By Jon Evans
These TNT games don’t need any introduction, so far be it from me to overstate the obvious. We’ve got a matchup of two of the top 5 teams, record wise, in the league. Though we are sans KG, Pierce and Allen versus Dirk and Josh surely will not disappoint. Also, tonight has the added buzz of the announcement of the all-star reserves.
Without a player in the room, the televisions in the Celtics locker room plays looping video of Josh Howard highlights for an audience of just the assembled media. The impressive scouting film breaking down his tendencies would be better viewed by players, not an audience of dozen dudes in khakis and press credentials. I love Dr. Jack Ramsey as much as the next guy, but I’m not sure what he can do against a pick and pop.
TNT sideline reporter Cheryl Miller joins the throng of waiting reporters rocking Adidas slides with lime green fuzzy wool socks. I thought my wallabees brought a touch of flare to the standard reporter business casual attire, but I have clearly been outdone. Even the Wally-champ Pretty Toney would have to give the nod to Cheryl tonight.
Pierce, the newly minted all-star reserve, strolls out of the trainers room to meet the assembled media. Both happy to be selected, and puzzled as to why Allen was not, he addressed the media.
“I thought Ray should have been there also based on our record,” Pierce said. “The Pistons had four guys and they had a similar record to what we have now.”
Johnson, (21.2 PPG, 5.3 APG 4.4 RPG 40%FG) leads a Hawks team currently seeded seventh in the East with an 18-24 record.
“Honors like this is based on what your team is doing,” Pierce continued. “He probably should have been [selected] over Joe Johnson. It’s just my opinion though. They’re not a .500 team. No knock on Joe Johnson, he’s definitely a great talent, but it’s about what you do as a team also.”
The snubbed Allen was the next to emerge and face the media.
“Every year it seems I’m in this position where I have to sit back and see if I’m chosen or not,” Allen began. “Its been a privilege every time I’ve made it. But when I don’t make it, you can always make a case for players. Because there are so many guys having great years. I don’t look down on the season I’m having.”
Doc also stood up for his swingman before the game. “I’m disappointed Ray didn’t make it,” Rivers said. “He sacrificed the most with his game and I’m disappointed the other coaches didn’t see that.”
With ‘Roc-Boys’ on the PA system, Ray leads them out of the tunnel onto the court. Right behind the team is the referee crew highlighted by Joey Crawford. This should be interesting. “Thanks to a little change I’ll tear you out the game.” That bar can be attributed to Joey just as easily as Jay.
Looking through the stands, there’s a lady sitting second row baseline rocking a Delonte West Celtics jersey. You have to figure if someone can afford a second row seat, they should probably be able to keep their replica jersey game on point. Just a thought.
Cheryl Miller strolls courtside, and is wearing shoes. Oh behalf of Toney Starks, I am disappointed.
Ray Allen is aggressive out of the gate. After an easy two off an inbounds play, he drives it right into the heart of the Mavs defense. Though he comes up short this time, his aggressiveness may be his statement to Joe Johnson fans.
Bill Russell is in the building and receives a solid, though not a standing, ovation. Minutes earlier, these “fans” gave Brian Scalabrine a louder reception. The reporter next to me proposes that the fans may not have recognized him. I’d argue that would make it even worse. It’s Bill freaking Russell. When you go to the real Garden and when they show Charles Oakley on the screen, there is not a single butt in a purple and teal seat.
Ray sets up with an iso on Terry. He drives right by him for lay-in form the right side. Hmmm, I think someone’s a little upset about the all-star snub, 6-4 Celtics.
Another C’s possession, another bucket from Allen. This one, a stop and pop from the left wing. 8-6 C’s.
Jet fumbles the pass, but recovers to drain a corner three. 9-8 Mavs.
Perk lowers the shoulder on Dirk, sending the German flying. Joey Crawford isn’t missing that one.
Crawford strikes again, calls Veal for the arm checking on Dirk on the perimeter. Posey checks in for Scalabrine.
