Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jesus Saves

The Celtics played one of their worst games of the season on Monday night. They shot 32% from the floor, turned over the ball twice as much as the Pistons and and they could only manage 12 assists all night in a 94-75 loss. The question was on everyone's mind "Which Celtics team would show up tonight?". Ray Allen was once again ineffective as were the rest of the squad. Even though the Celtics were completely inept at both ends of the court the Pistons still couldn't put the C's away until the very end of the contest.

The Celtics allowed Antonio McDyess and Jason Maxiell to hurt them again and again and Kevin Garnett couldn't even catch the ball in the post to help initiate their offense. With the series tied up at 2-2, the Celtics had to re-establish their home court dominance and possibly push the Pistons to the brink of elimination. The ball was jumped up and the battle for Eastern Conference dominance was joined.

It took both teams a while to get into a groove but one thing was apparent from the outset, Kendrick "The Hulk" (not KP43) Perkins had shown up to play tonight. He's had quite a few monster games this season but one was really needed from him Wednesday night. If the ball came off the rim, then Hulk came down with it. He also provided some offensive punch while Garnett was trying to get going in the post.

Once Kevin Garnett finally found his offense and Rajon Rondo began to impose his will on the game. Shortly thereafter, the Pistons came alive and the Celtics had a few mental lapses including leaving Rasheed Wallace wide open for 3 three pointers which he knocked down. Oddly enough, Wallace wanted no parts of Kendrick Perkins in the paint so he just hovered around the stripe all night.

The first quarter ended in a 23-23 tie after a controversial block on Perkins by Tayshaun Prince. The Pistons came out energized in the 2nd quarter and put together a run while the hapless Celtic defense could do nothing but foul them again and again. Sam Cassell was given the quick hook after turning over the ball twice, the Celtics committed 9 turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the game as the Pistons took a 33-25 lead with 9:00 left in the half.

Rajon Rondo immediately got the offense kickstarted by turning his man over and getting out into transition to get two back to back buckets. The big play was Kevin Garnett's emphatic dunk over Theo Ratliff. The Pistons took a quick time out in an attempt to stem the tide as the momentum was swinging over to the Celtics' side. The teams traded baskets for a while but Garnett was scoring with more frequency in the paint.

On a fast break, Rondo hit Ray Allen with a long pass and he drove to the hole and got a layup with 5:35 left in the half to give him his first easy points of the game. It cut the Pistons lead to 38-35. The game was touch and go until Rajon Rondo found Paul Pierce in the corner for a wide open three pointer to bring the lead down to 1. Kevin Garnett forced Billups to shoot a long three which came off the rim into Rondo's hands. He pushed the ball up court and hit a wide open Ray Allen in rhythm for the three point attempt. Bottom. The Celtics went up 44-42 with 3:19 left in the half.

The play of Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett sparked a 16-4 run to end the first half. Hulk ended the half with 12 points and 13 rebounds and the Celtics were outrebounding the Pistons 28-11 halfway through the game (he outrebounded the entire Pistons team by himself). The Celtics had 15 fast break points to the Pistons' 3. The Celtics were officially on a roll, all they had to do was find a way to sustain it.

The Celtics came out aggressive to start the 3rd quarter, they turned the Pistons over and forced them to foul. Several of the Pistons got into foul trouble trying to match Perkins (18 pts 16 reb 2 blk 2 stl) and Rondo's energy. The Celtics pushed the lead up to 13 before the Pistons were able to bring the lead down to 8 with a Rasheed Wallace (18 pts 4 reb) three and a Chauncey Billups jumper in the lane.

Rajon Rondo calmly brought the ball downcourt, did a stutter step move and knived into the paint while hitting Ray Allen with a perfect pass in rhythm as he let the shot fly. Swish. Celtics were back up by 11 just like that. The crowd let out a cheer, one that they'd been holding in since Game 2 in The Jungle when Ray Allen went for 25. When he finds his shot, he transforms into his alter ego...we call him "Jesus". The Jungle faithful have been waiting to see Jesus. Was he about to make an appearance tonight?

