Yup, I'm here, and just flipped on the Samsung to catch a snippet of the Bill Russell/Kevin Garnett conversation ESPN has been milking throughout the playoffs. If I heard right - and I may not have, because as I was watching, my wife and in-house analyst exclaimed, "That's Bill Russell? I thought he was white" - it sounded like Russell promised to give Garnett one of his championship rings if the Celtics don't win it this year. Pretty cool gesture, and one you, me, and especially KG desperately hope he doesn't have to fulfill.
The health of Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins: Like I said, obviously. By all accounts, Pierce feels and looks relatively healthy, and for that we can probably thank the nutty schedulemaker who booked two off days in the same city between Games 1 and 2. (If there's a logical reason for this, I must have missed it.) While much of the Celtics' fate in this series depends on the state of Pierce's messed-up meniscus, we also can't underestimate the importance of Perk, who has a chance to be a huge factor against a Lakers team that was shockingly soft in Game 1. (Has Gasol opened his eyes after Garnett's follow-up jam yet?) Perkins could be just the guy to rattle some brittle Laker bones, but if his ankle isn't close to healthy, then he's not going to be of much use.
Two other points while waiting for the 46th commerical break of the pregame to end: 1) That Kobe-walking-around-Boston thing was stupid and contrived. It figures that Stuart Scott liked it. 2) Doc Rivers just quoted Tony Dungy in his pregame speech, and I believe the reference had to do with how the Colts finally overcame the Patriots. At this point in Boston sports history, I don't particularly believe in bad omens, but I do have to wonder if Doc knows what city he is in right now. I mean . . . Dungy? He couldn't just read a passage from Derek Jeter's biography?
11:51 - Perkins waits exactly nine seconds to pick up his first foul. In a related note, Mike Breen informed us a few minutes ago that Perk had a cortisone shot before the game. We may be seeing a lot of P.J. Brown and Leon Powe tonight, and maybe even Big Baby.
10:06 - In the first 1:54, Pierce has hit a 3 and drawn two fouls on Vladimir Radmanovic, forcing Phil Jackson to dust off Trevor Ariza, who has played so little since coming back from injury that he smells like mothballs. So far, so good for Pierce.
9:13 - Perk hits a baseline fadeaway. Obviously, he's really hurting. He'd never make that shot if he was his usual self.
8:18 - Pierce blows by Ariza, makes a lefty layup, and draws a foul on Lamar Odom. That's either his fourth or fifth shot attempt, and yes, I'd say he's probably feeling quite all right. Wonder if he's ever heard of Bill Plaschke. If not, he's lucky.
7:04 - It's 10-8, Lakers, after Garnett misses a midrange jumper. The Celtics don't seem to be shooting particularly well right now, and as I'm writing that, the Celts commit their fourth turnover of the quarter on a ticky-tack offensive foul call. Not exactly the ideal start here.
5:50 - Odom gets a tip-in, prompting Mark Jackson to say something like: "You can tell by Odom and Gasol's body language that they have come to play." Meaning they don't look A) stoned or B) ready to burst into tears. That's their fourth quarter "body language."
4:28 - KG has hit two jumpers in a row, and it's 15-14, Lakers. Good to see, because that bearded turtle Gasol has outplayed him slightly so far.
3:51 - Ray Allen for 3, and the net barely fluttered. When he's feeling it, there isn't a prettier shot in the game, but you probably knew that. For the record, my all-time favorite jump shooter, non-Legend division, is Dale Ellis, who had no wasted motion in his shot whatsoever - it was basically a flick of the wrist. Poetry in motion, it was.
1:59 - Kobe picks up his second foul and sits with the Lakers leading, 19-18. I think it's fair to say that one doesn't get called at the Staples Center.
Commercial: Can Alonzo Mourning even drink Gatorade? That stuff can't possibly be good for the kidneys.
1:00 - Nice decision by Rondo, feeding Garnett for an open J just before the shot clock expired. I like what I've seen of him so far.
:44.3 - Van Gundy reiterates that Kobe Bryant shouldn't be on the All-Defensive Team, says he's a "lawyer" on the court, and then suggests players should get seven fouls rather than six. Have I mentioned yet tonight that he's the best basketball analyst I've heard in . . . well, I can't think of anyone who really compares in terms of humor and insight.
:07 - Jordan Farmar, who has apparently borrowed Jorge Posada's ears for the evening, hits a 3, Allen has a near-miss on the other end, and the Lakers lead after one, 22-20. I'll take it.
12:00 - Cassell in. Note to self: Prepare to heave the remote at the TV.
11:28 - Cassell gets a fadeaway blocked. Jeez, I thought he would have got a shot up sooner. Thirty-two seconds? He must be feeling timid tonight.
10:40 - P.J. Brown, who, if the Celts win this thing, will be an official folk hero in Boston, hits his first shot, and Mike Breen finally seems to have caught on to the story of Pierce, Garnett, and Allen talking him into coming to Boston during the All-Star festivities. Read the papers much, Mike?
