Here, it doesn't stand for rebounds per game, or even role-playing game - try Rondo, Pierce, and Garnett. They've been sensational so far in the first two games of the playoffs.
Rondo leads all players in the playoffs in assist-to-turnover ratio with a remarkable 17:1. That's right; he's even ahead of superhuman Chris Paul. He's also averaged 13.5 points on 60 percent shooting and had six rebounds in each contest. I think all those people asking if Rondo could hit the open jumper have stopped questioning his ability for now. His defense has been on point as well. He's put the clamps down on the playoff-tested veteran, Mike Bibby, while averaging three steals a game. I'd put Rondo third best at young point guards in the league, behind Chris Paul and Deron Williams but ahead of Jose Calderon.
Pierce showed his maturity early in Game 2. After a very hard foul, he got right up and walked away. I don't think there's been a season up until now where he would've done that. Think back to 2004 in the seven game first-round series against Indiana. At the end of regulation in Game Six, Jamaal Tinsley wrapped up Pierce to send him to the line to extend the game. The foul was a little rough and Pierce immediately retaliated with an elbow that resulted in his second technical and ejection. The Pacers were able to choose the replacement free-throw shooter. Perkins got the call, missed both, and the Pacers ended up sending that game into overtime. It was made quite evident in Game 2 against the Hawks that this isn't something to worry about anymore.
Garnett's intensity is second-to-none. It doesn't matter whether it's the 20th game of the regular season or Game 7 of the Finals; he brings it night in and night out. The biggest reason for the Celtics' first two routes of Atlanta is their defense. Even when the shots aren't falling they are able to get stops, led by the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year. KG accepted the award before Game 2 at the Garden, and in an unselfish act, called the rest of his teammates out onto the floor with him. I've grown to expect nothing else.
Not to overlook the Hawks, but I don't think there's really any conceivable way a 37-win team is topping one of the greatest teams in NBA history (that's right, I said it) in a single playoff game, let alone an entire series. So with that being said, let's take a quick look back at some nuggets from the first two games and look ahead to round 2.
The best part of Game 1 was the emphatic, comical, and downright euphoric moment when Leon Powe got a little revenge on Josh Smith in the middle of the fourth quarter. Powe, who earlier had a dunk attempt stuffed by Smith, went right through him this time and decided to let Mike Bibby get in on the action as well. After throwing it down on two of the Hawks' best players, Powe went down from the contact and received an 'and-one'. What followed was my favorite part of the season - a verbal and physical beating from KG and Sam I Am. Sam got in a couple of jabs but it was Garnett delivering the haymakers and the fiery words of encouragement.
|The NBA - where getting beaten up by your own teammate happens. (Brian Babineau / Getty Images)|
After the barrage of punches, Leon was able to get up and walk back to the Celtics' bench as a timeout had been called. That didn't stop Garnett though. He followed him back while whispering sweet little nothings in his ear; and by sweet little nothings I mean the most intense, jaw-dropping blasphemy I've ever witnessed. Sam just laughed it up as the Garden erupted in cheers. As they came back from the timeout we saw on replay that the yelling didn't stop once the players reached the huddle. KG was still on Powe like butter on toast. You think Powe understands how passionate Garnett is about winning a championship? He'd probably be too deaf to hear the question but I'm going out on a limb and say yes.
Honestly, for an actual playoff game, it lacked greatness up until that play. Sure there was Rondo impressing everyone (including Bibby, who Rajon limited to 5 points and 1 assist) in his first of many-to-come playoff games in his career. And there was Pierce getting the Garden going by drilling his first couple of three-point attempts, and Cassell single-handedly regained a comfortable margin for the C's after the Hawks got within two in the second quarter - but it was clear everyone knew that Boston wasn't going to lose this game.
Twice as fun
Game 2 had a more competitive feel to it at the start but, much like Game 1, it was over by the second quarter. The Hawks tried getting physical with the Celts, but to no avail. I actually liked their game plan in the second game but it's been abundantly clear the Celtics have way more talent than the Hawks. I think Atlanta will be a good team in the East soon with all their young up-and-comers, but unfortunately for them, they ran into a beast in this year's first round.
The Cavs are weak and all they have is LeBron. Sound familiar? It's what everyone said about the Cavs last year before they trumped the Pistons and moved onto the NBA Finals. Somehow, that same thought came leaking out before this year's playoffs. I for one bought into it. Even with a big trade, they haven't changed much. Their team is still LeBron and the scary fact is he can carry a team to a playoff series victory all by himself.
In the beginning of the season I remembered what King James had done in the playoffs and still worried about him even when the Cavs weren't winning games. As the season progressed I saw them as less of a threat and at the start of the playoffs I essentially wrote them off against the Wizards. However, in the first two games of that series LeBron looked spectacular, and they even have some player named Wally Szczerbiak hitting shots (Game 3 was a different story, however). I'm not willing to bet against the Celtics in a series yet, but in round 2, should Cleveland survive Washington, the Cavs and LeBron will provide a much bigger challenge than the Hawks have so far in round 1.
The Wizards aren't great defensively and when they double LeBron they're slow on the defensive rotation. I don't think he'll be having such an easy time in the next round…but he's already reminded many (including myself) that you can't count his team out while he's in uniform.
But all that really matters at this point is that there are two victories down for the C's, and fourteen to go.