After the Celtics pulled away for a not-as-close-as-the-score-would-indicate 104-92 win, only one question remained: would Brian Scalabrine enter the game?
With just more than a minute remaining, Scal finally heared his number called. A little while later, a chorus of boos rained down from the rafters. No, the crowd didn’t despise Scal. There were no “Ass-hole” chants, and no signs saying “Quitness.” Nobody venomously chanted the name of a player who may or may not have slept with Scal’s mother. The crowd was upset for another reason — Scal had been called for a foul. Even now, Scal’s a fan favorite. As soon as the game reached garbage time, the crowd clamored for the red-headed assassin to play some minutes. And yes, I just called Scal an assassin.
Do you want to know the real reason I led this recap with a stupid Brian Scalabrine anecdote, rather than discussing a player who had an actual impact on the game? I didn’t know whether Rajon Rondo or Kevin Garnett should be the real lead, so I went with the number one rule of writing Celtics recaps — when in doubt, choose Scal. Okay, so I made that rule up just now. Sue me.
Garnett sent a simple message to the NBA: don’t piss off Kevin Garnett. Joakim Noah screwed up. He called Garnett ugly. He called Garnett a “very mean guy.” He demeaned Garnett to reporters, and the bad thing for Noah was this — Garnett was listening. Garnett, from the opening tip, had Noah in his crosshairs. Garnett has always been a vengeful person, someone who becomes motivated even if you just breathe on him the wrong way. He feeds on emotion, feeds on the feeling that someone has wronged him. Last year, he just couldn’t do anything about that emotion. Garnett would get all fired up to play, he’d bang his head on the basket support, and then — zoom — Kris Humphries would drive by him while Garnett limped behind.
This year, when Garnett gets fired up, he can actually do something about it. He wanted to teach Noah a lesson, and Garnett now has the ability to do it. He can now drop 16 points and 11 rebounds in the first half. No more limping. No more being overmatched by inferior opponents. Kevin Garnett is back to being Kevin Garnett, and that never ceases to be a beautiful thing. At this time last year, I thought KG would never recover. I thought he was all washed up. Just don’t tell him I said that. I don’t need him dropping a double-double on me in the first half.
As for Rondo? I take him for granted. It’s that simple. He makes the game look so easy.
Oh, a rebound is coming my way. Why don’t I just touch-pass it to Shaq before I even catch it?
Oh, look, Paul Pierce found a sliver of daylight underneath the hoop. Why don’t I just fire a no-look bullet of a pass, so he can make the easiest layup of his life?
Gee, Kevin Garnett’s man is fronting him. Why don’t I just lob a perfect pass over the top, leading Garnett into an easy dunk?
Whenever Rondo plays against Derrick Rose, the contrast between the two players couldn’t be more evident. Rose calls his own number a lot, while Rondo, well, doesn’t. Rose looks to attack, attack, attack, while Rondo probes the defense, searching for an open teammate the whole while. Rose doesn’t just jump; he coils his body in preparation for take-off. He is strong enough to bounce off defenders and maintain his balance, but fast enough to sometimes make Rondo look a little slow.
Rose can score against anybody, but Rondo just knows how to run an offense, in a way that Rose can’t yet, and might never be able to. If you judged a point guard simply by his mastery of his own offense, PGs don’t get much better than what Rondo has provided this season. Rose is great, even magnificent at times, and I would take him on my team any day. But for a team as stacked and deep as the Boston Celtics, I don’t know if I would want any point guard besides Rajon Rondo.
There were other things that happened, of course. Semih Erden was as useful as he has been in a while. Paul Pierce was briefly unstoppable in the fourth quarter. Rondo picked Rose’s pocket a couple times, and was dialed in the whole game. The Celtics scored 189 points in the paint (slight exaggeration) and out-rebounded the Bulls by ten boards (fact). Marquis Daniels dunked, which was odd. Shaq is large, Nate Robinson is not so large, and Von Wafer still loves to shoot.
Most importantly, Rasheed Wallace watched from the stands. Shockingly, he was not issued a technical foul and did not shoot any ill-advised three-pointers.