10:07 - Powe hits a pair of free throws, and as Breen points out, he's been to the line eight times tonight in just over three minutes of playing time. I'll fall back on my season-long mantra here: Powe's one of the most efficient offensive players in the league, and good things seem to happen (especially on the offensive boards) when he's in the game. I hate it when Doc buries him, though I'll concede that if it's for defensive purposes than on some level it is justified.
9:43 - Pierce drills a three, and you could feel the Garden holding it's breath - then roaring collectively - as it ripped through the net. And by the way, I'm quite all right with calling it the Garden now - the place, as antiseptic as it used to be, really does rock when the games mean something. It's grown on me, which happens when you finally have some good memories at a place.
9:28 - Kobe returns and immediate sinks a jumper, ending the Celtics' 10-0 run to start the quarter. It's 30-24, Celts - impressive enough, but it's imperative that they maintain the momentum here.
8:34 - Posey buries a three - it's 33-24 - and I'm pretty sure I'm venturing into man-crush territory with him. And frankly, I'm comfortable with that.
7:44 - Van Gundy, after a Cassell pass: "Wow, another pass! That's two for him!" How great would it be to sit with him and Jackson and a 12-pack of Sam Adams and watch some random game? ABC/ESPN should offer that as a prize at a charity auction sometime.
6:02 - Powe goes to the bench with 8 points in 7 minutes of PT. Perkins checks back in and scores immediately off a Pierce feed. Doc seems to be pushing the right buttons with his substitutions tonight, though me and everyone else in New England would still rather see Eddie House over Cassell.
5:50 - The Celts are shooting 54 percent from the field tonight and have 12 assists on 13 field goals. I'll say it again. The Lakers are a soft and not particularly dedicated defensive team, no matter what the ESPN prognosticators claim.
Ah, here comes the usual celebrity roundup: 'Toine, who will probably find away to jack up a three before this one's over . . . Schill, apparently wearing a Thomas Hamilton throwback jersey . . . Magic Johnson, who is definitely a power forward at this point . . . and David Stern. What, no Ellen (McWhiny) Pompeo tonight? I was watching one of the '84 games on ESPN Classic a few days ago, and the celeb crew then was much more impressive, in its own bizarro way: Nicholson, Burt Bacharach, Neil Diamond, Tom Selleck, and Tom Selleck's mustache. God bless the cheesy '80s.
3:44 - Celtics lead by four (41-37) after a point-black Garnett miss, and the good guys look a little lethargic on offense right now . . .
2:52 - . . . and as I'm writing that, Pierce and Allen go back-to-back from downtown, and the lead is back up to 10. Jeez, Allen's shot is on right now, and no, I don't worry about jinxing him. That's a device of the self-absorbed.
1:43 - Kobe picks up his third foul, and man, how I wish I could make out the chant he's being serenaded with. I'm guessing it's not "M-V-P" this time.
:52 - "Rondo with the block, Garnett with the release . . . touchdown, Celtics!" Great call by Breen, and the Celts are up 11.
:23.9 - Rondo has been at his electric best in the last few minutes, swatting Gasol's shot, finishing with a crowd-pleasing dunk on the break, and snaking in among the trees to pull down an offensive rebound. When he's playing well, man, he's a blast to watch.
:00 - Gasol misses a couple of bunnies (copyright: Kobe) right before the buzzer - he's apparently the Spanish Charles Smith - and the Celtics cruise into the break with a 54-42 lead.
En route to the locker room, Pierce, who had 16 points in the half and drilled all three of his 3-point attempts, summed up his current condition to Michelle Tafoya thusly: "My adrenaline is flowing, baby. My adrenaline is flowing. I don't feel no pain." That pretty much applies to the Celtics performance overall - offensively, they were damn near perfect, particularly Pierce, Powe, and Allen. Rondo is Good Rajon tonight, and Garnett is setting the tone defensively. Pretty much the best-case scenario, in other words. What a terrific half of championship-level basketball. I don't feel no pain.
I first heard the Leon Powe story while he was starring at Cal, and still, it gets me every time. How can you not pull for this guy?
10:23 - Magic likes popcorn.
8:59 - Kobe spins to the hoop, flips in a gorgeous lefty layup . . . then says something the Danny Crawford (the good Crawford) and gets whacked with a technical. Seems like a stupid play to me, but Van Gundy likes it, so I'll defer to him. He's smaht.
8:40 - The Celtics have thrown the ball away on two of their last three possessions. No time to get careless, fellas. They have an occasional habit of doing so when they get a big lead.
8:20 - From under the basket, Rondo spots Pierce at the top of the key for a three. It's 62-46, and remember when we were worried about Pierce's knee? He's been outstanding tonight.
My friend Wendy informs me that the fans are chanting "No means no" at Kobe. That's just awesome. Wonder if he heard that at all during his leisurely stroll the other day.
