All postseason long — and really, all regular season long — we’ve been waiting for someone on the Celtics to stand up and declare this to be their team. Yesterday, in Game 7 against the Cavs, Paul Pierce finally did it. Forget the Big Three and Ubuntu and Blood-Sweat-Tears (a.k.a. the threat on Al Horford) and all of that: Pierce took it back to 2002 and put the C’s on his shoulders, dropping 41 points and making all the big plays down the stretch. (Although the crowd’s “M-V-P!” chant for Pierce in the final seconds was kind of ludicrous.) In Smack following Game 6 we criticized Pierce for trying to do it all by himself, but the difference between that game and yesterday was that in Game 6, Pierce was out of control and trying to run through brick walls. In Game 7 he was in command of everything going on with him and looking like a true fourth-quarter killer rather than a gunner … In the second half especially you saw the Pierce/Kevin Garnett contrast when it comes to producing in crunch-time. While KG (13 pts, 13 rebs) was trying to pick the defense apart with fadeaways and finesse, despite the fact that he physically overmatched anyone Cleveland put on him, Pierce was a bulldog who kept going at Cleveland’s throat despite being guarded by the game’s premier athlete. The image of Pierce laying on his back screaming after diving for a loose ball in the final minute will be the 21st-century Celtics’ version of Dikembe Mutombo‘s most famous moment … That’s not to say The Truth wasn’t getting carved up defensively. LeBron was destroying Pierce and everyone else Doc Rivers tried on him, putting up 45 points, 5 boards and 6 assists. Granted, the Cavs would have gotten routed if it wasn’t for LeBron’s heroics, but in the clutch he came up short. When Boston’s lead was cut to three with about 30 seconds left, LeBron passed up an open shot beyond the arc and drove in for a wild, off-balance runner that didn’t hit anything. He also missed some key free throws at various points throughout the night … There was one time all day when it seemed the C’s were going to lose; when LeBron got a steal from Pierce and his breakaway dunk cut the lead to one with about 2:20 remaining. Had the Cavs pulled off the upset, LeBron’s push-off on Pierce after he got that ball would have reached Michael Jordan-on-Byron Russell status as one of the great no-calls we’ve seen … When guys like Rick Mahorn and Dennis Rodman and Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis are watching this era’s playoff games, what are they thinking as the announcers are declaring every hard foul a flagrant? The worst was when Wally Szczerbiak tried to stop a KG breakaway dunk in the second quarter. The refs rightfully didn’t call a flagrant, but people were making the argument even though Wally was clearly just going for the ball. It was another case where the landing made the foul look worse than it was … With two huge free throws in the last minute, Ray Allen (4 pts, 1-for-6 FG’s) made everyone forget that he was largely invisible the entire game and had lost his rotation spot to Eddie House. Will a matchup with Rip Hamilton in the next round push Ray to step his game up? If he can’t given them anything when Szczerbiak is guarding him, he might as well not even show up for the Detroit series … Sam Cassell never got off the bench. Still, it’s gotta beat playing for the Clippers … It’s crazy how terrible the Cavs are in spots 2-through-12 (everyone after LeBron). Delonte West was the only other guy to show up in a Game 7, putting up 15 points and 5 assists, and he was still throwing the ball all over the gym (6 turnovers). Ben Wallace and Szczerbiak were only good for some timely fouls, Anderson Varejao pulled down a grand total of TWO rebounds, Damon Jones couldn’t make wide-open threes, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas — a 10-year vet whose career was almost ended by injuries and whose window to win a championship is almost shut — played with all the urgency of a husband making a late-night tampon run for his wife. Compare Z’s indifference to Eddie House having a 48-minute-long conniption and we’ll just say there was a slight difference in overall intensity … After the final buzzer LeBron stalked off the floor without saying a word, not hanging around for any dap and hugs with the Celtics. We get the feeling ‘Bron won’t resurface until Mike Brown is coaching a college team and he has some decent talent around him … Those few Lakers fans still holding out hope for Andrew Bynum‘s return this year got some more bad news, as the big man is going under the knife for arthroscopic knee surgery this week … We’re out like Cleveland …
Smack / May 19, 2008 / 12:04 am
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