The Boston Celtics: The defending champs are now officially the dethroned champs. The Celtics didn't have it on offense (39 percent shooting), and they didn't have it on defense either (the Magic hit 51 percent from the field and nearly 62 percent from beyond the arc). The end result was 101-82 home loss in a do-or-die (in this case die) Game 7. And it all came down to this:
Seriously, a car will run on fumes for only so long. And make no mistake: Boston's Mach 5 wasn't just out of gas, the engine (Kevin Garnett) was shot and it was being held together by duct tape (an exhausted Paul Pierce), chicken wire (a flat-footed Ray Allen) and chewing gum (a no-tricks-left Rajon Rondo). Oh, and whereas last year they had a couple of quality spare tires (James Posey and P.J. Brown), this year they had a leaky donut (Stephon Marbury) and a useless block of wood (Mikki Moore). And in the end, they fell apart kind of like the Bluesmobile at the end of "The Blues Brothers."
Last-second shots and fourth quarter heroics are what make the headlines, but teams usually win or lose based on what happens during the game as opposed to what happens at the end. The fact that the Celtics couldn't finish around the basket was a sure sign that the team was wobbling toward an ugly end. Boston missed 17 of the 24 layups they attempted. Kendrick Perkins was 1-for-8 at the rim (and four of those were stuffed). Paul Pierce was 1-for-5. Ray Allen was 1-for-3. Rajon Rondo was 0-for-3. That's 3-for-19 (15 percent) on LAYUPS from your four best players...which is a pretty clear-cut sign of team with dead legs.
That's not to take anything away from Orlando's defense. Dwight Howard blocked five shots and intimidated several others. But the Magicians' interior D certainly benefitted from going up against a team that really didn't have anything left to give. (Other than a bunch of pained and sour looks from the bench during garbage time.)
Paul Pierce: Hey, I know that Pierce has been logging heavy-duty minutes for the past few months. And for the most part, he's done an admirable job of picking up the slack in KG's absence. But his final line -- 16 points (4-for-13), 2 rebounds, 3 assists -- in an elimination game at home doesn't really jibe with all that "I'm the best player in the world" noise he was making after the Celtics won the title last season. I'm just sayin'.
The Boston bench: Holy shnikes, where are Greg Kite, Jerry Sichting and Sam Vincent when you need them? The only three pine riders who got significant PT for the C's were Brian Scalabrine, Eddie House and Stephon Marbury. Think about that. Those dudes were the best the Celtics' bench had to offer. [shudders] No wonder they lost by 19. They probably should have lost by 30. That trio combined for 8 points on 3-for-12 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers and 6 fouls. About the only thing you can say in these guys' favor is they didn't set the locker room on fire. So they have that going for them...which is nice.
Stephon Marbury: The numbers (4 points, 1-for-4, 1 assist, 3 turnovers) don't really get across how incredibly catastrophic his 13 minutes and 46 seconds of playing time really was. It was almost like he was intentionally sabotaging the team, which would be crazy, even for Starbury. If there was any question about whether Stephon was going to be back in Celtic green next season, this game answered it.
Danny Ainge: Way to restock the shelves there, Danny. From letting James Posey walk over one year and about $5 million to jumping all over the Mikki Moore signing instead of patiently waiting for Joe Smith to get bought out, Ainge's every decision this season seemed to be the wrong one. And the end result sure makes some of his other master deals look like a lot of luck. (And a lot of Kevin McHale.)
Reggie Miller: As karl pointed out: "I swear to you, I just heard Reggie Miller say that Marcin Gortat (God Bless his little Polish heart) is just as athletic as Dwight Howard. Officially the worst announcer ever."
Ben Affleck: It's bad enough that his "Daredevil" movie nearly made me tear out my own eyeballs with a spork, but he has now succeeded in making poor Jennifer Garner look exceptionally average. Screw you, Ben.
And now, from Wild Yams, our special Lakers correspondent:
The Houston Rockets: Per the request of my biggest fan, starang, I will attempt to make this entry in the Lakers-Rockets series more humorous than the last one (in case the Rockets' play yesterday wasn't funny enough). Houston must have thought that after winning Game 6 that they had won the championship, because they certainly didn't appear to realize that there were any more games left to be played this season. Or maybe Houston's team bus was stuck in traffic for a few hours, because it seemed like nobody showed up till they were down by 31 with about two minutes remaining in the game; and that my friends is waiting just a bit too long to start your comeback. Yes, if Houston hadn't scored the game's final dozen points, they might not have broken the 60 point mark (they only had 58 points with 2:15 remaining in the game, when Phil Jackson emptied his bench). There were so many Rocket failures during yesterday's game that I felt like I was watching a highlight reel from the early days of NASA.
The Rockets were embarrassed in all areas of the game yesterday, but the main things they did poorly were shoot and rebound, and those are fairly important parts of winning a basketball game. Houston only shot 36% from the field and only 25% from the 3-pt line, and they got murdered on the boards 55-33. When a team plays that poorly in those areas, well it's no surprise the Associated Press said: "This one was practically over before the fans settled into their seats." Scanning down the box score it's tough to find any Rockets players who played well, but it's pretty easy to find a couple who played exceptionally poorly, starting with...
Ron Artest: Crazy Pills started the game off with a pair of airballs, and it didn't get much prettier after that, as he finished with only 7 points on 10 shots (including 1-6 from 3-pt range). If his play on the floor wasn't enough by itself to earn him a mention here, then this postgame quote sure should be: "Obviously, the Lakers are more experienced than us, but I thought we were the better team." Too bad they didn't show even a hint of that in yesterday's game. Maybe he means they're a better team in some other sport, like dodgeball, for instance; cause they're clearly not a better basketball team.
Carl Landry: A guy who had stepped up all series long picked the worst time to pull a disappearing act, as he finished the day 2-10 for 4 points and only 2 rebounds. Even weirder, he decided to fire up two ill-advised 3-pt shots, which of course, both missed. He also was frequently on the wrong end of the Pau Gasol smackdown, which included 21 points and 18 rebounds. Fail.
Aaron Brooks: Despite being Houston's "high scorer" with only 13 points (which is pretty pathetic in and of itself), Brooks needed 13 shots to get to that total (hitting only 4), and he led the team in two other dubious stats: most turnovers (5) and worst +/- rating (-24). He also managed to piss off Isaac Hayes and get thrown out of his rib joint.
I'm not gonna be around today as I'm going to be traveling and won't be able to check the internets till tomorrow (much to my number one fan's chagrin, I'm sure), but for anyone who's looking ahead for a preview to the Western Conference Finals between Denver and LA, this kid's got you covered:
Kobe Bryant: Hey, does anybody know where I can get a picture of Mamba complaining about a foul by yanking his shorts all the way...oh, never mind. Got one!
And now it cannot be unseen.
Lacktion report: And now I give you Chris and his amazing lacktivity update. Remember: Small sips.
Rockets-Lakers: DJ Mbenga scratched out a singular brick for a celebratory +1 suck differential in 2:40.
Magic-Celtics: Tony Battie laid down one piece of masonry for a +1 in 3:05 to give Stan Van Gundy his tobacco fix for the series, while Gabe Pruitt missed from behind the arc for a +1 in 2:30. Fellow Celtic Bill Walker took home a pedestrian paycheck of 2.25 trillion, the second largest procurement of wealth in the second round.
Battie's appearance gave him his third straight lacktive game, and fourth in the series, with a total unproductive run of 13:46 -- still only good for second in the playoffs behind Daniel Gibson's single-game 14:06. (Add the 15-second Mario from the first round against the Sixers, and he STILL ends up 5 seconds behind the crustacean!)