The Boston Celtics: The Celts were playing at a disadvantage. After all, Paul Pierce was sitting out with...
Paul Pierce: ...a bruised right heel. Wait, what? Isn't this the same guy who got cut in half pretty bad right before the 2000-01 season but went on to play all 82 games that year? Does that mean a bruised heal is worse than getting stabbed 11 times in the face, neck, and back and having a bottle smashed over your head? That's it. I'm gonna start taping my heals before playing in my pickup league. But I digress.
The Boston Celtics: So, yeah, Boston was behind the eight ball, considering their starting SF missed the game and their backup SF is out for the season due to heart surgery. Enter Sasha Pavlovic: Starting small forward for the Boston Celtics.
Sasha Pavlovic: His line: 15 minutes, zero points, 4 fouls, -4. On the bright side, he didn't commit a single turnover. Moving on.
The Boston Celtics: So the Green Machine actually shot 51 percent from the field, plus they were +18 in points in the paint, +11 on assists, +10 on the boards, +8 points on the fast break, and they led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter. And lost. Mostly 'cause their hands couldn't locate the faces of Toney Douglas (19 points, 8-for-19, +12), Amar''''''e Stoudemire (21 points, 8-for-11, 2-for-2 on threes) and especially Carmelo Anthony (37 points, 10-for-17, 4-for-7 from downtown, 13-for-15 from the line). 'Melo also hit what turned out to be the game-winning free throws with 16.3 seconds left.
And, for a team with a strong veteran presence and championship experience, Boston's attempts to tie the game were pretty poor. And then there was...
Kevin Garnett: Aw, man. Not again.
Kevin Garnett, quote machine: "They seem to have a little swag and confidence behind them. It's good for the city. It's good for the Knicks. I'm going to see how consistent they are with that, but for the most part Carmelo played really well."
Doc Rivers, quote machine: "I thought we were as soft as you could be in the first quarter and then I thought we joined in to the 2011-12 season, and from that point on I was pretty happy with the way we played."
The Dallas Mavericks: After years and years of overpaying -- with his one forway into frugality being letting Steve Nash walk and using the Nash money to sign Erick Dampier -- Mark Cuban finally started pinching some pennies, letting key players from last year's title squad walk (most notably Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea) and replacing them with Vince Carter and Lamar Odom. Which would have been a freakin' coup in 2005. But it's about to be 2012.
Said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle: "We're going to have to forge an identity with this team; it's a different team. That's work, and it's going to take honesty, and it's not going to be easy."
No kidding. The Heat -- who got clowned by the Mavs in the Finals last season -- punked Cuban's Cowboys on their own home floor. Miami went up by 15 after one quarter, by 21 after two, and led by as many as 35 points in the second half.
How bad was this ass-kickin'? The Heat outscored the Mavericks 18-0 in the paint in the first quarter alone. For the game, they outrebounded the champs 51-31. Oh, and the Floridians had 97 points through three quarters.
Yeah. The Mavs might be missing Chandler. Just a little.
Vince Carter: This excerpt from the AP recap says it all: "[Vince] Carter took Dallas' first two shots, an 18-footer and a layup. Both missed. [Delonte] West started the second half in his place and finished with 10 points. Carter had five points, two rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes."
Let's put it this way. There were Christmas turkeys that have already been digested and shat out that have a better chance of making a comeback than Vinsanity.
Chris Bosh: Despite his team's overpowering win, the league's reigning powerless forward was nowhere to be seen, finishing with 4 point on 2-for-9 shooting in 24 minutes of lacktion. According to ESPN Stats and Information, those were Bosh's fewest points in a game in which he played at least 20 minutes since December 19, 2004 against the New Jersey Nets.
Jason Terry: "Thirty-one years you waited -- 31 years! -- to call your team a champion, ladies and gentlemen. A champion!"