I wonder how the C’s dancers decide which one has to rock the Kendrick Perkins Jersey dress. It’s all 34s, 20s, and 5s, except for the one girl sporting the 43.
The diminutive Barea drives in no-mans-land but finds Howard for the corner three. 12 all.
Jesus! Ray Allen drives, hangs, and lays it in on the right, banking it in over three Mavs. This is probably the most determined I’ve seen Ray with his drives to the hoop. Whether it’s KG’s absence or his snubbing, Allen is being very assertive; acting as a scorer, not just a shooter. With five minutes left in the first, Celtics 14, Mavs 12, Jesus 10.
Rondo picks up his second personal being on the wrong end of a block/charge with Barea. Enter Eddie Casa.
Celtics fastbreak, Posey spots up for a top of the key 3. His second in as many attempts gives the C’s a 20-18 lead.
Jonathan Papelbon gets a better-than-Russell ovation. Whatever, the Mets got S.A.N.T.A.N.A. Ya dig?!
Ray Allen, comes off the screen for a pull up three. Saying it was a swish is not enough; you can practically hear the net snap as it goes in. 25-20 Cs.
Pretty move as Ray fades baseline and drains the 21 footer.
End of one, 27-20.
I’m getting the feeling that I’m going to run out of ways to say ‘Ray hits a jumper’ pretty soon. This one, from 19-feet puts the C’s up 3, 37-34.
It sure was nice of Avery to dust off Josh Howard for some second quarter action. I almost forgot he was still in the league.
Ray strikes again. 3-pointer gives him a game-high 18.
Josh Howard pull up jumper in transition, knotted at 40.
Not for long, Ray hits another jumper, 42-40 with less than a minute in the half. That makes 22 points for Ray on 9 of 11 shooting. Can Joe Johnson do that?
Rondo picks up his third personal pressuring Barea 30 feet from the basket. A tough call to make, but there was definitely contact. The easy call would have been to not even risk picking up your third foul in the first place when you don’t have a viable backup.
Celtics double the ball, leaving Devean George all alone in the paint. Barea finds him for the open slam. 44 all.
At the end of the first half, we’ve got a combined 39 points for all star snubs Howard and Allen, and 11 for all stars Dirk and Pierce. Obviously you can’t infer too much from that, but it’s worth mentioning.
Pierce connects on a face up jumper on Terry, C’s +2.
No weakside help as Pierce drives by Howard and Dirk to get the lay up.
Good ball denial by the C’s. Unable to find Howard, or Dirk, Dampier passes off to Eddie who misses a jumper. The long rebound sets up a C’s fastbreak that results in a Rondo floater and a timeout by the general. 50-46 C’s.
Scalabrine blocks a Terry jumper and the C’s are running. Pierce to Rondo to the trailing Allen for the slam.
Veal’s doing an admirable job getting into Dirk defensively and not giving him a step.
Rondo connects on an up and under floater. Back to back layups for Rajon puts the Celtics up by 10.
We have a Dirk sighting. The German faces up and drills a 17-footer from the right wing with a hand in his face. Impressive, but it still gives him a rather pedestrian 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting. Lines like these make it easy to forget he’s the reigning MVP. 58-52 Celtics.
Mavs work the ball around and the perimeter and the hot potato stops with George who hits a three. 58-55. Timeout Doc.
The Celtics have a “Seperated at birth” gimmick on the jumbotron where fans are matched up with celebrities they resemble. Jessica Simpson, Kenny Rogers, Bill Gates and Scott Van Pelt are funny. Saying a dude looks like Beetlejuice from Howard Stern is just mean.
Dirk gets good post position and lays one in over Allen. 58-57.
Ray misses a jumper. On the other end, Dirk does not. 59-58 Mavs.
Pierce crosses Hassell, hits the lay up and goes to the line for one more. And-zero.
