A Daily Babble Production
Mike Gorman said it best late in the fourth quarter of last night's 103-84 Celtics win over the Oklahoma City Thunder: "Stephon Marbury is making exceptionally good decisions."
He didn't need to be explosive comic book figure Starbury to make a difference for the Celtics last night. Being a point guard suited him and the team just fine.
Steph struck the balance between the two extremes of trying too hard not to over-shoot or forcing the offense: patient command. He took two open outside shots in the flow of the game and simply missed them. That happens. Marbury also put pressure on the Thunder defense by attacking the paint, but he didn't hesitate to pull the ball back out to reset the play when he didn't like the options inside.
The results were great. In the second quarter, he drew the defense to him and then kicked out to Mikki Moore for exactly the mid-range shot that Moore likes to take. After the Celtics knocked a pass away on defense a couple of plays later, Steph had the presence of mind to bat the ball up over a Thunder guard all the way down court to Eddie House waiting to finish an uncontested lay-up.
It was more of the same for the rest of the night. He found Paul Pierce for a couple of jumpers and then fed Eddie House (with whom his chemistry has been great so far) for a trey. Late in the fourth quarter, Marbury began to rise up for his own shot from just outside the foul line but saw the Terrifying Toddler rolling free to the left wing with nobody near him. Instead of taking a contested shot, Marbury changed his mind in the air and dished to Glen Davis for an easy jumper. It was one of his four assists in the final quarter to go along with his driving bank shot over Jeff Green from just outside the right block.
For the night, Steph finished with seven assists and one turnover as well as a plus-12 in 21 minutes. He made just one of four shots, but they came on good looks and hardly occurred often enough to short-circuit the team. He continued to work at the defensive end and for one night was not a major liability there. Best of all, Steph stepped on the floor to start the fourth quarter of what was just a three-point game, and he played an integral role in making sure Rajon Rondo never had to return to the floor.
One March night does not a player make. But Stephon Marbury showed a level of poise commanding the Celtics' offense that no doubt qualifies as encouraging.
Other rumblings for a night when bench play made me giddy:
- It was an evening not only for the Celtic who drew my ire before ever he got here (Steph) but for the one who has done it so often since arriving: Mikki Moore turned in a fine performance. He supplemented his role in Dunkfest '09 with a couple of jumpers in his 12-point second quarter and did a fine job on the glass with 11 boards as well. Still not sure he can defend a screen-and-roll to save his life, but this isn't the night to complain on that front. He took a charge and managed to be less of a problem than usual defensively. Good showing.
- I owe CB member theBird a shout-out based on his assertion that he was responsible for bringing the phrase "Eddie Money" to this site in reference to a certain diminutive shooter. Seems like the right day for that. Mr. House drained several biggies to help the C's break the game open in the second half. Watching him hit shots (and react afterwards) is such a joy. He made three nice dishes to Mikki Moore also, two of which went for dunks. Game-high plus-22.
- On the OKC side, label me impressed with Kyle Weaver. He came off the bench and made smart decisions and crisp passes, particularly in transition. He racked up seven assists without giving the ball away once in 19 minutes, with three of the dimes coming on open finishes underneath.
- Speaking of guards running their offenses patiently, credit Rajon Rondo for another good job facilitating his teammates. Several of his 12 assists came on beautiful feeds that created open looks. Two personal favorites: his fake-behind-the-back shovel to Mikki Moore for a fast break dunk and a one-hand bounce pass from outside the left elbow to Baby on the right block for a lay-in.
- Fun fact: The Thunder bench shot 3-for-18 from the field, while two Celtics reserves made six shots apiece.
- Paul Pierce didn't exactly seem 'with it' in the first half, but The Truth arrived for the second (after a rough 10 seconds to start the third quarter).
- Kendrick Perkins defended the interior well and highlighted his night with a perfectly timed block on a driving Kevin Durant.
- Warning: Do not infuriate the Infant! Another excellent performance, especially after taking the elbow to the face that required 10 stitches to patch up. Big Baby gives us a bit of everything on a nightly basis lately: He draws charges, rolls on the floor for loose balls, follows shots, knocks down the mid-range jumper and even seems to be attacking the basket of late. How he got that contested shot in the midst of the lane up above his shoulders - much less in the basket - I'll never know. His development over the last couple of months continues to be one of the most enjoyable ongoing subplots of the season.