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The Requisite Leon Lovefest

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A Daily Babble Production

"LE-ON POwe!" - Eddie Palladino, so many times over

Bring it all on. 

The word "requisite" in the headline isn't meant to suggest any negative sense of obligation.  We would merely be remiss to address any part of last night's green victory without showering effusive praise among the star of the show: The Show himself.

Sure, it came against a Memphis Grizzlies team that doesn't play effective basketball at either end of the floor.  But a Celtics team playing without four rotation players isn't in a position to be picky about its wins at the moment.  Putting up his two best games of the season, two 20-point, 10-rebound performances, wasn't enough for the last week.  Leon Powe made it his three best performances of the season over the last eight days, with none as dominant as last night's 30-point, 11-rebound, 5-block effort in the Celtics' 102-92 victory.

Leon established complete control at the offensive end, all the while never taking a single shot outside the paint.  There were two primary results when Powe touched the ball inside: made basket and foul, sometimes both.  He attacked the rim as hard as ever, completing an array of lay-ups and dunks. 

Credit Leon's teammates (namely Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Stephon Marbury) for drawing defenders to them on several occasions before dishing off to Leon for the finish.  But he also worked for several of his baskets, spinning off the block, battling on the offensive glass for tip-ins and even attacking from the left wing for a right-handed swish on one occasion.  Twice, he made buckets while being fouled.  He hit 10 free throws (in 14 attempts).  The rest of the team took nine.  Hard to argue with 30 points when it comes on 71.4 percent true shooting.

On the offensive glass, Leon reminded us once more that the best adjective for his game is "relentless."  His five offensive rebounds netted the Celtics three baskets and a foul drawn for a total of eight points.  While constantly keeping Boston possessions alive, Leon didn't kill a single one with a turnover.

He maintained that level of consistency at the other end of the floor.  His hands seemed to be everywhere on defense, most often grabbing the ball off the glass or swatting it out of the air after it left the fingertips of the men wearing the white shirts.  Keeping a low center of gravity in his stance with his feet set wide, Powe exploded upward to defend the basket.  He kept the ball in play on each of his five swats, and the Celtics wound up taking possession on three of them.  When Powe wasn't serving as master of ceremonies for shot blocking, altering and discouraging, he added two more charges taken to his resume.  Even Leon's longtime nemesis of foul trouble couldn't stop him on Friday night.  He logged 41 minutes and picked up just three personals.

Offense, defense, rebounding: Leon Powe truly was The Show last night.  Along the way, he did two fine on-court interviews in which he couldn't help but deflect praise to his teammates and make it clear that winning is first and everything else a distant second.

So let the praise rain down for this one.  Leon earned it.  Again.

Musings on the supporting cast members of the evening that belonged to the man with the bagel on his chest:

  • Though it was an up-and-down night for him, Mikki Moore submitted his best performance as a Celtic.  Eight rebounds in 22 minutes were impressive and so were his knocking down two jumpers and slamming home a dunk.  I guess it's a plus that he made it to the 7:26 mark of the second quarter before picking up his fourth foul rather than doing so in the first period this time around, but that seems like a case of stepping over an extraordinarily low bar.  He turned the ball over a couple of times, and his defense still looks atrocious.  The Guru urges patience with him at that end of the floor, voicing that Mikki is still adjusting to the Celtics' help-oriented defensive system and that his role should be markedly smaller when this team is healthy come playoff time.  I'm trying to abide, though it hasn't been my best effort so far.
  • Paul Pierce and Ray Allen played 32 and 31 minutes respectively, and both put up effective field-goal marks better than 50 percent.  Excellent.
  • Play of the night: Rajon Rondo stripping O.J. Mayo, sprinting the floor, making a great fake with the ball in his palm and then dropping it off behind him to Leon Powe for a dunk.  Electrifying.
  • Speaking of the point guard, what a difference it makes to have Raj back. 
  • O.J. Mayo shot just 9-for-23 from the field, but he did make a couple of very impressive moves, including a blink-of-an-eye crossover to get to the basket for a lay-in early in the game.
  • Solid performance for Stephbury.  He hit shots, created for his teammates and avoided turnovers.  While the old quickness isn't there by any means, he still got in the paint with some efficacy.  The three-pointer is almost a bonus.  If Marbury can be a threat to get to the cup and hit the jumpers from the elbows and top of the key that he so often did in New York, he'll make a contribution.
  • Marc Gasol put up seven points in the game's first seven minutes on Kendrick Perkins' account.
  • I've toppled hopelessly onto the Bill Walker bandwagon.  That isn't to say that I'm campaigning for him to see postseason minutes when this team is healthy, but it's a joy to watch him for now.  Sure, he needs to make a lot of progress defensively and learn how to manage his fouls (I believe the latter may be best solved simply through getting more experience), but he plays guts-out basketball every second he is on the court.  His explosiveness going to the rim is incredible, especially for a guy with a history of knee surgeries.  On his first play last night, he jumped into the mix to help Leon Powe corral an offensive rebound that went back up for a basket.  A few minutes later, he caught the ball on the left baseline, and it was showtime.  I can't believe I'm becoming That Guy about the rook on a championship-contending team, but hey, so long as this team is still shorthanded and we're only in the middle of March, I can't say I'm not enjoying the expanded Walker experience.