Now there is something to build on. After the collective egg laid in Game 1, the Celtics had a lot of ‘splainin to do. The lack of defensive energy – and energy generally – was something that should have been easy to fix. Obviously, just like in Game 1, perspective is in order. For two teams who have continually shown they can win in the other guys’ house, the idea of losing home court advantage in and of itself is somewhat meaningless. That said, the odds of either team winning 3 in a row is low – and so this is a huge help as a matter of sheer probability. But what a laundry list of positives from the effort.
Ray Allen’s Magic – the 7 three pointers nailed in a positively scorching first half were key as the Celtics had to overcome Garnett’s foul troubles and Pierce’s scoring ones. As the Celtics defended with much more zeal than Game 1, they still needed a source of offense, and Allen delivered. The Lakers defense was astonishingly bad at times, but you still gotta make the shots – you try hitting 8 of 11 three balls without anybody guarding you.
Paul Pierce’s Spirit – is it possible to have a great 2 for 11 game? The 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists do not indicate anything here. Pierce’s offense was positively bereft, but the captain brought a legitimate defensive intensity that was noticeable. His man to man defense on Ron Artest was terrific and his role as part of the team forcing Kobe to work for his 21 points on 20 shots was invaluable.
The Bench – the Lakers depth was supposed to be an edge in this series, but the Celtics bench outclassed the Lakers in a game where the serious foul trouble struck again. In particular the 6 minute stretch in the fourth where Nate Robinson, Glen Davis and Tony Allen provided an absolutely critical rest period for the thoroughly exhausted Rondo and Ray Allen. When the varsity checked back in, nothing changed negatively on the scoreboard. Add the production of Rasheed Wallace, and the work of Shelden Williams when he was exhumed, and everybody had a hand in this. The bull in a china shop that is Glen Davis is a force of nature.
Rondo’s Excellence – after a deceptively impact free 13 point 8 assist game in Game 1, Rondo got his second triple double of the postseason (18, 12 and 10). His rebounding was crucial as part of a teamwide 16 rebound turnaround from the Game 1 disaster. And then in the fourth, he took over as the scoring option and closed the show. His steel-nerved 18 footer and his poke steal of Kobe Bryant late were the most symbolic plays, but really from pushing tempo, getting Ray Allen all those looks, the rebounding, the scoring at the end – he was everything, like he had to be.
Resourcefulness – as always this team rises when they look their worst. It happened again tonight, in a game where so much went wrong. Serious foul trouble, Kevin Garnett laying another egg, Paul Pierce struggling offensively, their own sloppiness at the end of the first half letting a 13 point lead drip to 6, and then expiring altogether in the second half, the Lakers 14 blocked shots and Andrew Bynum’s best playoff performance. There were a lot of reasons to lose this game, and the Celtics somehow – when it looked like the Lakers were going to take this to the finish line – made the plays at the end.
How satisfying is this? So satisfying that another horridly officiated game did not ruin my mood – the 112 fouls called in 2 games almost made this like a whistle blowing competition interrupted by some basketball here and there – the Celtics are alive.