The Boston Celtics: It didn't really happen during the regular season. Not consistently. But it's happening now. Right before our eyes. I'm talking about the fulfillment of Pat Riley's vision. And by "Pat Riley's vision" I'm actually talking about Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James getting together and deciding to join forces on one superteam.
Now that it's playoff time, there's no holding back, no "For me, 44 minutes is too much, I think coach Spo knows that." In fact, LeBron played 44 minutes last night. D-Wade and the Boshtrich both logged around 40. Those three combined for 80 of their team's 102 points. As a three-man unit, they attempted 55 of cHeat's 75 shot attempts and 32 of their 36 free throw attempts. The Nazgul were +10 in FTA versus all 10 Celtics who saw PT.
I was listening to ESPN's Mike and Mike this morning. Their contention was that James and Wade beat the Celtics with jumpers. And, yeah, LeBron went 2-for-4 from downtown. But he went 2-for-7 from 16-23 feet and D-Wade was 0-for-5 from that zone (and 1-for-3 on triples). By contrast, they were 10-for-13 at the rim and 16-for-21 from the free throw line.
According to ESPN Stats and Information: "Dwyane Wade and LeBron James scored 48 of their 63 points (76.2 percent) at either the foul line or inside of 15 feet of the basket on Tuesday. For the series, the two All-Stars have combined for 83 points from these locations."
The free throw line. That's where the cHeat are winning this series. Miami won Games 1 and 2 by a combined 20 points. In those two games, the Floridians have a 68-40 advantage in attempted freebies. That's not to say that the officials are handing this series to the cHeat. I'm not trying to draw that conclusion. I am saying that Boston is struggling to keep King Crab and Pookie out of the paint and off the charity stripe. The Celtics are lacking in both interior defense and toughness right now. This, more than any other time, is when they're missing Kendrick Perkins.
But, really, I'm not sure Perk could have turned the tide. This is what Riley and cHeat fans banking on: Two of the NBA's top five players being virtually unstoppable at the same time. Before this season, the Celtics never totally shut down either of them, only slowed them down. Dealing with both simultaneously is proving impossible. Again, maybe if they had a second indomitable big man closing down the painted rectangle...but they don't.
Said Wade: "I believe in my ability, but it's very hard to win [alone]. Having another guy, with Chris [Bosh] as well, that takes over games is a burden off of you. We can come at them as a team."
Added LeBron: "In the past, I knew that if I didn't bring my A-game, there is a pretty good chance we weren't going to win. Having guys on the court that can take over the game, that takes a load off of you. That is the vision I had during the free-agent period when I decided to come."
What can the Celtics do?
Yes, the forearm in KG's chest helps.
Said Glen Davis: "Their stars are being stars. Wade and James are willing their way to the win."
Added Boston's head cheese Doc Rivers: "Nothing we can do about it. We've got a third game and we've got to take care of that. Whatever the past is, it is. They've won two games at home. But we can't allow them to play like this, or it's going to be tough at our place."
Ray Allen, quote machine: "Being down 2-0 doesn't scare any of us, doesn't make us nervous. It's just an opportunity to come out shining."
The Memphis Grizzlies: You know what? I kind of want to give the Grizzlies a "Best of the Night" even though they lost Game 2 of their series 111-102. I also want to give a lot of credit to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol even though they combined for a miserable 5-for-22 shooting night.
Here's why: The Thunder got a lot of latitude from the officials in this game. That may sound strange considering the fact that Memphis had a slight edge in free throw attempts (34-33). And, yeah, Oklahoma City was sizzling at the rim (17-for-23) and from beyond the arc (8-for-14). Plus, the Thunder shut down the paint, limiting Memphis to 42.4 percent shooting at the rim (11-for-26). Oh, right, and James Harden (21 points, 5-for-9, 11-for-11)? Where did that come from?
Here's what I was meant by the "latitude" comment. The Thunder did everything they could do to knock the hell out of Gasol and Randolph. They grabbed and shoved. At one point, Z-Bo had his arms locked by two OKC players. Zach's response? After he got free, he nodded and patted them on the ass. At another point, for no reason whatsoever, Perkins dipped his shoulder and ran full force into a stationary Gasol. Marc's response? A "Fucking really?" eye roll and nothing more.
That kind of stuff went on all night, which is a big reason why Randolph went 0-for-5 at the rim. Hell, Gasol pulled a page out of his big brother's book and didn't even attempt a shot at the rim. The paint became a butcher's shop. And make no mistake: That benefitted the Thunder. For further proof, Memphis finished with a playoff-low 34 points in the paint.
Amazingly, despite the exceedingly rough play, the Grizzlies never lost their composure. Never backed down, either, fighting to the very end.
Said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins: "It was a classic desperate team, more aggressive team. I say the desperate team usually wins, and they were the desperate team in their play, which was a sense of urgency and aggressiveness. They came out and attacked."
Attacked. That's the right word...because many of OKC's defensive plays looked like muggings. I wouldn't be surprised if Randolph got back to his hotel room and found his wallet missing.
Said Gasol: "It's going to be a physical series and it's going to be long. We didn't think it would be easy."
Added Hollins: "We just didn't have enough fight in us."
They also had too many buttery fingers. The Griz gave up 20 points off 16 turnovers. Those miscues got the Thunder out and running...they would finish with 17 fast break points.
Said Hollins: "You can't turn the ball over and play good defense at the same time. It just doesn't work that way."
No, it doesn't, Lionel.
Chris' Playoff Lacktion Report: Nenad Krstic klutzed one shot attempt in 11:19 for a +1 while Von Wafer produced a gold bar worth 2 trillion (122 seconds).