The Los Angeles Lakers: At the moment the Lakers forged a 11-point lead with 3:44 to go, the Bulls were shooting 6-for-41 in the second half. Seriously, Chicago's offense was so stinking it up so bad it shaved half a point off Michael Jordan's career scoring average. Still...
...the Bulls went 6-for-7 in the final three and a half minutes to stun the Lakers on Derrick Rose's Christmas cookie to end all Christmas cookies:
Kobe Bryant: Yes, he had a strong game (28 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals) and canned a clutch jumper with just under a minute to go despite a bum wrist. But he also made some plays that helped get the Bulls back into it.
Mamba got stripped by Joakim Noah with 3:13 left, and his turnover turned into a breakaway dunk for Luol Deng. Then he committed a foul on Deng with 1:58 left, and Lu knocked down both freebies. He missed an 18-footer with 24 seconds left and followed that up with another (really dumb) foul on Deng, who once again drilled both freebies. On L.A.'s next possession, out of a timeout no less, Kobe's pass was stolen by Deng, leading to Rose's game winner. Then Bryant had his last-second shot stuffed...by Deng.
And here's some extra fodder from ESPN Stats and Information: "Kobe Bryant really struggled in isolation play types against the Bulls, scoring just 6 points on 13 plays. He shot 3-11 including a combined 1-8 on isolations from the top of the key and the right side of the court."
The Orlando Magic: Look, the Thunder are a good team, and they were playing at home, so Orlando's lopsided loss doesn't look all that bad on paper.
But watching it was telling. This team is not together, and Dwight "I demand to be traded" Howard is the reason why. They're going to suck with him. They're going to suck without him. This team is stuck in that dreaded basketball limbo from which there is nearly no escape.
Dwight Howard: 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting, 3-for-8 from the line, 0-for-1 on threes. They're called "motions," and Dwight is goin' through 'em.
David Stern, quote machine: On the Howard situation: "That's the beauty of the soap opera. How it plays out, we'll wait and see."
The Golden State Warriors: Could it be? Are the Clippers no longer who we through they were? In their 105-86 road win over the Warriors, The Other L.A. Team scored 64 points in the second half and played nearly flawless basketball down the stretch. And Chris Paul was awesome, especially in the final four minutes.
Still...they were playing the Golden State Warriors. And according to ESPN Stats and Information: "The Clippers probably wish they could start every year off with the Warriors. They are a perfect 4-0 vs Golden State in season openers winning by an average of 12.3 points. Against the rest of the league, the Clippers are 8 games below .500 and giving up nearly 107 points per game."
So. You know. Let's wait and see.
Chris' Lacktion Report:
Celtics-Knicks: Avery Bradley labeled himself the first lacktator of the 2011-12 season, bricking twice in 8:48 and adding a rejection and turnover for a +4 suck differential. Fellow Bostonian E'Twaun Moore mired himself amongst mushrooms in just four seconds for a Super Mario.
For New York, Bill Walker went to work with one brick from Broadway in 14:43 as well as three giveaways and four fouls for a +8! (Not to mention a Christmas gift of a throat shove by the amiable Kevin Garnett.)
Heat-Mavs: Shane Battier bricked once from the Stemmons Freeway for a +1 in 4:03, while Mickell Gladness cheerfully fouled twice in 2:56 for a +2 and a 2:0 Voskuhl.
Dallas's Brendan Haywood countered 3 boards in 13:38 with four fouls and two lost rocks for a 6:3 Voskuhl.
Magic-Thunder: Quentin Richardson spelled one foul in 4:41 for a +1.
Clippers-Warriors: Dominic McGuire made it back into the lacktion report, this time providing East Oakland with a 3.5 trillion (3:29) worth of server applications. $7 million dollar man Kwame Brown countered a made free throw and board in 6:49 with a trio of fouls for a 3:2 Voskuhl. Meanwhile, the Warriors also produced a pair of conventional Mario Brothers (Charles Jenkins at 58 seconds despite an assist, and Jeremy Tyler at 22 seconds).