A few thoughts on last night's 92-87 win over the Cavs. First of all, the biggest story was the newest Celtic in the building. PJ Brown sat next to Pollard on the Celtics bench after signing on with the team earlier in the day. I really love this signing. He is a high character guy who already fits right in with the team and at one point, pulled Perk over and was giving him some pointers ans instruction. Great signing. It seems that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen get an assist for this one as well. Brown said that they pulled him over during All Star weekend and gave him the sales pitch for coming to Boston and that made the difference in his decision. PJ will wear #93 for his first season in the league and the year he got married.
Last night was a game of milestones. When LeBron threw down a dunk over KG, he became the youngest player to reach 10,000 points. Later in the game, KG pulled down his 11,000th rebound. Both are impressive, but to me, 11,000 rebounds trumps 10,000 points hands down.
With about 4 minutes left in the 2nd, Lebron came down from a dunk and limped to about midcourt and fell down onto the court and held his ankle. It looked like he was seriously injured and the doctors came out and checked him out and he limped back to the locker room. Word was that the it was a sprain and the xrays were negative. His return to the game was questionable. Anyone seeing him rolling on the floor and then limping off the court, didn't expect him back. But there he was back in the lineup to start the third, not even limping. You have to question whether he is a good actor trying to inspire his team or maybe a bit of a prima donna. From what they said on Sports Tonight afterward, LeBron makes a habit of playing up minor injuries. There is no questioning his talent, but things like that get old.
Back to the game. Mike Brown became so furious at an offensive foul call on Varejao in the third quarter that he had to be restrained. It looked like a good call. In fact the refs were pretty decent for a change. The Celtics were called for 25 fouls and the Cavs for 24 so the game was called fairly even. Did they miss things? Yes. Pierce got away with an obvious travel on his way to the hoop on one play. Ilgauskas got away with standing in the lane for about 5 or 6 seconds before a layup on another and there were other things they missed, but the key is they were calling it even and missing things for both teams. From reading the Cavs boards, I guess they had one of those games in Milwaukee where every call went against them and so it may have been frustration boiling over. It may have been an ploy to wake his team up. Whatever it was, I don't think I have ever seen a coach explode like that on a fairly simple call.
Ray Allen seems to have found his shooting touch again. Last night he had 22 points on 7-10 shooting and 3-5 from beyond the arc. He has such a pure shooting stroke that it is a thing of beauty to watch. When someone mentioned it to Ray in the press conference KG knocked on the table. No need to jinx him now. Since the All Star game, minus that game in Phoenix, Ray has been hitting his shots with regularity. This is very good news. Maybe his ankles are finally better. Maybe he is just getting more comfortable with Doc's system. Whatever it is, hopefully it continues as Ray Allen will be key if the Celtics are to win the championship.
Paul Pierce tends to struggle against the Cavs for some reason. He just never has a good game against them. LeBron James may have something to do with that or maybe he just psychs himself out when it comes to playing the Cavs. James and Pierce have a history and there is no love lost between the two, but it shouldn't get under his skin that much, should it. Last night continued the pattern of poor play against LeBron's club with 12 points on just 4-14 shooting to go with 2 rebounds, 5 assists and 6 turnovers. Let's hope he figures it out if we meet them in the playoffs. We can't afford to have Pierce playing terrible in a 5 or 7 game series against this team.
Before the game, they said that KG was suffering from the flu. Right from the start, he was energetic and was out there firing up the crowd before the tip. He looked a bit slow in spots but had a terrific game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in 33 minutes, the most since he came back from his injury. In the post game press conference, you could hear him sniffing and coughing and he definitely wasn't feeling well. For those who say the Cavs were weakened because Ilgauskas was just coming back from an upper respiratory infection, I think one balances out the other.
Powe and Baby are showing why they need to get playing time, although with PJ Brown on board, one or the other, or maybe both will lose playing time. Hopefully it will be Scal who will lose the most. He is a great guy and a great teammate and drove Tony to the hospital last year, but he just isn't that good of a player. He doesn't really hurt us when he is out there, but he doesn't help us either. On the other hand, both Davis, and even more Powe, help us every time they play. Last night, Davis had 9 points and 4 rebounds in 23 minutes and Powe had 13 points and 3 rebounds in just 14 minutes. If Doc keeps one or the other in the rotation, I hope it is Leon because he really is playing well and does good things whenever Doc gives him minutes.
Let me preface the next comments by saying I love Perk. He is my favorite player. I love his intensity. I love his work ethic. But last night, he played 25 minutes and only had 1 rebound. I am not sure why because he seemed to be playing hard and was in the mix for the rebound several times and a couple times he tipped the rebound out to a teammate when he was in traffic under the basket, but he only got 1 rebound. I know on several plays he was boxing out Ilgauskas to allow KG to slip in for the rebound and that is one of the things he does best. He got 9 rebounds in the previous game and hopefully this was just an off game on the boards. Perk did have the steal of the game, though. He swiped the ball just past midcourt and took it all the way to the hoop for a layup, beating Delonte West in the process. It was a great play.
The Celtics once again missed 9 free throws. They have been shooting poorly from the line since the All Star break. In the first two games out west, they missed 9 and 14 free throws and lost the games by 6 and 2 respectively. In the playoffs, they can't afford to miss their free throws. Last night, only KG and Leon were perfect from the line as Ray even missed one.
On a positive note, the Pistons lost last night to the Jazz. The Celtics are now 3 games ahead of them for home court in the playoffs. The Pistons have 2 easy games coming up as they face the Clippers (hopefully without Sam Cassell) in LA on Saturday and come home to face the Sonics on Tuesday. Possibly the biggest game of the season so far will be on Wednesday as the Pistons play the Celtics in Boston. The Celtics have Monday and Tuesday off and the Pistons play the night before. It will be a big, big game for both teams. Expect a very physical and emotional game on both sides.
The Celtics face the Bobcats on Friday. Although they have won only 19 games, one of those is over the Celtics in Boston. They give us matchup problems for some reason. The Celtics really need to be up for that game in spite of Charlotte's record.