The Cavaliers needed Superman, they got Clark Kent.
You can take that to mean something about Shaq, LeBron, Mo, or anyone not named Hickson, Jamison, and maybe Varejao. Is LeBron’s elbow ailing? If he says its not a problem then its not an excuse. Mo may have rescued game 1 with an improbable dunk and subsequent hot shooting, but game 2 wasn’t a repeat performance or even a decent sequel. That was more like Speed 2.
But, the Celtics destroyed the Cavaliers. This is what the Franchise and I tried to tell the Champ about Boston for a while now: they are a solid, veteran team who you hope doesn’t flip the switch on you. When Rasheed Wallace scores 17 points in 18 minutes its going to be a long night.
Ray Allen was Ray Allen again. And I really like Ray Allen. The Celtics are proficient at setting screens because of their experience and, well, they have to be. They can’t win many close games against good teams if Allen or Pierce is getting free and shooting well from outside.
Just watch at about 48 seconds in, Rondo makes the Cavaliers look like a group of JV players getting their shot at the Varsity squad. And he was everything Boston could have hoped for (you know the stats, but in case you were in a coma: 13 points, 19 assists, 4 rebounds in 45 minutes of labor). Its sounds cliché at this point, but he really was the best, or certainly most dominant, player on the court last night, almost like he was going to show that the MVP isn’t going to make Boston his punching dummy.
But what would worry me, and has worried me is that Rondo needs to be on the court running the show if Boston wants to win. They don’t have a good enough backup at point for Rondo to take a breather. He played 45 minutes last night, and all of the first three quarters before finally getting a respite in the fourth. But, he is young and he is great, not good, great. He may not have a reliable outside shot but he doesn’t need one, at least not yet.
Oh boy, the Cavaliers. Obviously, none of the blame will go towards Delonte West, that is a given. However, it wasn’t 1-on-5 basketball last night, it was 0-on-5 basketball for a large portion of the game. LeBron needed another superstar effort last night (which was well in reach, only down 4 at the half) to take a commanding 2-0 lead against Boston. He didn’t have it last night. Sure, he had a 24-7-4 game, but it was so pedestrian. Those are Paul Pierce numbers, not LeBron James stats.
Jamison played effectively on offense, but on defense he is making Garnett’s leg look healthier every possession. Shaq is not consistent offensively, blame it on the thumb if you want but its been this way all season. But it wasn’t all storm clouds and doom, Hickson and Varejao were effective.
Everyone knows this would be the case as they can use their youth and quickness against Perkins, Garnett, Wallace, and sometimes Davis. Still, Hickson looks like he is ready to perform on this stage, the lights not blinding and the nerves not paralyzing. He looks every bit the athlete that can exploit Boston’s age. However, he couldn’t stop Rasheed last night, which if he is on not many can. And who is to say that Rasheed can keep this up, he hasn’t proven this over the year and it was shocking that he was comfortable staying in the paint.
But before this turns into an overreaction, this series is far from having the tide turned. Boston played great in at least 7 of the 8 quarters so far. They are playing like they have something to prove. They could very well take the series from Cleveland. But I doubt that. Unless Rasheed continues to provide constant scoring off the bench and Garnett continues his march backwards in time, the Celtics will struggle.
They nearly let Cleveland back in the game when they were up 21. This was a terrible game from Cleveland’s perspective, but they nearly came back. Nearly doesn’t matter in the playoffs, but it shows that they aren’t too many shots or loose balls away from making incredible runs.
Oh, and Phoenix baby! I really want Phoenix to advance more than any team in the playoffs.
Nash goes off for 33 and 10, Richardson went for 20+ (a win for Phoenix on most nights), and Amare played like he always does when squared up against the Spurs. They pushed the ball and raised the tempo, things that the Spurs were rumored to be able to squash (which may be demonstrated in the ensuing games).
Surprise, surprise, the best players on San Antonio were Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker. Weird stuff. Jefferson was absent (not physically, but practically), George Hill had a +/- of -22, and the rest of San Antonio didn’t have much else to contribute either.
Basically, it was a very good game for the Suns and one that the Spurs will put behind them rather quickly I presume. These are the games that prove that Nash is still a top 3 point guard in this league, he was incredible after dealing with injuries in the Portland series, to come back the first game and really establish the tone and tempo of this game and, if they can keep it up, the series.
Seriously though, this performance will not be the norm for the Spurs. It can’t be, they are too good and too experienced to let this happen for the entire thing. They could definitely take game 2 from the Suns and it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone outside of Arizona and probably even inside Arizona.