Two TATB live blogs in the Finals, two Celtics victories. If it's all right with you, I'd just as soon continue the trend.
• Rajon Rondo's health is the question of the night, and judging by the pregame reports, the Celtics' point guard is good to go. He's got the recuperative powers of youth on his side and I'm pretty sure he's made out of rubber anyway, so I'm not particularly worried about his condition, at least until Sam Cassell heads to the scorer's table. Here's hoping Eddie House gets the brunt of the minutes if Rondo is slowed at all.
• Jon Barry picked the Celtics to win. James Worthy picked Pau Gasol to domininate Kevin Garnett. For once, Barry wasn't the biggest numbskull on the ABC set. Big night for him.
• I understand people wanting Kevin Garnett to play closer to the basket - those 21-footers really should be 18-footers - but anyone who expects him to suddenly break out his former general manager's post moves simply has not been paying attention. That's not who he is. He's a great midrange shooter who's not hitting his shots right now, in part because of Kobe Bryant's double team. He'll be better tonight, and he'll anchor the defense and rebound no matter what.
• Lamar Odom did make it to the game. Of course, I'm pretty sure Chris Mihm's sole duty at this point is to make sure Odom gets to the Staples Center.
All right, game time. Here's to victory No. 81 . . .
10:43 - Odom and Ray Allen trade quick baskets, then Paul Pierce clanks a three and misses badly on a floater/pass/something. He's already trying to be the hero. Not a good sign.
10:13 - Perkins is called for a loose ball foul after Kobe gives the Lakers a 5-2 lead at the line. Ticky-tack, unnecessary foul. Somewhere, Tim Donaghy nods knowingly at his new cellmate and life partner, Bubba.
9:30 - Doc Rivers gets called for a technical. I'm with him on this one. The Lakers are getting all the whistles early, not that they need much help.
9:12 - Odom dunks to cap a 7-0 Laker run, and it's 9-2. The Lakers look smooth, the Celtics look semi-conscious, and the officials' stripes might as well be purple and gold.
7:21 - Another hoop for Odom, followed a few moments later by a Vladimir Radmanovic 3-pointer. All of the Lakers' softies have come to play thus far tonight.
6:22 - My boy, 22 months, has an infection in one ear right now. The doctor today said his equilibrium would be off and he'd be wobbly for a few days. I'm beginning to wonder if Paul Pierce has an ear infection. He can't even dribble without stumbling so far, and Garnett is no better. For such a great passer, he has no clue how to solve the double team when Kobe runs at him. Hell, Kobe just pulled the ball out of his hands a few minutes ago. It's 16-6, LA, and they'd better find some solutions soon.
6:05 - Odom with offensive rebound, resulting in Garnett's second foul. Honestly, I don't know what to say this point.
5:34 - Radmanovic hits another 3, right in Pierce's mug, and LA takes a 20-6 lead. The next time he touches the ball, I hope he gets Rambised into the third row. He'd be useless and quivering the rest of the night.
5:00 - Eddie House in for Rondo. Van Gundy approves, and so do I. Something or someone needs to provide an offensive spark, which reminds me: Do they ever run a set play for Ray Allen? He shot the lights out of the place Tuesday, and now he gets his shots only after Pierce decides he doesn't have enough room to heave up a three.
3:38 - Odom buries his fifth straight shot, and I'm beginning to regret every snide thing I ever said about him.
3:26 - House misses his second straight attempt. You don't think Sam Cassell is contagious, do you?
3:03 - Current score: Odom 12, Celtics 7.
2:10 - Pierce scores on a drive, then feeds Allen for a 3. Mike Breen, who I'm almost sure is wearing a game-worn Gail Goodrich jersey tonight, informs us that it's the first time the Celtics have scored on consecutive positions. That pretty much tells you all you need to know.
1:58 - James Posey in. This is overdue. He'll stick an elbow in someone's sternum. Hopefully, Odom's.
:51.1 - House bricks a wide-open three. If he's not hitting that, he's as useless as Cassell. Well, okay, no one's that useless.
:51 - The Lakers are killing the Celtics on the boards - I think Breen just said it's 12-6. Inexcusable. The Lakers are not a tough or physical team, but the Celtics are making them look like one. How does this happen?
:33 - Trevor Ariza hits a 3, and it's 34-12. Read that again: Trevor Ariza hits a 3. I'm beyond confusion now. I'm pissed.
