Let me get this out of the way first: I just want to hug someone.
Not a quick hug, either. A big bear hug, complete with some really homo-erotic whispering in someone’s ear.
I’m sorry if this is the creepiest lead in Celtics Town history (and by “if”, I mean it most certainly is), but that’s the type of mood that seeing James Posey puts me in. Big Game James is unequivocally the greatest hugger in Boston Celtics history.
When you add to my hugging mood the beautiful sight of Walter McCarty, Vitaly Potapenko, and Jim O’Brien on the Pacers bench, today was a good day. All it was missing was a Pervis Ellison sighting, but, well, I guess I can do without that.
Getting to the actual game, Paul Pierce did everything for the Celtics. And I mean everything. For parts of this season, I wondered whether Pierce could still produce nights like this. He’s had a nice and efficient season, but (as Celtics Hub’s Ryan DeGama noted) Pierce has also been a shot-maker, rather than a shot-creator. We wondered whether he could still create shots, for himself and others, if he needed to.
With Rondo out, our Allen Iverson is now clear. In other words, our Answer is now clear. Pierce can still make plays. The reason he hasn’t this season is a changing of his role, rather than an inability. Rondo needs the ball in his hands, and he needs to be the facilator, and so Pierce offers what the Celtics need. He hits spot-up shots, scores efficiently, and generally plays like a second or third fiddle.
Not today. Today was a flashback to the 2008 NBA Finals, Game 5. The C’s lost that game, but Pierce did it all. He brought the ball up, ran pick-and-rolls, limited Kobe defensively, kept his teammates involved, and generally played like he was the best all-around player in basketball. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not calling him the league’s best all-around player, not at all. But on nights like that Game 5, and days like today, Pierce sure as hell does a good impersonation.
The difference between last year and this year, in Pierce, is stunning. I see him probe the defense now, with his slow, methodical technique, and know he couldn’t have done this “put the team on my back” routine last year. Not when his body wasn’t feeling right, and fluid was squirting out of his knee, and Ron Artest was shutting him down in the Finals.
There’s still a long way to go in this season, of course. Pierce always seems to look spry in the season’s early months, and sometimes looks run down by the end. But if he can keep this up, this “do whatever my team needs me to” mentality and ability, these Celtics will continue to be the Eastern Conference favorites all season long.
My next point is Nate Robinson, the trouble-making little kid with whom you can’t stay angry for long. There was one play (and I’m not exaggerating)when Nate drove through the paint, closed his eyes, turned his body away from the hoop, and tossed a backwards, vision-less shot off the side of the backboard. These are the things he does, and these are the times it’s frustrating to have Nate Robinson on your favorite team.
But then, later in the game, three Pacers go after a loose ball. Nate is the farthest away from the ball, and most players in Nate’s position wouldn’t even put up a fight. But Nate is different. Nate is a 5’9″ (in heels) bolt of lightning who exudes nothing if not 100% energy, all the time. He sprints his way past the first two Pacers, and there’s only one more standing between him and the ball. Nate is still in the outside lane, still has a lot of work to do to reach this unattainable loose ball. He dives on the floor, and the Pacers must feel shocked. This ball was theirs, but this tiny man — this boyish-looking person with a flattop fade — stole it with an effort level they couldn’t match.
At that point, I felt like Harry in Dumb and Dumber: “Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!” Nate frustrates me, all the time, and I’m sure he frustrates Doc Rivers, too. But he tries, and he never stops trying, and it’s tough for me not to forgive him, even after his biggest, most bone-headed blunders.
Moving on, it was nice to see Shaq back in business. Unless you’re Jeff Foster. Then you really wish Shaq’s injury hadn’t healed in time for today’s game.
Shaq’s presence changes things for the Celtics, especially when he has 11 first-quarter points. Also, it’s nice that opponents continuously commit lane violations against Shaq. Imagine how low The Big Diesel’s free throw percentage would be if he didn’t get extra opportunities on approximately 25% of his misses.
With Shaq back in the lineup, Semih Erden played only seven minutes. In other news, he actually grabbed a rebound today. Which gives him a grand total of one rebound in his last two games. And yes, he is still seven feet tall.
Just as I know the sun will rise in the morning, I know Glen Davis will produce on both ends of the court every night. His consistency, entirely lacking last season, has become marvelous. Doc can pencil him in for 12-18 points, 5-7 rebounds, and 1-2 charges taken every single game. That’s a hell of a weapon to bring off the bench.
Anything else I missed? KG didn’t look quite as springy as he has lately, (which could be blamed on his soreness), but also viciously crossed over Jeff Foster. And no, it was not a good day to be named Jeff Foster. Mike Dunleavy scored well but didn’t even look like he wanted to be playing basketball, Danny Granger making a three-pointer is “just like duck soup to him” (please send Tommy Heinsohn all questions regarding the meaning of that statement), and even Solomon Jones’s mother cringes each time he shoots a jumper. And Roy Hibbert took 23 shots to score 17 points, but also somehow managed to impress me in the gory process.
Yes, we will end this with one more ode to Paul Pierce’s triple-double: