Homecourt advantage is a pretty funny, fickle thing. It takes 82 games to earn, but only one to lose. The Cavs earned the right to have homecourt advantage with a dominant regular season, but the Boston Celtics wrestled it from their grasps tonight with an authoritative — at least until the fourth quarter — 104-86 Game Two victory.
Of course, a late comeback by Cleveland had urine dripping down my leg. I know the Celtics had a 24-point lead, and I understand that the lead never got lower than ten. But are you trying to tell me, after this tumultuous season in which almost no lead has been safe, you didn’t fear a Celtics’ implosion? Because I did and, when Dick “I once kissed Charles Barkley on the lips” Bavetta called Cavaliers ball after the ball clearly bounced off Antawn Jamison, I thought it might not be the Celtics’ night after all.
Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be the C’s night to begin with. Before the game, a video tribute played in the Quicken Loans Arena. The Cleveland home fans chanted their brains out. The Cavs’ star came out to midcourt to receive his trophy from NBA commissioner David Stern, and the Celtics could do nothing but stand in a line and helplessly Witness their foe receive his second straight MVP award. But it ceased being Lebron James’ time at that exact moment. The rest of the game (or at least the first three quarters of it) belonged to Boston’s diminutive magician, Rajon Rondo.
It’s hard to describe how good Rondo was without using words that sound like hyperbole. He was a puppeteer with his fingertips shaping the game at his whim, and he was a violinist creating music sweet enough to put a little baby to sleep. He strung together a symphony more reminiscent of David Blaine than an NBA point guard, doing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to, as if by the flick of a wand. By the time Rondo subbed out of the game for the first time, with 31.8 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Rondo had already piled up 11 points and tied a Boston Celtic record with 19 assists.
And then, in what has become a disturbing trend for Rondo, he all but disappeared in the fourth quarter. Save a runner in the lane that gave the Celtics some added cushion at the end, Rondo contributed next to nothing in the fourth stanza. He ended with only 13 points and those aforementioned 19 dimes. It might have been nothing more than a simple case of Rondo taking his foot off the pedal as the Celtics lead ballooned, or it might be the continuation of a theme that sees Rondo defer to his more-heralded teammates as the game gets closer and the clock ticks down. If nothing more, it’s something to look for in future fourth quarters.
Rondo accumulated 8 points and 12 assists in a Boston first half that was a clinic in how not to play basketball, but still come away with the lead. The Celtics turned the ball over ten times, gave up more than a few offensive rebounds and saw their stars get in foul trouble, but somehow still went into the break with a 52-48 lead. Rondo was a key factor in that lead, of course, but so was Rasheed Wallace. Wait, Rasheed Wallace? Yup, the old bastard dusted off his former-All-Star self and started scorching the nets like it was 2001. Five first-half shots for Rasheed, and five makes. 13 points, when the Big Three was on the bench and Boston desperately needed a left. He even added an emphatic (by Sheed’s standards) dunk in the fourth quarter. His performance was a nice middle finger to everyone who clamored for Shelden Williams to take Sheed’s minutes after Sheed threw up another vomit-acious Game One.
And the Big Three? Well, they didn’t do too much, but they hardly needed to. It has become abundantly clear that, should the Celtics return to the winner’s circle, it will be on the surprisingly strong back of Rajon Rondo. Even on a relatively quiet night, the trio combined for 54 points, with Ray Allen’s hot hand (22 points, 3-7 three-pointers) leading the way.
About the only thing that went wrong for Boston tonight, barring another first-half case of the turnovers, was that LeBron James didn’t have a LeBron-esque game. Why, you ask, is that bad for the Celtics? Because now we’ll have to listen to another round of speculation about LeBron’s goddamn elbow. That elbow was pretty good when he dropped 35, 7 and 7 in the first game, wasn’t it? Now he throws a stinker and, because the world’s best player isn’t allowed to do that without the aid of some aching body part, we’ll have to listen to some more talk about LeElbow. Save your breath, everyone, the elbow’s fine. He just couldn’t handle a suffocating Celtics defense hell-bent on evening the series in Game Two.
But not even another few days of columns about the world’s most annoying body part can ruin tonight. Not only did Boston take homecourt advantage, but they put a sliver of doubt in Cleveland’s mind. After the Celtics definitively controlled play in six of the first eight quarters of the series, it is no longer crystal clear that Cleveland is the series’ best team.
The best team in this series might now be the Boston Celtics, that aging crew that we can now safely say saved its best efforts for the postseason.
- My grandmother turned 90 years old today… and Dick Bavetta is probably older.
- Did anyone else see Reggie Miller trying to give advice on shooting form early in the game? I know he’s one of the best shooters in the world, but the man’s jumper was uglier than Sam Cassell. Instead, Reggie should have been giving lessons on how to kick his legs out while pretending to be fouled.
- Lebron James had one ridiculous traveling violation that went uncalled. Of course, Bavetta was busy playing Bingo with his friends.
- Cleveland went 19:26 without commiting a foul. There are a lot of jokes that could be made about what Dick Bavetta was doing during that time. I’ll leave those up to you.
- A Cleveland fan threw a beer bottle from the stands after Paul Pierce was wrongfully called for a technical foul when Mo Williams flopped. Cleveland reporter Brian Windhorst noted, “Celtics shouldn’t be worried, I think it was aimed at Mo Williams.” Williams was 1-9 from the field.