:4.7 - The Lakers have more free throw attempts (16) than the Celtics have points (14), but you know what? It's not all the refs' fault. The Celtics have been just that passive, just that awful. They deserve this.
:00 - The Lakers end the quarter with a football blowout of a lead - 35-14 - and Breen gleefully reports it's the largest lead after one quarter in Finals history. I'm trying to talk myself into believing they can come back from this, but I haven't seen a single reason why I should.
9:50 - The Staples Center crowd is giving Ariza (6 points, 5 rebounds in 5 minutes) a standing ovation, which tells you all you need to know. I'm pretty sure they didn't know him from Ira Newble 20 minutes ago.
9:02 - Two straight hoops for Garnett - well, that's something - and it's 37-19.
8:13 - Breen: "Former draft pick of the New York Knicks, Trevor Ariza, getting it done for the Lakers." Ah, now his true identity is revealed . . . Funny how Knicks fans conveniently morph into Lakers fans when it comes to the Celtics. We're looking at you, Spike.
8:05 - I think Michelle Tafoya just jumped Will Smith. Probably the smoothest move of the night by anyone not wearing gold.
7:53 - Odom. Again. Seven shots, seven makes. I think he might read this blog. I'm sorry, Lamar. You've made your point. You can go back to sleep now.
7:31 - Garnett bricks a turnaround, followed by a turnover on the next possession, and the Celtics have absolutely no flow on offense. None. Bricked threes and misses on contested shots. This is just gross. I feel like I'm watching the Knicks.
4:46 - Kobe just bricked a jumper, and I'm not sure he even has a field goal yet, which tells you all you need to know about how his supporting cast is playing.
4:13 - Allen for 3, and it's 45-26. If Doc has a brain in his head, he'll run every play for No. 20 and see if he can shoot the C's back into this thing. Of course, that's assuming the Celtics have plays for Allen. (Great timeout here by Phil Jackson, who typically does a fantastic job of managing the game's momentum.)
3:48 - Posey for 3, and the Celtics have it down to 14 . . .
2:51 - . . . Pierce for two more, and it's a 12-0 run. And this is all happening as Breen (now adorned in Chuck Nevitt's practice-worn tube socks) are all but talking about this game in the past tense. The Celtics may not come all the way back in this thing, but veteran NBA announcers should know better than to write a game off in the first half.
2:36 - A conventional 3-point play by Derek Fisher wakes up the Staples Center crowd (I think they were all "powdering their noses" at the same time), Gasol follows with an easy two, and suddenly it's back up to 17. The Celtics simply cannot afford to stall out now. They need to be within a dozen at the half.
1:14 - Posey drills another 3. He has 10 points in the quarter. If he's lucky, Trevor Ariza will grow up to be James Posey some day.
:52.2 - I'm not sure if Pierce's knee is the reason, but he looks a step slower than usual tonight. That said, he just bounded to the hoop and drew the third foul on Kobe. Could be meaningful later if the Celts keep chipping away.
:5.2 - Rondo is getting schooled by Fisher off the dribble. Might be due to the sore ankle, might be due to inexperience, might be due to the fact that the Celtics completely stink tonight. You figure it out. In the meantime, give me more House, please.
:00 - Jordan Farmar throws in a running 3 at the buzzer to end the half, and it's 58-40 as the Lakers skip off to the locker room to get their halftime massages from Dyan Cannon and that creepy guy in the hat who sits next to Nicholson. The only way it could have been a more appropriate end to a %*$*$ half of basketball is if Ariza or Odom hit the shot.
Also, I should note this: Doc took Garnett out to prevent him from getting his third foul with about a minute left in the quarter at the LA lead down to 13. Right now, that is looking Isiah-level stupid - the Celtics lost their anchor on defense and all momentum on offense.
Halftime analysis: Enough with this Ubuntu, happy-happy, joy-joy b.s. I hope Doc lights into them, then punctuates his rant by breaking his clipboard over Pierce's head. Neither the clipboard nor Pierce have been of much use tonight so far anyway.
(Postgame note: Okay, enough of that negativity. For the good parts, click below.)
10:17 - Celts open with an 8-2 run (Garnett gets 4), and it's back down to 12. Pretty much the way you hoped they'd open the half, but they must keep it going.
9:35 - Perkins picks up his fourth foul, then heads to the locker room clutching his shoulder, an all too familiar sight with him. I hate to say it, but it might be a blessing, forcing Doc to go with Powe or Posey for more offense. Oh, and can we please have a Laker injury at some point?