Pierce continues his abuse of Hassell, drives by him yet again and this time, connects for the old fashioned three point play. 67-63.
Trenton Hassell picks up a stupid offensive foul. Probably a good idea that he just sits the next few out.
Fan behind me: “Sit down Hassell! Go back to dancing with the stars.” Did I miss something?
Dirk backs down Posey, spins off him and fades away. Buckets, C’s +2.
Dirk steps into an open three. Wet. That’s 17 points on 5-7 shooting in the 3rd period for Dirk.
Terry decides it’s a good idea to rotate off of Posey. The only problem is no one else decides to rotate on Posey. Posey decides to hit the open three. 74-71 C’s.
Eddie Jones ball fake. Steps into a jumper as the clock expires. Mavs +1.
Celtics come with a double team on Dirk in the post.
Terry floater in the lane extends the Mavs lead. 77-74.
Pierce, double teamed, throws an ill advised pass that is picked off by George.
Bass hits pull up over Posey. 8 minutes left, Mavs +5.
Rondo drives, connects in the paint over Terry. 79-76.
Rondo, drives, fakes a behind the back that fools Dirk, but misses the lay-in. Alas, no mixtape moment for Rajon, but his 2 FTs put the C’s ahead by one.
Dirk, fouled by Powe, hangs in to hit the jumper. His freethrow puts the Mavs up two.
Posey finds Pierce open on the perimeter. A headfake sends George flying out of the way. Dirk flies in to help just in time to have Pierce drain the three in his mug. Celtics +1.
Dirk – fadeaway perfect. Connects over Posey to knot it all at 86.
Josh Howard pulls up for floater in the lane.
A Very very late whistle bails out Pierce after he misses a lay-up on a drive over George. Surprisingly, Crawford wasn’t involved. Pierce hits them both to tip the seesaw score in Boston’s favor for the time being.
Posey forces Dirk into a tough fadeaway out of a post up.
Two straight Celtics possessions result in unsuccessful drives from Ray Allen. You can argue for whistle on either of them. What you can’t argue is that after a blistering start, Ray only has 4 points thus far in the second half, none of them in the 4th quarter.
Posey misses on a drive to the hoop. A blatant Powe push in the back sends Dirk to the line. Joey C isn’t missing that one. Dirk hits them both to bring it to 90 all.
Out of the timeout, Pierce’s pull up over Hassell rims out. Dirk literally has the defensive rebound stolen from him by the diminutive Rondo. Rondo quickly lays it up to put the C’s on top. We have the likely winner for play of the game. Mr. MVP, you just got served. Rondo has 14 points and a GAME HIGH 12 rebounds. Who saw that coming?
With seconds remaining, Dirk posts on Posey with a chance to tie the game.. Posey plays him tough, forcing Dirk into a tough, but makeable drive that he misses.
An offensive rebound gives the Mavs a second chance. But out of the timeout, Terry drives right and misses the floater in traffic. C’s get the rebound and the Mavs get the loss.
Afterwards, Posey discussed his crunchtime matchup with Dirk.
“I wanted to play him tough,” Posey said of Dirk. “He’s a great shooter so I didn’t want to let him get a jumper off. I wanted to stay in front of him and force him into a tough shot.”
The man of the hour is Rajon Rondo who has twenty or so reporters waiting for him to dress so they can grab a word with him. As the Lacoste shirt goes on, Rondo describes his pivotal play.
“I was able to sneak behind Dirk on the baseline,” Rondo said. “He didn’t box me out and I went up under him. “ With a smirk, Rondo, who is 75 pounds lighter than Dirk, continued, “You can say I out-muscled him, we both had it, but I came out with it.”
Damon Stoudamire isn’t getting that rebound. Even circa 1996 with his mighty mouse cape, he doesn’t make that play. Sam Cassell brings a lot to the table, but he probably doesn’t make that play either. While most would agree that the Celtics are in need of more depth at the point, moments like that remind you of the unique talent they have in double-R.