from Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. Rondo once again exhibited his dominance against an overmatched point guard, hanging 18 points and nine assists against Ramon Sessions. Garnett snatched 15 rebounds, and while his offensive game still hasn’t come around his mobility remains encouraging. If you’re keeping score at home, the 15 rebounds were more than he had in any one game all of last season (13 was his most). Already in the two games, Garnett has had two double-digit rebounding performances. He only had 12 during last year’s entire regular season.
Glen Davis also provided great minutes for the Celtics. He has lacked consistency in the past, but there’s something different this year. Things have clicked. He catches the ball on a swing pass and throws it to the next player like a hot potato. He’s running the offense well and holding the ball less, but taking advantage of every touch. I hate to make predictions after only two regular season games, but if you put a gun to my head I’d predict a big season for Glen. He’s trusting the offense to provide his points, and it’s working. He’s earned his spot as the closing center, and he’s producing in big spots. If the Celtics pulled out tonight’s win, it would have been largely because of Davis’s late putback and charge taken.
But the Celtics just lost to the Cavs. Obviously, there were negatives. The Celtics keep turning the ball over like it smells of rancid cow manure. They allowed J.J. Hickson to look like Amare Stoudemire. And I had to watch Anderson Varejao play basketball. That’s never a good time.
Let’s just remember, though: tonight was the second game of the season. It was a classic letdown game — second night of a back-to-back, against a weak Cavs team, after an emotional win. The loss, for the most part, is nothing to worry about. Not unless taking opponents lightly becomes a habit.
But Jermaine O’Neal, my friend? You’ve got some ‘splaining to do.