9:06 - Odom feeds Radmanovic on the break. That's a perfect time for the Celtics to Rodney Harrison someone, but instead LA gets the easy layup. Disgusting.
8:32 - Kobe hits his second field goal of the half and third of the night, and it's back up to 18, 66-48. Way to sustain the momentum, guys.
8:06 - Pierce is 2 of 6 tonight. Remember the days when he played well in LA? I miss those times. At this point, you really have to wonder how much his knee is affecting him. He can't beat Radmanovic off the dribble. Think about that for a moment and try not to shudder.
4:30 - Story of the bleeping night so far: Celts get it to 13 (70-57), nearly get a steal . . . and Kobe recovers and finds Gasol for an uncontested dunk. As soon as they get reasonably close, the tide turns again. It wouldn't hurt if the refs called over the back once in a while, too, but complaints aren't really justified given the way the Celts have played.
2:40 - Allen with a steal and layup, and it's down to 11, prompting Jackson to call a timeout. I wish Doc was so proactive with stopping an opponent's momentum, but I think he's too busy planning what he's going to say to Tafoya between quarters.
2:28 - An offensive foul on an alleged illegal screen by Garnett, followed by Posey's fifth foul on the other end. Apparently, a Celtics comeback isn't in the zebras' script.
2:15 - A Tony Allen sighting! I wonder if he knows these are the Finals. I bet he thinks it's the Las Vegas Summer League.
2:01 - Pierce with a classic drive plus the free throw, and it's down to nine. And was it me, or did Pierce goof for a moment like he was hurt there? I chuckled, but it also tells me he's hearing the crowd's taunts of "Faker, faker." (And by the way, if LA fans chanting that isn't the ultimate example of takes-one-to-know-one, I don't know what is.)
1:23 - Eddie House for three, and suddenly it's 73-67. I hope Doc doesn't decide to rest Garnett here, because out of nowhere, this is a hell of a run.
:40 - Allen sinks a pair from the line, and it's down to four. KEEP. IT. UP. KEEPITUP!!!!
:1.7 - In case you were wondering, yes, old man P.J. Brown can still dunk, and it sure looked like he was fouled there as well. It's 74-72 - the graphic says it was a 21-3 run - and to be honest, I have no idea how it happened. Just ride the wave, baby.
:00 - Damn, I am so sorry to see this quarter end.
11:15 - Leon Powe gets decked by Turiaf on a follow-up, and the refs say it's a non-shooting foul. Then Pierce is called for an iffy offensive foul. It ain't gonna be easy, folks, but it can be done.
10:23 - Kobe's in "I'm shootin' it" mode now. So far, he's still in "I'm missin' it" mode.
9:57 - Tie ballgame.
9:45 - . . . and Kobe unties it . . .
9:31 - . . . and Pierce ties it . . . and who would have thought a half-hour ago that this one would have all the makings of a classic?
No matter how the rest of this one plays out, we must praise them for this: In a hostile arena, the Celtics came back from a 24-point deficit against the best offensive team in the league. If that doesn't tell you something about their character, then nothing will. One other thing: Doc deserves credit for going small with House and Posey. As Van Gundy keeps saying, when you have five shooters on the floor, it really limits what the defense can do.
8:25 - Garnett checks in and immediately misses a turnaround jumper in the lane after trying a back-to-the-basket move. Please, don't try to be what you aren't, KG. Play your game. It's enough for most of us.
7:15 - Seriously, I joke about Breen, but he seems to be openly rooting for Kobe at this point. I bet he checks into hotels under the pseudonym "Vanessa."
6:29 - Odom with a layup after P.J. Brown misses on a chance to give the Celts the lead. He was fouled, but we know better than to expect a whistle. They still haven't been able to get over that hump.
5:45 - Pierce clanks a jumper, falls down, and Kobe blows past Posey for an easy dunk at the other end. The Lakers are up four, 81-77. Big, big sequence there, and the Celts must start getting better shots. By the way, is Ray Allen in the game? Time to get him some looks.
5:24 - I may change my son's name to James and my daughter's to Posey. He drills a 3, and it's 81-80.
5:01 - For the record, I think Odom went home at halftime.
4:53 - Gasol, 83-80. Nice move by the EuroBeard.
4:37 - Garnett hits a pair.
4:06 - And Eddie House has a pair. God bless his gunner's soul, he does not hesitate on the 16-foot J, and the Celts are up one, 84-83. House has 10 points tonight, and I can't praise him enough for the way he has stepped up this postseason despite being jerked around by the whims of his coach.
