The smart play — heck the only play — was to go to Garnett. But there was Pierce, with 1:18 remaining in the game, stepping up and making a step-back jumper that should start with a bar code. Pierce buried the shot to put the Celtics up, 90-84, It was his only field goal of the fourth quarter. And it was so familiar, so comfortable, that it blended into the larger narrative.
There were other clutch plays, too. Rondo was 3 for 6 in the fourth quarter, taking the dare on a couple of jump shots the Celtics ended up needing. Garnett kept stepping up and nailing his 18-footers. And the game's final play, when Rondo dribbled out the clock, was executed perfectly by an experienced team.
Experience was supposed to win out over youth and athleticism against Philadelphia, but that storyline manifested itself more strongly than could have been predicted in Game 1.
That's the beauty of this team… they have several guys with brass balls who work seamlessly together (ahem, Miami) down the stretch.
Rajon Rondo is my star of the game. Not for his play in the final 3 seconds, but for the three jumpers he buried in the final quarter. When Rondo's nailing those shots… fuggedaboutit. The Celtics offense becomes lethal.
Did you notice who assisted on all three of Rondo's jumpers? Paul Pierce. For a team with diverse individual talents, their team play remains its greatest strength.
Related links: Herald – Bad experience for 76ers | ESPN Boston – Celtics walk on wild side (Jackie Mac) | CSNNE – Celtics experience trumps Sixers youth | Celtics see results after turning up intensity | Globe – Sixers seem to be a bit green vs Celtics (Shank)
On Page 2, how Doc's small line-up saved the game (twice).
For the final 3:25 of the first half, Doc Rivers countered by subbing Allen in for Greg Stiemsma, leaving a lineup of Allen, Garnett, Pierce, Rondo and Bradley on the parquet. Together, they finished the second quarter on a 10-2 run to get back into it.
The Sixers were having their way with the Celtics late in the third quarter, thanks to Spencer Hawes and rookie big man Lavoy Allen, who carved them up on pick and pops. They tried Brandon Bass. They tried Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins. When none of those options worked, Rivers switched to a small lineup with Paul Pierce playing power forward and Rondo, Bradley and Allen surrounding Garnett.
The small lineup closed the game with a 19-12 run. All hail Doc Rivers for pushing the right buttons.
Brandon Bass looks lost at times. He was -13 last night. Ouch.
The rest of the links:
Globe – Weary Celtics pushed through | Herald – Rajon Rondo puts'em to sleep | Model G shifting gears | Doc stands by Mickael Pietrus | Doug Collins back in heated rivalry | CSNNE – Rondo outsmarts them all | ESPN Boston – KG stayin' alive, thriving | WEEI – KG says he would die in order to win (audio)
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