The Celtics were ahead 25-10 once, early in tonight’s game, at which point I boldly predicted a Luke Harangody double double. Quite understandably, the double double never came (Rats!). Neither did the blowout which once, after Avery Johnson already called two time outs within the game’s first 2:05, seemed so certain.
Johnson’s first time out came just 29 seconds in, and he — in a voice I assume resembled the sound of scratching on a blackboard — spent the time out’s entirety yelling at Brook Lopez. The Nets center, who often plays with the excitement of a man who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, had just allowed an easy C’s bucket on an out of bounds play. Needless to say, Johnson wasn’t exactly enthused. With 9:55 still remaining in the first quarter, after the Nets responded to Johnson’s first time out like roofie victims, he called another.
Less than a minute later, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar were subbed into the game, in an apparent attempt to provide the Nets with energy. If New Jersey’s substitutions didn’t do the trick, Boston’s did. The Celtics bench entered the game, and that 15-point lead I previously discussed evaporated within a matter of minutes.
The brightest positive to come from tonight, perhaps excluding the win, was Paul Pierce’s 31-point explosion. I guess those two days he skipped practice healed his body pretty well, because Pierce was explosive tonight. He blew past his defenders with ease, which should make sense considering Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw took turns ole’ing him to the hoop. Pierce drew 13 foul shots, tying the most he’s taken all year (November 21, Toronto). He also did this:
With the game suddenly very much in doubt during the second half, the Celtics ramped up their defensive efforts. Lopez, despite his loafing tendencies and laissez faire play, had made shot after shot (after shot, after shot) to lead New Jersey’s run, and the C’s sent more help for Kendrick Perkins. Perk normally handles opposing big men all by himself, but Lopez was making Perk look like, well, Brook Lopez on the defensive end. So the C’s sent more help. It wasn’t a double team, necessarily, but the C’s were quite obviously aware of Lopez’ location at all times. Suddenly, with a second (and sometimes third) defender running his way, Lopez started turning the ball over like it was scorching hot, and missing the shots he had previously made.
Von Wafer did some nice things off the bench for Boston. He made one tough jumper as the shot clock wound down; penetrated and left a sweet dime for Perk (the play was called off when Wafer drew a foul); drove hard to the hoop for a transition layup (which missed, but he again drew a foul); drilled an open (and long) jumper; and attempted to defy gravity by taking off of two feet, outside the paint, to release a reverse layup on the opposite side of the hoop. His layup hit the bottom of the backboard, but still, Wafer impressed. He continues to make the most out of his increased minutes.
I already told you I predicted a Luke Harangody double double, but I couldn’t possibly have predicted Tommy Heinsohn calling Harangody “a decent leaper.” That’s like calling Shaq “a decent free throw shooter,” or calling Vince Carter “a decent clutch player,” or Brook Lopez “a decent energy guy.” It just doesn’t work, and just serves to offer the latest proof of Tommy’s senility. That said, I couldn’t complain about Harangody’s body of work tonight.
Want another symptom of Tommy’s senility? When Nate Robinson came off a screen to hit a midrange jumper, Tommy noted, “If I were the Celtics, I’d be running Nate’s play right there forever. That’s his shot.” Which was funny, because if I were the Celtics, the only play I’d be running for Nate would be “go take a seat.” I joke at Nate’s expense, but he wasn’t half bad tonight. Sure, he shot 2-7, and sure, his jumper’s about as reliable as a black-out drunk brain surgeon. But he was energetic, and had a nice couple takes to the rim. Then again, if I’m pleased with a backup point guard who shoots 2-7 and provides only one assist, maybe my expectations aren’t high enough.
Tonight wasn’t a pretty win, not even for the ultimate optimist. But at least it’s always fun to see Sasha Vujacic lose.
P.S. – The Lakers lost to the Cavaliers. I would laugh, but the game only brings back painful memories of last season. Does the term “5-52 New Jersey Nets” ring a bell?