3:30 - Allen saves the possession with an offensive board of Pierce miss - his ninth board of the night - then he finishes the possession with a gorgeous up and under. It's 86-83, and that, my friends, is the $*$*$****$*$***$*$*****$* **#*(#((#( ((( ((($**$** play of the night. (Sorry for the vulgarity. I learned it from KG.)
2:10 - Garnett with a bunny-hop layup in the lane, and the Celts are up five after an 8-0 run. And somewhere, Curt Schilling is scribbling notes on how Kobe interacts with his teammates during this timeout.
Win or lose tonight, this team is winning the championship. THIS TEAM IS WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP!!!!!!!!! (thumps chest, whimpers).
"I remember seeing Bird win it all." Man, that commercial gave me serious chills.
2:03 - Van Gundy points out that Jackson has put the unit on the floor that led the Lakers late rally in Game 2. A brilliant point, and I have to wonder if Doc noticed as well.
I snicker at how Mark Jackson says "Gasol." It sounds like an FCC violation.
1:55 - After Kobe gets two back for the Lakers, Pierce splits a pair. Gotta hit 'em both if you want to be called "The Truth," son.
1:30 - Kobe with a shot only he and maybe that lawyer in Cleveland can make, and it's two again.
1:13 - Posey for 3. I love him. I do. I think I might get his likeness tattooed on my arm. Gonna make my wife get an Eddie House tat, also.
1:00 - Fisher with a jumper, and while it was a huge shot, by stepping into it he cost his team a point. His foot was on the line, and credit to Breen for picking up on it when the scoreboard dude didn't.
:46.8 - Pierce hits a pair. That's how you do it, and it's 94-89 . . .
. . . Gasol with the point-blank two, just what LA required . . .
:16.4 - The Lakers decide not to foul Ray Allen. The also decide not to guard him as he blows past Vujacic untouched for a lovely lefthanded layup, and it's back to five, 96-91. Breen informs us that Allen hasn't come out of the game tonight. To that I say, thank you, Doc.
:3.5 - Vujacic miss . . . Kobe miss . . . Garnett shoved, no whistle . . . House loose-ball rebound . . .
. . . and the Boston Celtics are one win from the NBA Championship after a comeback so improbable, even David Stern wouldn't dare script it. Final score: 97-91.
I'll be back in a minute of so for some postgame thoughts. I need to think about what we just witnessed . . .
GIDDY POSTGAME ANALYSIS:
This was the very definition of a team effort, coming back from 24 points down in the first half and 20 in the third quarter to pull off the most impressive, improbable comeback most of us have ever seen. (Yes, including the famous New Jersey game. This is the Finals, homey.)
And yet it is absolutely necessary to emphasize some of the brilliant - and in several cases, career-definining - individual performances that made this comeback a reality.
We must start with Ray Allen, who hit two shots down the stretch that were as gorgeous as they were important; after his earlier struggles in the playoffs, we are seeing his true greatness now. He's the MVP of this series so far, and what a treat it is to watch him play this way.
There's Paul Pierce, the %(%*%**% truth as Shaq so famously tagged him, who lived up to his nickname and cemented his legacy by asking to defend Kobe in the second half, then dogging him to point of exhaustion. The 20 points didn't hurt, either.
There's Kevin Garnett, silencing his critics with a gritty fourth quarter, his value as always exceeding his statistics. They'll respect you when you're a champion, KG.
There's the 1-2 punch off the bench, James Posey and Eddie House, who hit huge shot after huge shot as the deficit continued to shrivel; you cannot not exaggerate the professionalism of these two players, and they stand as two indispensible examples of Danny Ainge's acumen as a GM.
And it is our duty to praise Doc Rivers, the maligned coach, who pressed all the right buttons in the second half, from sticking with the scoring lineup of House/Posey, to using Brown and Powe to give KG a necessary breather at the start of the fourth, to keeping his team focused, calm, and united - UBUNTU! - when victory seemed an impossible task. The best compliment we can pay is to say he is absolutely the right coach for this particular basketball team. And if that doubles as an apology, all the better.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go watch Gary, Donny, and especially Mike and Tommy. Though we'll be reliving this game for years to come, I want to keep it in the moment, to savor the aftermath, rehash it and rehash it again.
Dammit, what a win. What a team.
Let's do this again Sunday.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.