6:55 - Kobe drives, hits one of his patented high-degree-of-difficulty bank shots, and I immediately think two things: 1) I think he's about to try to take this thing over, which is a good idea since Odom looks like he rather be napping and drinking from his sippy cup than playing, and 2) he got fouled on that play, and he has a right to be ticked that he didn't get a call.
4:52 - Kobe rattles in a jumper. The Celts lead by 11, and I feel the momentum shifting.
4:29 - Gasol, swish, and the lead is single digits. Good timeout by Doc here.
1:20 - All right, what the hell. Just realized I wasn't watching in HD, switched over, and the Celts are up 20. Damn DVR . . . so much for a live blog. Aarghhh. So you tell me what I missed, besides, I'm going to assume, a stupid play or two by Odom, a Kobe scowl at a teammate, and a Pierce and/or Allen three.
:28 - Leon brings the thunder! This is one of those times I wish I was watching the game with Tommy Heinsohn. CSN should offer that as a prize at a charity auction sometime.
:08 - Leon brings the thunder . . . again! Sweet dish from Pierce, and I'm guessing a certain someone is yelling "Tommy Point!" right now while Mike Gorman warms up the defibrillator. Celts enter the fourth up 22, and I catch myself wondering if they can take two of three in LA and ride the duck boats all the way back to Boston.
11:15 - Leon drives for two - he's 5 for 5 from the field for 16 points. Talk about efficient. Somewhere, John Hollinger just wet himself.
8:55 - Garnett hits his second straight jumper on Rondo's fifteenth assist of the night. I'm trying to come up with the best compliment I can think of regarding his performance in this game, and this is the best I've got so far: Dennis Johnson would be proud to call this one his own.
8:30 - Did Leon just go nearly coast to coast? LEON IS GETTING LARRRRRGER!
7:51 - KG with another J, and it's 95-71. What a delightful *%*-kicking.
7:27 - Van Gundy: "If I was Phil Jackson, I'd hope this one would get up to about 30." At this point, I'm not sure even such a public embarassment would spark this team.
7:22 - Sure looks to me like Kobe's padding his stats now, though he's about the only Laker who looks at all interested.
6:41 - Does Kobe have a single mannerism that wasn't lifted from a Jordan highlight video?
5:56 - Breen: "Kobe has not given up on this game yet." True, and an 18-point lead with No. 24 on the court does not feel completely safe.
5:38 - Pierce really does look healthy. He just curled off a screen, took two long strides and got to the hoop to draw the foul. Vintage, vintage Pierce.
4:17 - Man, the Lakers are chipping away - it's down to 13, thanks to some sharpshooting by Fisher and Radmanovic - but the clock is against them . . . right?
3:48 - Radmanovic looks like Brenda's psycho brother on "Six Feet Under."
3:35 - Official TATB Binky James Posey drills a 3, it's 102-86. Safe yet?
2:50 - . . . nope, as a Kobe three cuts it to 11. Lakers are on a 20-7 run here, and there's a lesson in here somewhere for the Celtics. Let's just hope it's not a hard one.
2:13 - Rondo bricks a pair of free throws, and Kobe flips in a runner . . .
2:00 - Pierce drives and answers . . .
1:13 - . . . Vujacic for 3 . . . and it's a two-possession game . . . and it's hard to write complete sentences when you're biting your nails . . .
1:03 - Radmanovic steals, picks up the first down, and dunks, and it's down to 4, 104-100 . . . WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING HERE???
:52 - Rondo misses a J after passing up an open layup. Yikes.
:38 - Pierce fouls Kobe. Down to 2.
:22.8 - Pierce drives and draws the foul. That was the good shot they needed. Now, MAKE BOTH.
There's one . . .
. . . and two. There is such a thing as clutch in basketball, right?
C'mon. One great defensive stand here. I have the same feeling I had with two minutes left in the Super Bowl.
:13 - Huge doesn't appropriately describe Pierce's block of that weasel Vujacic's shot, and yes, he took it, not Kobe. And of course Posey came up with the loose ball . . .
. . . and buries both free throws. Because that's what he does.
Breen: "The Celtics will survive." I don't know about, but I still haven't exhaled.
Quick thoughts in the aftermath: Powe was named the player of the game, and that's easily justified - he had 21 points in 15 minutes, which works out to 67.2 per 48 minutes. But the hero of the game was Pierce, who, when the Celtics were desperate for a good shot and a productive possession, drew a foul and hit both free throws with 22 seconds left, then made the crucial defensive play on the other end. It was the perfect conclusion to a statement game from Pierce, who is now two victories from an accomplishment that was little more than a daydream just a year ago. As for the team as a whole, we can say it now that the victory is secure: the late scare might be good for them. They got a little too casual when the lead swelled to 24, and while that's been a season-long habit, you just can't do that against a team that has No. 24. Here's hoping the lesson has finally been learned, and that they realize how fortunate they are that it came in a victory, that right now, as their Captain would say, they don't feel no pain.
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.