Number One: Lebrondo
Much was made of the duelling superb performances by LeBron James and Rajon Rondo in games three and four respectively. So much so, that TNT’s Ernie Johnson declared this to be the "Lebrondo" Series. The stakes were raised when it was revealed that the Cavs were contemplating using LeBron to actually guard Rondo.
Cleveland were obviously hoping that LeBron’s length would deter Rondo from penetrating and cut out some of his passing lanes, which could lead him to resort to his outside shot, which although it was falling on Sunday, has been inconsistent throughout much of his career. So, how did this plan fare? Based on the result, you’d think not so well. However…
LeBron first picked up Rondo in a half court set late in the first quarter, with the Cavs leading 21-20 and stayed on him until Rondo was substituted a few minutes into the second period. The score at that point? 29-21. An 8-1 Cavs run. So why did they seemingly abandon this ploy, which at least partially contributed to Rondo not making a field goal in the first half?
A closer look at what happened revealed that at the end of the first, Rondo gave the ball up each time and did not get it back on any of the first three possessions, although this was a product of the Celtics taking (and missing) quick shots, rather than LeBron denying him the ball. On the final possession, LeBron switched off him and he hit a jump shot after the buzzer.
Early in the second quarter, the Celtics adjusted, sending on-the-ball screens at James from all angles and allowing Rondo to easily blow by him three straight times. Although the results were not productive (a Varajeo foul, a missed lay-up by Rondo on which Davis was fouled going after the rebound and a missed lay-up after he dished the ball off), it looked like LeBron wasn’t able to guard him and the Cavs probably would have put Parker or Williams back on him anyway, especially with LeBron having been whistled for an almost unheard of second first-half foul.
As it happens, as soon as Rondo went to the bench, the Celtics went on a 16-0 run anyway. Whether the Cavs will revisit this plan in game six remains to be seen, but maybe it threw LeBron’s focus off and had an effect upon his offensive performance.
Okay, I've eased you in gently. After the jump, things get a little dafter.
Number Two: The Doc Rivers Timeout Soundboard
During March Madness, the internet was briefly taken over by "The Gus Johnson Soundboard". Inspired by the success of this wacky creation, I’ve set my mind towards building "The Doc Rivers Timeout Soundboard", which plays the following phrases when you press the appropriate button.
- "Just keep playing!"
- "We just gotta run our stuff"
- "We all wanna win this game"
- "Come on guys!"
- "Let's go!"
- "We gotta stay focused"
- "Just keep doing what we do"
- "We gotta do all the little things"
- "Just play through it"
- "We gotta do this together"
- "What did I tell you?"
Just by pressing the shuffle button I got this: "Guys…Come on guys…We just gotta run our stuff…Okay?…Keep doin’ what we do…Alright?…We gotta do this together…Okay?…Now…Come on guys…Alright?…Let’s go!" I think that’s pretty much exactly what he said to them in the second quarter and it inspired them to a 16-0 run.
If the rumors are true and Rivers won’t be coaching next season, instead of hiring a replacement, they can just use the money saved to retain Tom Thibodeau and get him to use to DRTS to run all the timeouts. I’m pretty sure Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen and Marquis Daniels won’t even notice the difference.
Number Three: Got _____?
See if you can guess what, apparently, is LeBron James' new megabucks endorsement deal. Fill in the gap... "Got _____?"
No, not "owned". Any other guesses? "Rondo’d" you say? No, keep guessing.
Let me give you some clues: First you had LeBron, milking his elbow injury for all it’s worth. Next you had LeBron getting pasteurized on the break by Rondo (which is the same as getting posterized, but when you do it with a pass rather than a dunk). Finally, you had LeBron’s disappearing act which had Mike Brown contemplating putting an image of him onto a milk carton. LeBron must be promoting the milk industry.
It's the only possible explanation!
Number Four: Salmon Kind of Wonderful
Well, we all wondered and deliberated at length whether the after-effects of that injury were slowing him down and now that he seems to have fully recovered, at last the answer has become clear. Tony Allen is fine. (Well, who did you think I was talking about?)
