Monday, April 19, 2010

Where a Playoff Game Can Turn 40 Seconds Into 10 Minutes in More Ways Than One (Hardwood Paroxysm Style: Or, Where Miami's Bench Just Gave Heat the "One-Up" For Game Two)

For those of you that don't know, the Boston Celtics were down by 14 at one point during Saturday night's Celts-Heat at the playoff-atmosphere Garden. In fact, it was the third quarter, with 19:03 left to play in the game. I, likely not alone, was not happy with how the Celtics were playing.

I'll be honest: I couldn't have expected to go the entire game without seeing the Heat more juiced than the Celtics were. The Celtics played hard. We're finally getting somewhere with this team emotionally-wise. But they didn't have adversity on their side, as I mentioned Saturday, and the Heat did. It fueled Miami, to say the least. Why should they lay down to a team that they only finished three games behind in the regular season? The Heat had been scorching hot for the last two months, and there was no reason to stop dead during the playoffs.

What really caught my attention was that the Heat decided to come out and embarrass the Celtics for 48 minutes. There was no mercy in their play. They were grabbing offensive rebounds, lighting the open court trail on fire, and utilizing every opportunity they had to trump the Celtics on both ends of the floor. They were playing defense. They were playing offense. And it isn't a coincidence which one I mentioned first.

As most of us should have recognized, the Miami Heat were playing like a playoff team. And rightfully so. Sure, Miami was the underdogs. However, they weren't heavily unfavored. Most picked the Celtics, but not by way of a clean sweep. No, the Miami Heat were bound to stick around. Some picked six games. Some picked seven. But those were just the predictions pointing in Boston's direction. Down in South Beach, the Miami journalists had the Heat prevailing. After seeing last night's game, I can see reason to their forecasts.

That is, before the 7:03 mark in last night's third quarter. The Celtics hung around with the young, athletic Heat team. Hung around here, though, sounds like a much more depressing term than it should be here. The Heat were playing the basketball the propelled them to a 47-35 record and a 12-1 season-finish. They ran the fast break game with a beautiful energy, orchestrated a strong defensive effort, and their superstar was given the stretch to release his wrath. All in one bundle. It seemed that the Boston Celtics couldn't handle it. Until Kendrick Perkins made a jump hook, Kevin Garnett swatted away a Jermaine O'Neal shot, and then dropped it in for an easy two. Down 10.

The game was not out of reach. And that's because the Boston Celtics realized that it's better to imposing your will with actions instead of an air of swagger and words.

From then on out, it was the wizardry of Rondo and the ability of Boston to move swiftly, cunningly, and patiently to find open shots and loopholes in the Miami defense. Rondo wasn't on a scoring tear last night. He still wasn't 100% after recuperating from a nasty stomach virus, as noted obviously from many Celtics' fans and analysts. But he was quick and smart with the ball, and found a compassionate Pierce and the energetic trio of Perkins, Garnett, and Davis for easy buckets.

Ensuing all of that came one possession. One possession that from here on out in the series will make this a bloody war. We may or may not see another skirmish like we did last night. But it won't be just a first round playoff series anymore, which holds enough tension in itself. It will be 48 minutes of hell, 48 minutes of players and units seeking ways to avenge their teams'. However, despite the fact that this series will probably be extremely fun to watch, I'm none too pleased about what happened during the confrontation between Boston and Miami, starting with the contact between Paul Pierce and two Miami defenders.

Pierce was trying to cut around Haslem when he obviously banged up his shoulder into Haslem, who was trying to recover defensively and stay in front of Pierce. Then Pierce bumps into a second Miami defender, Richardson, whose feet were also moving. That's two possible foul calls. After that, Pierce stumbles into the crowd in evident pain, and proceeds to lie down on the floor. Now I know that this is just another example of Pierce elaborating a bruise, but there's no doubt that the contact between Pierce and the Miami defenders had an effect on Pierce's route to the basket as well as the fair clarity of his passing lanes. In other words, Pierce drew a foul.

Fine. That's just fine. We don't want to start anything, do we? Of course not.

And then Quentin Richardson moseys over.

Let me just say this: It was complete bullshit to say when first looking at the play that Quentin went over for Pierce. Pierce doesn't like Quentin and vice-versa. Quentin was specifically trying to humiliate Pierce in front of his guys. On the other hand, I don't like Quentin as a basketball player. I don't think many people do. And there's reason for that.

