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The Magnificent Seven and Kevinn

Finally, we get some star power in the Garden. Tonight the World Champions came to Boston, bringing with them a sizeable draw in the middle. We're guessing that there weren't a whole lot of fans in the seats tonight dying to see the Celtics' starting lineup of Rondo, Ray, Perkins, Gomes and Green. We suppose that it's possible that fans came out of some perverse nostalgia for Antoine Walker. Or maybe they came to see our new NBDL all-star Kevinn Pinkney. In the event that it was Shaq, he did not disappoint. But, neither did Rondo, Gomes, Green, Perkins, or Leon Powe. {styleboxjp width=200px,float=right,color=grey,textcolor=black,echo=yes}A funny thing happened along the way to an obvious blow out: one of the most competitive and entertaining games of the year. In defeat, these young men did themselves proud.{/styleboxjp}

The Heat came out strong, making their first 6 shots, and had the Cs down 14-4 right out of the gate. But then that magical anti-shooting karmic event happened: Shaq went to the foul line. After the Diesel bricked three (the extra attempt care of a lane violation), the Heat started missing everything, the young guns got their game going (including the Celtics' first four point play in two years, courtesy of Allan Ray), and the Cs captured the lead 20-19. With 2:55 left in the first, Antoine entered the game to cheers from the Boston crowd (hey, maybe they did come to see Walker). Like Shaq, 'Toine did not disappoint, hitting a quick 3 to make the score 26-22 in favor of the Heat. Ryan Gomes promptly answered with a three of his own, narrowing the gap to a single point. At the end of the first quarter, the Celtics were holding their own: Miami 28-26.

After a couple of scoreless minutes at the start of the second quarter, the pace picked up and the Celtics again took the lead on a Powe dunk with 8:36 on the clock. The game stayed close until Perk picked up his third foul, forcing Kevinn Pinkney into the game to cover Shaq. Let's just say that didn't go well. Shaq turned Pinkney into a human crash test dummy, picking up baskets and fouls at an alarming rate. On one foul, Pinkney actually tried to plead his case to the referee. Son, this isn't Bakersfield, and that man holds 4 NBA championship rings. {styleboxjp width=250px,float=left,color=skyblue,textcolor=black,echo=yes}The remaining Celtics highlight of the quarter was Tommy's bestowal of a new nickname upon Rajon: Ready Rondo.{/styleboxjp} We don't think that one's going to be a keeper. Shaq had twenty points at the half and, despite 14 points from Ryan Gomes and 12 from Gerald Green, the Celtics' grip on this game was starting to slip: Miami 52-45 at the half.

{styleboxjp width=100px,float=right,color=black,textcolor=white,echo=yes} Miami seized control in the third quarter, looking suddenly serious about trying to secure that third seed in the East.{/styleboxjp} They methodically extended their lead to 64-50. Game over? Not so fast, tank fans. Suddenly everyone seemed to be hitting shots for the Celtics: consecutive threes by Ray, Green, and Gomes (bringing Gomes to 4-4 beyond the arc, he finished the night 4-5) narrow the Miami lead to five points. The Cs seemed to have gotten their mojo back, and end the quarter with a 16-6 run and a tie at 70-70. Who would have guessed?

Still, the fourth quarter opened offering the question of not whether the Celtics would lose, but how. Miami will get serious again, and win it by 10, right? And as expected, the Heat did gain the edge early in the quarter. Fast forward a bit, and with just over 4:00 left in the game, Rondo ties it up with an intense dunk. Miami proceeds to go on a four minute dry spell in which they can't seem to buy two points. With 2:30 left in the game, Allan Ray is fouled and hits a free throw to bring the Celtics ahead 81-80. This is followed by a steal and dunk by the inspirational Powe. Perk then gets his fifth foul - on Shaq, of course.

{styleboxjp width=150px,float=left,color=maroon,textcolor=white,echo=yes}Fortunately, Shaq misses career free throws 4,751 and 4,752 (and 4,753 after a lane violation).{/styleboxjp} Less fortunately, Eddie Jones nails a three point shot, tying the game. Posey then finishes a conventional three point play, putting the Heat up by 3. Rondo tosses a floater in the lane with 42 seconds left to cut Miami's lead to one. After a Miami timeout, Haslem hits a jumper to puts the Heat back up by three. The Cs end the game in a flurry, launching three failed three point attempts (Telfair, Green, and Rondo), and that's the ballgame: Miami 86-83.

While a win tonight would have been a phenomenal achievement, there may not be a game this year that inspires more excitement about the young talent on this team. We all know what Jefferson can do by now, but many of these other guys still evoke the question "What exactly do we have here"? This game offered some clues: Gomes finished with 25 points, Green 21, Powe put up the second double-double of his NBA career (10 points, 11 rebounds), Rondo stuffed the stat sheet again (11 points 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and only 1 turnover), and while Perk's stat line is less than spectacular, it cannot show how he battled Shaq like his life depended on it. {styleboxjp width=300px,float=right,color=green,textcolor=white,echo=yes}For tonight, all tank talk was silenced{/styleboxjp}, and the reasons that this team can be so likeable at times were remembered.

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