By Matt Richardson and Kevin Henkin
Some thoughts while wondering if the Celtics can borrow Kurt Rambis from the Lakers so they can clothesline him and get the troops fired up again.
Note to Kevin Garnett: You can shoot over Ben Wallace pretty much any time you want. Eight head and shoulder fakes are probably enough.
You’ve got to love Magic Johnson’s contribution on the TNT halftime show, especially his analysis of New Orleans and their need for guys other than Chris Paul and David West to step up: “They need to get contributions from the complementary guys, like Peja, and, ummm, West…No, not West, but Peja and the other guys.” You’re right, Magic. Knowing any more than three players per playoff team is probably an excessive amount of work to expect from a nationally televised sports pundit.
One thing that seems to kill the Celtics on the road is their vulnerability against those picks at the top of the key. The resulting dribble penetration tends to lead to a host of open shots, typically either driving lay-ups or open jumpers after a kick out. For some reason, the Celtics seem to be much more successful at overcoming those picks at home. Of course, LeBron’s “game over” dunk started with a foul line pick on Pierce.
Speaking of the Celtics’ Captain, if LeBron’s mom had started throwing punches at Pierce after his fairly gentle “prevent the lay-up” foul that ended up with both players in the stands, would LeBron be ejected? We might be onto a new strategy here: Antagonize the overzealous mom! While we’re on the topic, does Lebron’s mother get a roaming seat pass? She was under the Cavaliers’ basket for the aforementioned foul but at the end of the third quarter, she was behind their bench. I think we’re one more flagrant away from her ripping off Mike Brown’s designer eyewear and taking over the coaching duties. “You, the big guy with the cornrows. Go deck that punk who just laid a hard foul on my baby!”
Furthering our obsession with Mike Brown and his vast collection of fancy glasses, we wonder if he confers with any fashion consultants before making the big decision on which frames to wear before each game. Someone I know suggested that sneaky hot singer Lisa Loeb, as a celebrity who sports a regular rotation of funky glasses, might serve in that role. If Mike Brown comes out for Game 4 wearing cats-eye specs with tortoiseshell frames and looking forlorn about the frailty of love, I think we’ll know for sure.
Some of the coaching decisions in Game 4 were a bit, um, ponderous. For example, who built the new doghouse for Leon Powe? P.J. Brown played 23 minutes, doubling his regular season average, while Powe played 6 minutes, halving his regular season average. Powe helped the team win 66 games during the season while Brown barely played, so why flip-flop that part of the rotation now? Also, as likeable as Big Baby Davis can be, his sudden insertion into the lineup at the beginning of the fourth quarter was downright baffling. Needless to say, his first touch resulted in a turnover. His final line: 5 minutes, 0-1 from the floor with 1 turnover and 1 foul. In related news, Cleveland’s bench outscored Boston’s by 19 points in a game that the Celtics lost by 11.
At this point, it should be recognized that the Celtics are now eleven games deep into the 2008 playoffs but have yet to reveal that “Jump on my back, boys” moment of leadership from any of the Big Three. True, the Game 7 decider against Atlanta was a strong demonstration of will but that was at home against an inferior opponent. You can see Garnett in this series trying to make the effort to strap the team on his back but, for that all he adds on the defensive front, he is just not the kind of offensive player that can take over a game all by himself. In the meantime, Ray Allen’s game remains on the side of a milk carton and too much of Paul Pierce’s energy has been consumed by chasing LeBron James all over the court.
Bearing all of the above in mind, is it out of bounds to suggest a revamped starting lineup in which James Posey replaces Ray Allen? Under such a scenario, the strong defense against James remains firmly in place but frees up Pierce to concentrate more fully on his offense. Defense, after all, has not been the issue in these Celtics loses. It’s the offense that’s been broken. To fix it, the Celtics need to better utilize their greatest offensive weapon in Pierce and strongly consider replacing Sam Cassell with Eddie House. When House was in the rotation for most of the regular season, he was far more consistent that Cassell has been. At this point, Doc Rivers appears to be pining for the Sam Cassell of 2004 to emerge. I understand the sentiment but that ship has sailed, Coach. Live in the now and play your best players in their most effective roles. Use the comforts of home to establish the changes and ride the wave into Cleveland.