Quentin Richardson went over to start trouble, and then look innocent so he wouldn't have the hammer come down on him. Because you notice the entire time he's over in BOSTON'S circle, he has this pristine, tranquil expression on. Quite the trickster he is. Then Garnett flings back his elbow. Hell, let's pretend we don't know what Richardson said. You can't blame Garnett for that either provocation: one being that Quentin could've been being a complete ass, and the other being that Garnett doesn't like anybody interrupting his little huddles. And anyone and everyone there or watching knew that.

Luckily for us, we can quickly return to reality and check out with really happened. And it involves both provocations:

From CelticsBlog
"I was trying to get over there to take the ball out of bounds and he started to talk to me so I talked back," explained Richardson. "I don't have any business talking to him (Pierce), he was on the ground crying. I don't know what was going on, two actresses over there that's what they are."
"I said to Jermaine (O'Neal), ‘he's ok', because I knew nobody touched him. Is he taking another break like he does so many times? Sometimes he falls like he's about to be out for the season and then he get's right up, that's all I said."

"I don't like them, and they know it," Richardson then said.
I truly don't think I could dislike Quentin Richardson any more. And why both provocations by the way? Because Garnett was quoted later saying that he thought it was a little disrespectful for Quentin to be standing over a hurt guy and talking junk. Garnett didn't want him in that huddle, and he certainly didn't want him over there mouthing off.

Then Big Baby must've heard some words, because he comes over, furrowed-eyebrows and spit-flyin' Glen Davis, trying to defend Kevin Garnett. Garnett and Davis surround the little rat bastard until Haslem steps in and tries to break it up.

Here's where I get legitimately (in this context, meaning that I have reason here even if I wasn't a Celts fan) angry. Even though I'm a Celtics fan, I can't lie to you and say it's all been Miami boiling the pot. But when Jermaine O'Punkface and Jamal "I haven't done anything since I became satisfied after one random 13 ppg season I had" Magloire jump in and pretend they can take everyone there, it's upsetting. Partly because the only reason they looked like they could actually participate in that altercation is because no one was even paying attention to them before they started "taking charge" and ripping Glen Davis by his jersey to the ground. Partly because Kevin Garnett and the Celtics were made to look like the bad guys when all the scrubs off the Miami bench jump up and turn it into a dumb bar scuffle; none of the Celtics except for Garnett (who, once again, we KNEW was going to react like that anyway) tried to escalate the altercation. Not Big Baby, who yes, did step over and have some words with Richardson. But wasn't he trying to tend to Pierce, and then only started talking when Richardson wouldn't shut up and he found himself getting pushed around?

Not only that, by the peak of the altercation, Magloire, O'Neal and whoever was in the middle of that starts bumping Davis around like he's a school girl getting roughed up by a bunch of pedophiles in the back of a schoolyard. It's ridiculous and I personally don't think that the magnificent Miami bad boy duo should've gotten away with it.

Look, I'm a Celtics fan. And I'm sure many Heat fans and anti-Celtics' supporters realize the inadequacy of my perspective. But if you're trying to tell me that Big Baby nor Kevin Garnett deserve a backbone for their case of defense here, then I could just as easily disregard the fact that Haslem was initially trying to separate Garnett and Richardson and point out that he too, was talking and contributed a bit of shoving on his own. I could counter the argument that although Dwyane Wade was just trying to hose the fight down, he too was equally as adamant at handing a few words of his own to Garnett. But it'd be unfair to say that, because anyone in that situation would have assumed the defensive position and started getting some in for their team. Especially in an intense Garden atmosphere like that.

What do I think about it today? I think it painfully overshadowed a good victory from Boston, I think Miami is ecstatic about the decision from Richardson to walk over and start trouble with Garnett, and I think I wasted 10 minutes of my life listening to Hubie Brown break down an NBA fight and watching the replay dozens of times.

Stupid Quentin Richardson...

PS. Chuck McKenney is right once again. There is no conceivable difference between Kobe's elbow to Artest in last year's playoffs and Garnett's to Richardson (other that in this year's case, there were more Celtics' and Heat players around to raise the fight to another level), and Kobe never found himself under suspension. Richardson hustled over to Garnett for the wrong reasons just as Artest did to Kobe, and Garnett/Kobe physically defended themselves and their team. And Artest got ejected!

This is reason number 759 why I wish bloggers ran the NBA.

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