Are We There Yet?

by April 14, 2008

By Jon Evans and Sammy Newman-Beck

To borrow a line from one of KG’s favorite songs, “You can feel it in the air.” The playoffs are coming. The split-screen promos highlight the fact that the intensity, focus and excitement of the postseason are right around the corner. With only a few games remaining, Celtics universe has been anxiously awaiting the transition into the second season.

“We are, but everyone is,” Doc said of his team’s eagerness to start the playoffs. “Because we sowed everything up so quickly the anxiety probably builds more for us because we’re not playing everyday right now for position.”

Obviously, the shift in gears to the playoffs is something the Celtic veterans have recently been trying to instill to the younger players.

“The postseason is so different. You can tell from the moment you start preparing to when you step on to the court,” KG described. “The energy around the city, around the gym. I told all the young guys, one play, one mistake can determine the whole series. It’s monumental. The energy level goes one, if not two notches up.”

In case anyone was confused, KG was kind enough to make it abundantly clear what the playoffs are about. “A perfect analogy is getting doused with cold water in 50-below weather and then sticking your head out the window while you drive. I don’t recommend that anybody do that, but that’s what it’s like.”

In that same vein, looking forward to filling out tax returns probably mirrored the anticipation for Friday night’s home game against the bumbling Bucks.

As KG succinctly put it, “We go in thinking, let’s take care of business, get reps and get the guys who don’t play a lot a chance to play. That’s the mindset, nothing more, nothing less.”

The Celtics did just that. Behind Rondo’s 12-9-4 in the first half, Boston cruised to an 18-point halftime lead. The Celtics were never challenged en route to the 102-86 victory.

Rivers toed the line in the rest versus rust debate by maxing his starters at around 24 minutes for the game against Milwaukee. Such concern for the energy of his players has been a constant theme this season.

“Our thought going into the year was legs over minds, we have to save their legs,” Rivers said. “Kevin is the only guy, that’s been difficult with him. Keeping him to 35 a night was a major chore for him to accept. Part of the reason we canceled practices was because he wouldn’t sit in the practices, so you cancel it for the whole team.”

“I tell coach I just want to stay sharp in these last few games,” Pierce said about his playing time. “I don’t want to go into the playoffs rusty so I want to play all these games out.” There’s not a precise minute total. “You want to get enough to get a sweat, get a rhythm and get some shots up.”

“Our starters right now are not playing a lot of minutes,” Doc said. “They have a great rhythm right now, we just want to keep that going.”

Though the remaining games mean nothing to the top-seeded Celtics’ playoff position, they may prove beneficial in other ways. Pulling back on the minutes for The Big Three, these tuneups are a chance to gauge the effectiveness of the second unit given extended burn, a nice treat for all the kids out there rocking those Tony Allen jerseys.

Beyond the Scalabrine sightings, the next few games are important for Sam Cassell in particular. A man who likely looms large in the Celtics post season plans, Cassell had been recently hampered by back spasms. In his return to action against the Bucks, he played 17 minutes finishing with 10 points and 4 dimes. This proved to be just the opening act as the next night his 15 fourth quarter points propelled the Celtics to a win at Atlanta.

“I thought Sam kept the second unit together,” Doc said after the Bucks win. “I was really surprised at how sharp he was with all the time that he missed.”

Like his veteran counterparts, Cassell is ready for the bright lights of the postseason.

“Playoff basketball is a whole new atmosphere,” Cassell said. “It’s something that I’m very comfortable with and something where I’m known to do what I need to do.”

Game Notes:

1st Quarter:

I immediately notice how great of a relationship James Posey has with the team—especially with KG. Posey pumps up everyone on the C’s sideline.

Right before the game starts KG is awarded with the Red Auerbach trophy. Makes me wonder what Red would have said about the Big Ticket.

Even though I have been to a bunch of Celtics games this year, I am still ready to go after watching their introduction video which features a screaming Kevin Garnett.

  • Rondo misses a shot and gets nailed. He looks like he got whacked. Makes me wonder what if someone got hurt in these last two games…
  • Ray Allen hits a 3. Rondo scores a bucket.
  • Celtics 22, Bucks 16 with 3 minutes left in the first.
  • Michael Redd can shoot! He nails a 3 with 2 minutes left.

Rondo hits an up and under nifty layup.

M. Redd nails another 3!

Rondo nails a pull-up and is playing extremely well.

Sam Cassell is pulling a Steve Nash and laying on the sideline…back issues?

Rajon Rondo finishes the first quarter with 12 points, and 6 assists (for those who care, if he stayed on that pace he would finish with 48 pts, 24 assists).

Milwaukee Ramon Sessions tops Rondo and finishes with 7 assists in the first quarter but fails to score a bucket.

2nd Quarter:

Cassell hits a layup. Celtics 38, Bucks 24 with 9:05 left in 2nd.

PJ Brown enters the game and hit’s a 6-footer.

Cassell actually looks somewhat fast on the offensive end, the same cannot be said for defending the pick and roll.

The starting five come back in with 3:45 left in the 2nd.

Pierce hits a 3 and puts the Celtics up 47-31 with 3:15 left in the half.

A Kendrick Perkins block leads to a Ray Allen three-pointer.

Rondo drops a dime to KG for an AND 1 bucket.

Score at the half is 57-39, Boston’s up.

At the half Rajon Rondo has 12 points and 9 assists. Sessions has 5 points and 8 assists.

3rd Quarter:

I start thinking how long will the big three actually play?

With 5:30 left in the third the Green are up 72-47.

Just then I notice Charlie Villanueva is suited up but not playing and Mo Williams is not playing. Then my fellow SLAM mate Jonathan Evans notices that it says Mo Williams is out with “Pubic Symphysitis” aka a groin pull.

Redd hits a tough righty hook shot to cut lead slightly to 74-55 Boston. 2:30 left in third.

It has become a pretty boring game.

Tony Allen has a nice drive and kick to James Posey who nails a three with 30 seconds left in the half.

The Celtics lead continues as they take a 79-58 lead into the 4th quarter.

4th Quarter:

Glen Davis looks a little slow coming off of his minor injuries.

Bobby Simmons tries to give the bucks some hope as he hits a 3.

Bucks cut the lead to 65-81, Celtics.

The Australian big man Andrew Bogut hits a nifty layup which makes me ponder why isn’t he better.

Ramon Sessions hits the 10 assist mark.

Gabe Pruitt gets in the game and gets to the cup for an easy two. 89-69, Celtics up with 6:30 left in the game.

Bogut hits a 5 footer.

Tony Allen gets to the cup, and is much more aggressive with the big three out of the game.

Gabe Pruitt is struggling on defense.

At this point the game is pretty boring, but then, my favorite song, “Anthem” by Pitbull blares over the loudspeaker…lets get it!

The Celts run a great play out of bounds for Posey, who nails a 3 (Doc had stressed his plays coming out of Time Outs in the pre-game talks).