Post Up: Celts Hit Back

by May 08, 2011
rajon rondo

Memphis 101, Oklahoma City 93

Just give me the damn ball!

That’s what Keyshawn Johnson told America in 1997 with the title of his controversial autobiography. It’s also what Kevin Durant should have told Russell Westbrook at the end of Game 3 Saturday.

Hey, little man. Stop jacking bricks and feed me.

Durant is the top scorer in the League. More importantly, he’s the top fourth quarter scorer in the Playoffs. Heading into this game, he was averaging 10.6 points in that quarter on over 60 percent shooting. When the Thunder blew a 16-point third quarter lead, they should have gone to Durant to stop the bleeding.

Instead, Westbrook took it upon himself to jumpstart the offense, taking wild shot after wild shot in an attempt to fend off the ravenous Grizz. It didn’t work. The Thunder went through an eight-minute stretch without a field goal, much of it thanks to Westbrook’s ballhoggery.

Yeah, that’s a word now. Ballhoggery. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, here’s the definition.

In the end, Memphis’ unselfishness won out. The Grizzlies rode the hot hands of OJ Mayo and Mike Conley (both of whom scored 18 points), and the standout defense of Tony Allen, to a 101-93 overtime victory.

Zach Randolph was stymied all day by the barbed wire defense of Serge Ibaka (6 blocks) and Kendrick Perkins (who broke the all-time record for scowls in a game). He scored a team-high 21 points, but together he and Marc Gasol shot a combined 12 for 36.

The Thunder executed Scott Brooks’ defensive gameplan perfectly. They limited Z-Bo and Gasol inside and dominated the boards. They put the game in the hands of Conley, Mayo and Sam Young—a scary prospect if you’re at all familiar with that trio’s regular season stats.

Still, the Grizzlies won by doing what they’ve done all Playoffs: fighting their way out. They erased a 16-point late third quarter deficit through sheer will and determination and won.

That doesn’t bode well for the Thunder.

They’re clearly the more talented team, but if they’re going to come back and win this series Durant is going to have to unleash his inner Keyshawn. —Patrick Crawley (@BasketballFiend)

Boston 97, Miami 81

Rajon Rondo’s tough as nails return from a dislocated elbow understandably stole the show, but it was Kevin Garnett’s 28-point, 18-rebound performance that was the biggest reason for Boston’s 97-81 victory. For a stagnant C’s offense, Garnett was aggressive in looking for his own shot and commanding the ball on the block.

KG 2.0 has carved out a very respectable Celtics career as the defensive quarterback who will pick and pop his way to all-star numbers. Sheer domination from KG seemed like a distant memory. Wade and James certainly reinforced that belief in game 2.

Turns out that reports of Garnett’s demise were greatly exaggerated. The Big Ticket put the C’s on his back when the C’s needed it most. On defense he was everywhere and took Bosh from marginal down to irrelevant. It’s not just that he got 28 points, but it’s the how and the when that make this performance noteworthy. In the critical third quarter, Garnett totaled 14 points on a beautiful array of spins, hooks and drop steps. KG put in work in the paint to steady what was an emotional quarter of basketball. He ended up just one point shy of outscoring Miami by himself in the period.

“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Coach Spolestra said without hesitation, when asked about Garnett’s performance. “That’s what it reminded me of.”

“I looked for my shot to be honest,” Garnett said. “I took my opportunities and stayed aggressive.”

Garnett’s steadying presence was needed as Boston had to deal with what appeared to be a brutal injury to Rondo. After getting tangled with Wade, Rondo extended his left arm to brace for the fall and gruesomely dislocated it in the process. Rondo made a dramatic return in the fourth quarter and essentially played the rest of the game one armed with surprising success. Though by that point, KG had put in his stamp on the game to set Boston up for the win.

Wade paced Miami with 23 points and a few cheap shots for good measure. Joel Anthony, quickly stepping up as Miami’s best performing big man, was huge with 12 points and 11 boards. James went for 15 mostly uneventful points on 6-of-16 shooting.

The old adage is that it’s not a series until one team wins on the others court. This one’s in full swing because Boston has finally played to the level of their talent. Performances like this one from Garnett will go a long way in keeping the reign of Boston’s big three intact. —Jonathan Evans