If any of the television pundits didn't know it earlier today when they were ball washing the streaking Houston Rockets, the Boston Celtics are clearly the best team in the NBA, and might be the most dominant team since the 72 win Bulls a dozen seasons ago. I wonder if all these sportswriters turned TV programming-filler actually have been watching the Cs much this season.
If they were paying attention, they would know that Boston was 8-3 against the playoff teams in the West before tonight's dismantling of the Rockets. They would have known that the Rockets were going to struggle to score against the best defense in the league. The Celtics beat Houston every which way: out shot them 43% to 41%, outrebounded them 45 to 35, (30-24 defensive, and 15-11 offensive), with more steals, assists, FTs made, and less turnovers. The Cs were off offensively in the first half, but after some wonderful halftime adjustments again by Doc Rivers, they put up 54 points in the half, even though they took their foot off the gas with about six minutes to go in the game. After giving up 22 points in the first, the Cs held the Rockets to 18,16, and 18 points in the final three frames. At one point, Houston had to move heaven and earth just to get a decent shot up, never mind make a basket.
Tracy McGrady, who has been getting MVP talk recently, was totally neutralized in the second half, and ended up with only eight points on 4-11 shooting. He did grab seven rebounds, all defensive, and dished out an impressive eight assists, which was seven more than (alleged) emerging point guard/gumflapper Rafer Alston. The Cs used Tony Allen and James Posey as a second skin on T-Mac, wallpapering him when he received the ball and daring him to take the ball to the bucket or dish off. He dished effectively, but didn't attack the rack, getting only two FTs, missing both. Besides flummoxing McGrady (T-Mac didn't score a single point with Posey defending him), James grabbed 10 rebounds, all on the defensive end.
The Cs again got a big offensive game off the bench, this time by the workmanlike Leon Powe, who powered his way to 21 points on only 12 shots in 20 minutes. On a team with a powerful starting line up like Boston, the bench players need to make the most of their minutes. These guys usually do. PJ Brown was able to grab four rebounds in seven first half minutes, although his offense is showing 1971 Chevy Vega rust. Eddie House passed for three assists in 14 minutes. The Cs depth overcame poor games by both PGs, with Rajon Rondo scoring only eight points on 12 shots, and only dishing off two assists. After an 0-fer first half, Rondo did make four big shots in the second as the Cs took control of the game. Rondo was ChrisPaulesque compared to Sam Cassell, who was 1-6 from the floor with only one assist to three turnovers in 21 minutes.
Kevin Garnett should get his name re-bandied around in the MVP talk with another big game in a big game, with 22 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steal and two blocks. Paul Pierce came up with another solid game, with 20 points, five assists and three steals, with only one turnovers against the pesky Shane Battier. The Celtics get a day's rest before trying to sweep the state Thursday night in Dallas.