Miami dances to "The Heatles," but Boston rocks to "The Stones."
The Celtics are (barely) rolling into Miami with that musical moniker for Monday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals after demonstrating ample testicular fortitude during the final minutes of Saturday's 85-75 elimination of Philadelphia. There's little feeling of satisfaction after beating Philadelphia. For Celtics Nation, it seemed more like a beast of burden was lifted. Until Rajon Rondo's effort in the final minutes of the series, fans were pleading "gimme shelter" from this horrid form of basketball.
The Heatles' greatest hit remains the infamous "White Flag" album, which went platinum last June against Dallas in the finals and can be still be heard whenever LeBron James faces a key shot in the fourth quarter.
Against Philly, it was Rondo who had moves like Jagger, dropping daggers while Paul Pierce sat on the bench with six fouls. Minus the Truth, Rondo demonstrated true grit in the final 4:16 as Boston clung to a 71-68 lead. Rondo found his "rhythm" and ripped off nine straight points. His foot-on-the-line jumper was out of desperation as the shot clock expired. He displayed major cojones of his own by calmly draining a 3-pointer from Government Center that left Boston up 80-70 with 1:45 to play. That shot came by design, ignited a Garden frenzy and fueled up the team jet (see photo here), if not the Duck Boats. Those sticky fingers helped Rondo generate his ninth career playoff triple-double (he's closing in on Magic Johnson who has 30 and Larry Bird who has 10). Time to tell those haters: "Get off of my cloud."
Look for at least one more Rondo triple-double this postseason, given his impending match-up against Mario Chamlers. Rondo should own the point in South Beach. Chalmers has struggled and continually hears it from D-Wade and LeBron. "They're just trying to make me better. There's no bad stuff or nothing bad coming out of it,'' Chalmers told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Stupor Mario is averaging 11.3 points but just 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the playoffs while missing 24 of 40 3-point attempts.
Speaking of stones, Doc Rivers spoke of Ray Allen (or is that Ronnie Wood) having "a set" Saturday when asked about Allen launching his sixth 3-point attempt in Game 7 after missing his first five. Allen's second straight 3-ball came just inside the six minute mark Allen and gave Boston a 69-61 lead. “Ray is the ultimate gunslinger,” said Rivers in his post-game press conference. “You have to have a set to be able to do that. You felt if he got a shot, he was going to take it. You don’t know if he’d make it, but he was going to take it.”
When it comes to this Big Four, time is not on their side. The points generated on Allen's last two shots in Game 7 against Philly surpassed his offensive output in games three, four and five. The thought of the hobbled Allen trying to defend Dwyane Wade one-on-one is terrifying. Allen has been bedeviled by age, injury and an inability to score. Expect no sympathy from D-Wade.
"Please to meet me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste. I've been around for a long, long year. Stole many a man's soul and faith." That could be Mick Jagger singing about Satan or Rivers talking about Father Time. The Celtics have gone as far as expected this spring. In HR parlance, the Celtics have achieved their performance benchmarks by reaching the conference finals. They are playing with the house's money from now on. Enjoy it.
Against Miami, it's only pick and roll, but the Celtics could like it depending on Chris Bosh's status. Boston's best matchups will come at the point and - minus Bosh - down low whenever Garnett decides to assert himself (which usually comes in odd-numbered games). Pierce has a shot at containing LeBron in at least four out of seven games. But D-Wade and the bench play could tip this thing to back to the Heatles.
Rondo has been setting the table and doing the dishes for six seasons with the Celtics, but now he's firmly earned the right to dine at the adults' table. He's never delivered like this in Pierce's absence, especially with the season/Big Four's future on the line. "I thought I had a pretty good rhythm, so I wanted to stay confident and continue to shoot the ball. They went in at the right moment," he said in comments aired on Comcast SportsNet.
Boston's "Stones", who like their musical counterparts boast plenty of age, talent and longevity, suffered their 19th, 20th and 21st nervous breakdowns this year courtesy of Rondo. Things bottomed out with his suspension after Game 1 against Atlanta. Rondo has grown immeasurably since then, maturing at least 15 years in three weeks. “I felt I owed him one,” Rondo said of Pierce. “He got me back in Game Two in Atlanta (when Rondo was suspended.)" He's starting to play beyond his 26 years.
And while Allen sported "a set." he also passed up a couple of open jumpers in the fourth quarter. Then Rivers and Rondo delivered Allen a message of confidence. Rondo took the clipboard and drew up a play featuring Brandon Bass and Allen, from which Allen scored. "Rondo is the coach on the floor. It's impressive for a point guard to draw up plays like that." Bass said. (Wondering, does Bass play bass?)
"That's my job. I'm one of the captains. I'm the point guard. I'm the general on the floor. It's nothing new," said Rondo, who dressed like he was on the cover of the Rolling Stone at the podium Saturday. "I take pride in knowing Doc's system. I've been in the system for six years. I think I know it better than him."
Sixers head coach Doug Collins added: "I don't look at them as a Big Three. I look at them as a Championship Four. If you leave Rondo out it's a huge mistake." Collins is half-right. The Big Three won its title as "The Fabulous Five," but Kendick Perkins was forced out of the band. These four were fantastic enough to beat Philly, they have not yet won a title of their own.
"Miami in 6" was trending on Twitter after Boston's victory Saturday. Kenny Smith and Dr. Shaq took "Boston in 6" Sunday night on TNT.
Personally, I like the Celtics in 7.
Rock on, Celtics.
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