Luke Ridnour looped around a screen and cut through the paint, one long step after the next. The lane was wide open, and nobody was there to stop him, and a late, one-point Celtics lead was about to be flipped upside down. Except Ridnour took one big step too many, and Ray Allen soared in like a miniature Bill Russell to swat away a shot that didn’t even count.
The block resounded in the Garden rafters, and, though it didn’t count, symbolized the late-game Celtics run. Through most of the game Kevin Love played volleyball off the backboard, Michael Beasley did his best impression of a late-game killer, and the Celtics looked lost. But when it counted, when these Celtics really needed to elevate their play at winning time, they made every play necessary, escaping the TD Garden with a 96-93 win.
Of course, that’s the sunny side of looking at things. There was also a much gloomier side, mostly having to do with rebounding. When Kevin Love rebounds the ball only six fewer times than your entire team, it’s time to look at yourselves in the mirror. I don’t care if Kevin Garnett didn’t play, and I don’t care that Kevin Love is to rebounding what Boy Meets World is to children’s shows. The C’s still possess more than enough size (I’m looking at you, O’Neal brothers and Glen Davis) to rebound the basketball.
But the past few games have been a running clinic in how NOT to rebound. No Celtic big man grabbed more than three caroms tonight (congratulations, Jermaine O’Neal — you were the least shitty big man rebounder on the Celtics). Von Wafer — yes, Von Wafer — and Paul Pierce led the Celtics in rebounding, with six apiece. Next was Rajon Rondo, with four boards. The big men, though? Pathetic. In every sense of the word. There will be more teams that are Kevin Love’d this season, of course. But the Celtics, with all their size and experience, should never be subjected to such a poor showing on the glass. Even if KG’s injured.
There were other aspects of tonight’s game, of course. Von Wafer was one major bright spot, and I find myself thinking that — by the time this season’s all said and done — he could become a huge cog off the bench. At the very least, he’s now proving himself capable of playing legitimate basketball. Nate Robinson was one major dark spot, as I continuously find myself marveling at his seesaw nature.
But I’ll save my other thoughts for tomorrow. For now, just remember a gritty win that shouldn’t have needed to be so gritty. These Celtics are now showing the effects of cumulative injuries, and I don’t want to get used to gutting out wins versus Minnesota. Even if Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo hit plenty of clutch jumpers to help seal the deal.