I've read a number of things in recent weeks about how the Celtics will pull it all together when the playoffs get here, and I have to say I wasn't one who was writing that, or feeling too positive. Hopeful, yes. Confident? Not so much. Game One with the Heat now behind us, and I'm getting some of that feeling.
The difference could be seen early in the first quarter - there was plenty of hustle from each player, and a focused, aggressive style of play that has often been missing. The scoring was slow to start the quarter (and remained low throughout the game), but that sense of "this is the playoffs" was present. My musings from Game One:
Rajon Rondo was playing on the heels of a stomach flu. He had the most minutes (43) and managed a cool 10 points & 7 rebounds along with 10 assists. His energy level was impressive given how he probably felt, and leaves a good feeling about what he's likely going to bring to the next playoff game when he's at 100%.
Ray Allen took an elbow early in the first quarter, bringing Tony Allen in while that was being addressed. TA took off - he not only kept the Celtics in the first quarter with 8 points, he had everything to keep the C's in the entire game. Tony stayed on Dwayne Wade so effectively every minute he was in the game. Ray's game was off, finishing with 8 points for the night. Tony ended up with 14 points, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. He was truly sensational.
Kevin Garnett had a strong game, 15 points & 9 rebounds, and looked like the KG from the Championship season two years ago. He's hungry and is likely to stay that way.
Kendrick Perkins (8 points, 3 rebounds) just wasn't able to get Jermaine O'Neal out of his face. Each time Perk went for a board he was smothered.
Glen Davis was able to pounce where Perk couldn't. Davis was all over the court (giving a hint of his days as a gymnast?), 23½ minutes, 8 points, 8 boards. He contributed a huge, solid effort.
Paul Pierce is needed on this team. There is something about his presence on the court that makes such a difference, even when his numbers aren't stellar. Eleven of his sixteen points came in the third quarter, a period when that too-familiar, uncomfortable, 'we're letting this slip away' feeling was invading the garden. With Pierce hot, the C's turned things around with about three minutes left in the third quarter and never looked back.
There was that mele with 40 seconds left in the game that put the finishing touch on the playoff feel - Pierce had been fouled by Haslem (well, it wasn't called) and ended up on the floor in front of Miami's bench. Within seconds of KG heading over to see him, Quentin Richardson showed up and said something and the words and shoving started... five technical fouls were handed out once the officials endlessly watched the replay - Richardson, Haslem, Davis, and two for Garnett (completely uncalled for to give him an additional one) which ejected him from the game.
I'm feeling pretty optimistic about this series. Including the statistical history that 75% of teams who take Game One go on to win the series. It felt good.
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