Theo Ratliff was fouled and he went to the line to shoot two. He bricked both free throws and the Celtics pushed the ball upcourt yet again to get a foul and an inbounds play. The ball went into Rondo and he hit Ray Allen who then made a quick move to create space and went into that quick release and perfect follow throw. Wet. The crowd went wild. The lead went up to 14. Jesus is risen.

He drove the hole and got a putback. Later on he drove straight to the hole and banked in a layup of the glass for two more. He hit a technical free throw. He drove to the hole and got hacked so he stepped to the charity stripe again and knocked down two more free throws. Nearing the end of the 3rd quarter, Rondo hit him with a pass just as he came off of a screen and he hit a three from the bottom corner to push the lead to 82-67. Ray Allen had The Glow. He'd gone Super Saiyan for only his second time in the series finishing the quarter with 16 points and the Celtics began the final frame with an 84-71 lead.

The 4th quarter was an ugly affair. Coach Rivers shortened the rotation and due to Tony Allen's ailing Achilles tendon he was forced to keep Rondo (7 pts 6 reb 13 ast 4 stl 1 blk) in for pretty much the entire game. The Pistons made a huge run and the Celtics were completely out of sync for much of the quarter. They turned down wide open shots, mad bad passes, turned the ball over and made key mental lapses time and time again down the stretch.

The Pistons kept attacking while the Celtics could only manage sporadic scoring at key moments towards the end. Paul Pierce (16 pts 5 reb 6 ast), Kevin Garnett and James Posey all hit some big shots that kept the Celtics above water but the Pistons tightened up their defense and the Celtics continued to play a tentative offensive game. The Pistons kept chipping away at the lead but Rajon Rondo hit a huge layup to make the game 94-88 with 4:25 left in the game.

It was down to a 3 point game (99-96) with less than 2 minute left in the game. Rajon Rondo nailed the second free throw and made the lead 4. Rodney Stuckey (13 pts 3 ast 2 stl) made it a one point game off of a Chauncey Billups ( 26 pts 5 reb 6 ast) assist with 1:23 left to go. On an inbounds play in front of the Pistons bench, James Posey passed the ball to Jesus Shuttlesworth who had just come off of a screen clean. He caught and shot all in one fluid motion with a toe on the line. Swish! 102-99 with 1:02 left in the game.

After a few misses the Celtics ended up with the ball with under 30 seconds left in the game and a 102-99 lead. Kevin Garnett missed a long jumper and the Pistons had a chance to tie the game. While holding Ray Allen up around his face and neck area he wrenched his elbow and never made it downcourt. The confused Pistons didn't get into their offense and an alert Rajon Rondo fouled and put them at the line with 8.2 seconds left on the clock. Rip Hamilton (25 pts 4 reb 6 ast 6 TO's) never returned.

Rodney Stuckey missed his first free throw and tried to miss his second but he instead made it (?). This gave the Celtics the ball with a 2 point lead. Kevin Garnett stepped to the line and cooly knocked down two clutch free throws to end the game with 33 points and 7 rebounds. and a 4 point lead. The Pistons knocked down two free throws but they were forced to foul Jesus (29 pts on 5-6 3 pt and 6-6 from the free throw line) who sealed the game with two more clutch free throws. The Celtics won in a barnburner 106-102 in Boston. We all got to see Gino again.

The Celtics shot 51% (37-73, 8-15 from deep) on the night while Pistons went 46% (31-67, 11-21 from three). I could run off a shitload of useless stats but the key stat? BOS 42 rebounds to DET's 25 pretty much tells the tale of the game in my opinion. Game 6 will be in Detroit on Friday and Rip Hamilton is questionable for Game 6. I'll be watching. Go Celtics!

Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals: March 30th, 2008 @ 8:30 PM ESPN
The Palace in Auburn Hills, MI @ DET
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (2) Detroit Pistons
BOS leads 3-2 (best of 7)


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