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Stephon, Game-Breaker

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When Stephon Marbury set foot on the floor to begin his second stint of last night's Game 3 in Chicago, the Celtics led the Bulls by 14 points.  The lead was comfortable but far from insurmountable.  But when the fellows in green jogged to the locker room for recess some three minutes and change of playing time later, the United Center crowd - and the Bulls - had completely lost its zip, thanks in large part to the backup point guard's efforts.

It took 90 seconds for him to get going, but with the lead at 50-37 and less than two minutes to play, Marbury began the three-possession sequence that effectively put the hammer down on this game.  As the shot clock wound down, he pulled up from the moon (okay, 28 feet) and banged in a three from well beyond the top of the circles.  Lead at a game-high 16.

At the other end of the floor, Marbury grabbed a defensive rebound and began to push the Celtics' break.  When the Infuriated Infant missed a jumper, Steph chased the carom down just outside the right elbow.  In a play quite reminiscent of another point guard's offensive rebound at the elbow earlier this week (albeit the left elbow that time), Marbury turned to make a play for himself but then realized that one of the best shooters on this planet stood on a straight line from him just outside the three-point line on the right wing.  Marbury hit Ray Allen, who drained the three.  Make that lead 19.

Following a timeout, another Bulls miss gave the ball back to the Celtics.  This time, Marbury showed off his patience, calmly letting the play develop from the top of the key as he waited for his teammates to make their cuts.  This time, Allen got an upscreen off-set left of the top of the circles and faded down toward the wing as his man trailed behind him.  Steph lofted the ball over the screener across the floor to Ray for another three.  Count it.

In a span of 71 seconds, Marbury knocked down a three, grabbed two rebounds and found Ray Allen for two more threes to push the Celtics to a 9-0 run, extending a 13-point lead to a 22-point blowout at the half. 

It was that type of night for the man.  He took smart shots and looked to be aggressive when he had the room to go, especially on the fast break.  But he also continued to find his teammates and to pull back the reins on the offense when necessary.  His 13 points off the bench marked his high as a Celtic, and he dished out a total of five assists without turning the ball over. 

Just a solid performance off the bench for Steph - and as nice as it is to stuff the box score (as he did), it's even better to catalyze the run that breaks the game.

Other notes from what CB member CoachBo so eloquently termed as technically clean a performance as we've seen from the Celts in quite some time:

  • The Truth set the tone in this one from the get-go.  Credit Doc for starting the game with a nicely designed play to get Paul Pierce an easy look underneath, and credit Pierce for taking over from there, scoring 13 points without a miss on his first six shots.  Just as he told David Aldridge after the game, he took his time and found space from mid-range before spotting up for a couple of threes later on.  The could-have-been-a-continuation three from the right-corner in the second half was awesome - and just gravy on a fine night.  Unstoppable John Salmons didn't have a chance against PP this time around.  The Captain came to play right away, and his team followed suit.
  • Nice feeling to be the team forcing absurd quantities of turnovers rather than committing them.  The Pugnacious Papoose and Rajon Rondo led the way with 11 steals between them.  Baby's hands were great, and he did a fine job poking the ball away from Bulls players off the dribble on a couple of different occasions.  Great job by the defense across the board, constantly swarming the ball, generally making Ben Gordon miserable and setting up plenty of points off turnovers.
  • Steals lead to fast breaks, and those are all the more fun when your team has Rajon Rondo.  He wreaked havoc in the open floor.  One fine finish with his right hand and a beautiful no-look pass to the Nasty Newborn highlighted his night in transition.
  • Raj's fantastic all-around performance also included making the Bulls pay three times for sagging off him to shoot jumpers.  He hit behind screens from the left elbow and just inside the three point line in the right corner, and he also nailed a three from the right wing.  Nice feathers in the cap of a 20-11-6-5 night.  Now if only his feet would stop bothering him...
  • Though Joakim Noah went for another 10 rebounds (five offensive), he and Tyrus Thomas caused nowhere near the problems for the Celts that they did in the series' first two games.
  • The Infuriated Infant provided a little bit of everything, especially with regard to his defense and ball movement.
  • Mikki Moore put together a very un-Mikki-like defensive possession in the second quarter.  He swatted Brad Miller's lay-up attempt and then kindly redirected Kirk Hinrich's inquiry when the guard attempted to drive the lane later in the play.  Because the win put me in a great mood, we'll leave it there as far as Mikki is concerned.
  • Another game like that from Derrick Rose would be great.
  • CB member scurvmeister said it before I could: "Instead of the token Bill Walker blowout dunk...we had him going up to snatch an alley-oop pass out of the air.  Works for me."  Amen.
  • Good to see Scal and his new protective headband look on the floor.  The garbage-time trey brought me a big smile, one of many that came during a fine victory.

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