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"And to think I wasn't that thrilled when he was signed. Boy, was I wrong about this guy. How could you not love him?" -- Howard Weinman
The Guru said that after one of P.J. Brown's six rebounds in last night's Game 1 victory for the Celtics to start the 2008 NBA Finals. Or at least the box score said there were only six.
Then again, the box score also tried to convince me that all P.J. Brown gave the Celtics was 2 points (1-of-4 shooting), 6 boards, a block and 2 assists in 21 minutes. This was undoubtedly not the case. Because no matter what the numbers say, it was so much more than that.
In a series expected to be heavily impacted by bench play, it was definitively the green reserves that gained the edge in the opener, and there was no question that the wily power forward brought back from Louisiana retirement such a short a time ago led the way.
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We've brought him up time and time again throughout the playoffs, but given his contribution in the Finals opener (and Jeff taking care of the real biggies -- the captain aaaaaaaaand The Truth and KG -- in his post-game reaction), P.J. earned himself his own tribute column last night.
For the umpteenth time this postseason, it just seemed that the guy did everything right.
He moved well defensively and made the right decisions on rotations and pick-and-roll switches. His shots came few and far between as always, and even though they didn't fall, he moved well without the ball and got good looks at the basket for himself within the flow of the offense.
Of course, those points pale in comparison to the best part: Brown's tenacity on the boards and going after loose balls, particularly in the game's biggest moments. Not only did all six of his boards come in the second half, but four came in the game's final five minutes, including an offensive rebound for which he fought off two Lakers and then drew a loose ball foul.
Whether his name gets on the stat sheet or not, it seems that Brown is always there on every play, always banging and scrapping in the middle of the paint. Getting his hands on the ball, tipping it to a teammate, looking for a lay-in, moving bigger bodies out of his teammates' way, giving hard fouls to prevent and-one opportunities for the opposition -- you name the 'little thing,' and it's all but a cinch that P.J. Brown does it.
He plays with a level of energy not expected of a 39-year-old veteran of 15 seasons in this league. He plays with the court savvy that perfectly befits a 39-year-old veteran of 15 seasons in this league. The mix results in a potent combination off the bench at both the forward and center positions.
Last night, P.J. Brown just seemed to keep showing up in all the big spots. When the Celts needed a rebound, he was there. When they needed a defensive stop, he was there to help with a double-team or a deflection or a blocked shot (or a should-have-been-a-drawn-charge that turned into an and-one for Lamar Odom and an absolute hose job done against Brown by the officials; his feet were planted and body set a solid two feet outside the circle).
P.J. Brown just made sure he was there in the thick of it. Because that's what P.J. Brown does. And it's what he has been doing since the start of this post-season.
Thanks for another great day at the office, P.J.