This makes me look like a genius for saying this in preseason when everyone else was writing him off:
[He] could live up to the potential he has flashed in the past on a more consistent basis if he maybe stayed healthy for long enough to earn a steady spot in the rotation … Tony could return next season and contribute something more than towel waving, garbage minutes and deadline trade-bait. It is a contract year for him, after all.
(Just don’t read the other 1,500 words where I pretty much wrote him off too.)
Number Five: A Minor Blip?
I don’t think I’ll ever understand the point of that annoying "Blip blip blip" noise that accompanies a made free throw by a Cavaliers player. Bizarrely, this didn’t seem nearly as annoying after a meaningless Jamario Moon free throw to cut the Celtics lead to 25 with under three minutes to go.
Now there’s a switch that needs to be flipped.
Number Six: The Whole Reffin' Show
Another article I wrote in the offseason expressed concern over how the replacement referees would handle the season, but I must admit they haven’t been that much worse than their previous counterparts. (Pause). Oh, they did? When? October? Okay, then…
I suppose it is disconcerting to actually feel guilty because you’re getting your fair share of the calls like in game five.
Now, in honor of how this series will hopefully turn out, there will not be a number seven.
Number Eight: Chants Would be a Fine Thing
Over on twitter, there’s apparently a lot of buzz surrounding Bill Simmons’ latest experiment. He decided to set up a twitter account called @celticschants in order to see whether it was possible to use social media to co-ordinate in-game chants within basketball arenas. Within hours, the account had 3,000 followers and it will be interesting to see whether this has a noticeable impact on Thursday’s game.
Undeterred, a group of Cavaliers fans set up a rival account for last night’s game called @Cavs_Chants. While it was not quite as popular (175 followers to date), the impact was palpable. Check out some of their tweets from last night:
Cavs_Chants Everybody just sit on your hands for the first quarter and only cheer when there’s a made basket
24 hours ago
Cavs_Chants Everybody boo
23 hours ago
Cavs_Chants When the PA announcer starts doing the "Let’s go Cavs" chant, respond with complete silence
22 hours ago
A resounding success, I’d say!
Number Nine: Who's Got Number Nine?
Number nine? I can’t handle number nine. Someone else can take number nine. Okay, I've got it:
Up until a few weeks ago, most of the hype had been over a Kentucky point guard not named Rajon Rondo. For a while there, I was concerned that in a few year’s time, we’d all be calling our point guard "NotJohn Wallthough". However, with Rondo’s newfound dominance over the last few games, maybe they will one day have to talk about John "Not Rajon Rondo At All Though" Wall.
Man, that was terrible. Next time, someone else take number nine, okay?
Number Ten: No Regrets
Just to get a bit more serious, whatever happens over the remainder of the postseason, I don't have any regrets from the last three seasons. Of course, winning the 2008 title was exhilarating and not winning it last year because (at least partly) of injuries was disappointing, but moments like those provided to us over the last two games make it all worthwhile.
I may be a sentimental old(ish) fool, but I never like to see a team broken up. I may have been much younger then, but I'd have been heartbroken if Red Auerbach had listened to Danny Ainge and broken up the Original Big Three in the late eighties, even if it did mean the Celtics were a contender for a longer period of time. Think of all those moments we'd have been deprived of.
This year's Celtics have been compared to the 1987 or 1988 Celtics all year long, in that the physical toll of the season is likely to be too much for their aging bodies to cope with. However, that 1987 team was my favorite of all time (and in the third paragraph of this article, Bill Simmons agree with me). Seeing a team battle through injuries and adversity and pull off these kinds of fantastic performances was something I didn't think I would ever see in the modern era.
It inspires me to see these Celtics play as a team and battle for each other. Sure, their effort hasn't been omnipresent throughout the season, but if there had been a Celticsblog back in the late eighties, I'm sure just as many people would have been jumping off the bandwagon when the Celtics lost at home to Milwaukee in Game 5 or when the Pistons put 145 points on them in Game 4.
It's not over ‘til it's over. I intend to appreciate every moment.