Lou Williams drove to the hoop with fewer than three minutes remaining in last night’s game. The Celtics had cut a 10-point deficit to one using a steady dose of Kejon Garnondo, but Williams — Philadelphia’s most creative and explosive scorer — took off on the right wing with one man to beat in the open court. Williams could use his guile and/or quickness to burst past most humans, but his problem was that the one Boston defender protecting the rim was not most humans.
Before the game, I had asked Evan Turner how he, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams would need to adjust to Avery Bradley’s pressure defense. Turner, being either confident or ignorant, and I’m guessing the former, downplayed the impact of Bradley’s cyborgian fast-twitch muscle fibers and rubber-band reaction time.
“Play basketball and do what you like to do,” Turner said of how he and his teammates would respond to Bradley. “I feel like when you’re a pro, nobody can stop you from getting where you want to go. It’s about getting to your spots, taking advantage of opportunities when you have them, and just playing your game.”
How does the line go? If you don’t know, now you know. Bradley blocked Williams in the open court, KG scored on the ensuing possession to give the Celtics the lead, and they remained ahead for the remainder of the game. If that one play wasn’t enough, Bradley moved his feet perfectly on the next possession, avoided contact while keeping a driving Williams ahead of him, and forced a turnover.
Bradley’s shot has gone missing and teams have adjusted to his backdoor cuts. But thanks to his defense, he’s second behind Kevin Garnett among Boston’s regulars in playoff on-court/off-court numbers.
Backup bigs, ehhh
Just a few days ago I wrote something like 12 million words to describe how Greg Stiemsma played a pretty good game even though Doc Rivers didn’t think so. One day after that, Ryan Hollins had his finest moment as a professional hooper, chasing down a crucial offensive rebound in the final minute of a series-clinching win. But now Stiemer has regressed, getting eaten alive on a couple possessions by Al Horford in Game 6 (not entirely embarrassing) and overhelping continuously yesterday to allow Spencer Hawes free reign in the paint (more embarrassing). Meanwhile, Hollins remains like a tightrope walker — even when he succeeds, he always seems an inch away from toppling to an unseemly death. On top of that, Brandon Bass has completely lost his midrange touch. (Editor’s note: What’s up with Bass??)
Which brings us to Garnett. Thank God for him.
The small lineup
Neither Bass, Stiemsma or Hollins made an appearance during last night’s fourth quarter, meaning Kevin Garnett played center the entire time alongside power forward Paul Pierce. Small lineup what’s up???
The Celtics started the fourth quarter down 73-67. They quickly got down 10, and it was 79-73 when Bradley came in for Keyon Dooling with 8:33 left. You know what happened from there. Kejon Garnondo. Bradley being Bradley. A win.
Afterward Doc Rivers gave credit to the lineup for helping the Celtics earn the win. Doug Collins downplayed it, saying the lineup wasn’t a deciding factor. But for 12 minutes, both teams went small. The Celtics’ small lineup was better, which allowed them to steal Game 1.
Mickael Pietrus couldn’t hit an iceberg with the Titanic right now (and he’s still hurting)
I never thought we would hear Doc Rivers compare Mickael Pietrus to Albert Pujols, but that’s where we arrived yesterday after Pietrus missed two more three-pointers to bring his playoff percentage to 13.3%.
“You almost feel like he’s Albert Pujols trying to hit his first home run, you know? You just start putting more stress on yourself than you probably have to,” Rivers said.
Hopefully, Pietrus will soon start hitting like Josh Hamilton instead. But he’s still bothered by his knee, which kept him out of several games at the end of the regular season.
“His knee is swelling up again, obviously,” said Rivers.
Added Pietrus, “My knee bothered me a little bit, but my team needed me on the floor to defend their best player. My job is to get myself ready, do more treatment and try to get ready to fight. I’m a soldier. That’s my nickname.”
Good on you for playing defense despite your offensive struggles, “A Soldier.” But when you’re shooting like a blind mouse and a defender over-commits on your shot fake, you probably shouldn’t take a step to the side and fling a wild 25-footer. Look for something more simple.
Rondo’s latest weird triple-double
As yesterday’s win winded down, Matt Moore of CBS Sports tweeted, “Rondo’s not engaged in this game, has a triple double, and is the reason they will win. That’s Rajon Rondo.”
After his latest “I’m not sure whether he played really well, but he certainly patched together an outrageous stat line” triple-double, Rondo defiantly told David Aldridge the banged-up Celtics will be fine despite little rest in the playoffs. He then went to his press conference wearing some funky red suede shoes, discussed how he didn’t think he’d play well because he didn’t get his normal pregame nap, and generally sounded like the basketball savant he is.
With the Celtics ahead by three points in the final moments, Rondo’s mind flashed back to a memory he could only get from watching (and retaining) several hours of game film.
Explained the magician, “I didn’t try to over think the game but at the same time I got a quick flash about how they beat Chicago the other day. You know off a rebound they didn’t call a time out, they just pushed the ball up the floor and we were in kind of a scramble defense, so I thought just to foul.”
He fouled and the Sixers hit two free throws to draw within one. To make Rondo’s decision even better, the Sixers hadn’t committed a foul in the final two minutes, so they would have needed to foul Boston twice in the final three seconds, then come back the other way to score another bucket.
Instead, the Celtics had Paul Pierce inbound the ensuing pass. He never would have done so if the Celtics were shooting in the bonus, but these are the minute details the world’s best basketball coaches and players iron out in a split-second’s time. Pierce found Rondo cutting into the backcourt and Rondo managed to avoid Evan Turner and dribble out the clock.
“They had a foul to give, and Doc told (Pierce) to take the ball out of bounds. I know they were having Turner on me who’s a bigger guard. I felt like I could out quick him and that’s what I did,” said Rondo.
Added Turner, “With them having the ball in the front court and Rondo just leaks out, that’s the last thing on your mind; that they’ll go on our side of the court and have a turn over down there. Its kind of a gamble, but it’s a smart gamble. They beat us on it.”
Yes, they did. It was the last contribution Rondo made on a night when he made plenty.
Imagine what will happen next game after he actually takes his pregame nap.
I leave you with this, via SB Nation:
Actually, that’s not particularly pleasant. So I’ll leave you with this, also courtesy of SB Nation:
Yup, that’s more like it.
- Who do you ride in the final six minutes of a close game: Ray Allen or Avery Bradley?
- Avery Bradley, Kevin Garnett make John Hollinger’s First Team All-Defense
- Celtics 94, Pacers 87: Paul Pierce, defense lead win
- Celtics redeem sloppy mess with game-winning alley-oop; beat Sixers 102-101
- Doc Rivers tanks game, shows confidence in Celtics