What an Amazing Game
The Celtics-Heat game last night was four full quarters of adrenaline. The first quarter and most of the second was a vision come true as five running green jerseys made something happen off of every Miami miss. At one point, Miami head coach Stan Van Gundy (who spent a lot of time with his head in his hands or his facial features contorted in pain) seemed to be mouthing the words, "What is wrong with us today?"
Even mistakes worked out for the Celtics. Tony Allen passed the ball behind Antoine Walker on a fast break, but Walker somehow tipped it so it at least remained in bounds, though it did get turned over to the Heat. Somehow Walker got the ball back on a semi-steal as the Heat bumbled the dribble. Walker took it straight at Shaq, who jumped for the block only to see Walker dish it off for the dunk.
What a spectacle. The Celtics were laughing and joking. The sell-out crowd was going crazy. And then a Miami timeout turned things around. They shot off a little run that got them to within just a handful of points to enter the half, but the Celtics magic wasn't done yet. With time running out in the half and Paul Pierce well-covered at the three-point line, he knew he had no choice but to put it up. He elevated, launched a high-arcing trey, and saw it rattle around the rim and in with just 0.6 ticks left in the half.
The third quarter was Miami's quarter as they got the lead back and traded it several times with the Cs. Marcus Banks was terrific. He is great at finding people both in the open court and in the halfcourt off of a dribble penetration. In fact, when he dribble penetrates into the paint, it's like a mini-fast break. He nearly broke Dwyane Wade's ankles as he went right around him, straight into three other Miami defenders including Shaq, none of whom could catch him as he took one more dribble and finished with a lefty layup.
I think I've figured out why Banks is still not as good as he will be. He's just too darn fast! His body and his feet are going much faster than most people can process visual information. Yes, there's an open guy there, but it takes some processing to figure out the right way to pass him the ball, etc., and by the time the processing is done, the ball is already on the ground again in the middle of another dribble, and Banks is about twenty feet away from where he was a split second ago. As his mental computation continues to catch up to his lightning quick physical speed, he will become completely unstoppable. He had one penetration into a sea of Miami jerseys where he threw up the ball either as a terrible shot or a perfect alley-oop to Al Jefferson. I believe it was the latter. He is going to be an amazing player, especially when you couple the fact that he can hit both the midrange and the downtown jumper.
Al Jefferson carried the team on his young, broad shoulders in the first part of the fourth, going strong at Shaq and anyone else who wanted to try to stop him. He reminded one of Hakeem Olajuwon in his speed and quickness around the basket. Against Shaq, feeling the hulking body against his back, Jefferson took two low dribbles right around him and jumped up on the other side of the basket only to find he was in no position to put it in. So he shot the ball up into the rim, watched it rebound straight down into his hands, and he went back up on the original side of the rim for an easy deuce.
Big Al took a strong foul from Shaq and got up to shoot free throws. He rebounded. He did everything, and he did it despite having five fouls. He has learned to play through the foul difficulties and to limit his silly fouls, two of the most important lessons a rookie needs to learn.
Kendrick Perkins held his own against Shaq, and there are few players that can be said about. Antoine Walker played fantastic. Among his many highlights one of my favorites was a defensive rebound with such a quick outlet to Gary Payton that you would have thought it was Perk outletting it. Walker orchestrated the offense a lot, bringing the ball up to get it to Payton who would then get it into Pierce.
These Celtics are amazing. I'm even glad Philadelphia won because it continues to give them motivation for the three remaining games: home-court advantage and clinching the Atlantic.