Archive for April 26th, 2011
For a while, the NBA’s motto has been: NBA – Where Amazing Happens. Yes, amazing things indeed have happened recently. But what exactly do we mean by this. Well, for starters, let’s take a look at the realm of the amazing: that which is amazing is usually, astounding, surprising, stunning, staggering, shocking, startling, stupefying, breathtaking; awesome. And certainly that which is amazing usually is unexpected. There is no amazing in something that is bound to happen periodically and with flawless precision.
And perhaps that high degree of uncertainty is what makes wagering on the NBA Playoffs such a thrill. For starters we should consider what we have learned so far during the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The No. 1 seed in the country, guided by the league’s MVP shouldn’t be struggling against No. 8 seeds, and yet the Bulls and Derrick Rose have struggled more then any Chicago fan would like against the Indiana Pacers. But there’s more.
No. 2 seeds, and that is, defending Champions guided by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol shouldn’t be defeated at home against No. 7 seeds. Let’s consider for a moment that the LA Lakers were supposed to manhandle the New Orleans Hornets. It’s hard to put this one into perspective. On one hand we have a team that is expected to play four rounds and win it all. On the other, we have a small market team that is expected to work on overdrive if they even plan to make it pass the first round. You put up those ingredients together and can find yourself with a box filled with surprises. And yes, there is the Chris Paul factor to consider. Paul’s knee injury keeps him from playing with all he’s got every night. But when he is on fire, no one can stop him. Not Kobe, not Pau, at least.
Derrick Rose deserved his MVP. I mean, we haven’t seen the Chicago Bulls played like they did since, well, since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen grabbed their last national title together back in 1998. So why are we bringing his name up in this space reserved for the unexpected? Well, for starters MVP shouldn’t be shooting 35.2 percent in the postseason. Ok, at least he shouldn’t be shooting that low against a team that finished the regular season with only 37 wins. Yes, the ankle injury has slowed him down, but he is almost pushing sole handedly the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. The problem is that teams have come to realize that if you can manage to isolate Rose and force the Bulls to relay on other players, Chicago then becomes extremely vulnerable. As Derrick Rose goes, so goes the Bulls, seems to be the saying that gives faith to this scenario.
If Derrick wants to consolidate his MVP in the postseason, he has to win the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s as simple as that. His supporting cast is also going to have to step up and bring out the best they’ve got. Yes, Carlos Boozer, we are talking about you. Step it up.
I want to talk about the Boston Celtics and particularly about the Celtics point guard: Rajon Rondo. In a team leaded by three hall of famers, and surrounded with the likes of 34-year-old Kevin Garnett, 33-year-old Paul Pierce, 35-year-old Ray Allen, and 39-year-old Shaquille O’Neal, Rajon Rondo has been nothing short of spectacular. Not only has he been able to fit in among such a talented group of players, but he has also worked his way into becoming one of the pillars of this championship worthy team.
At 25 years of age Rajon Rondo has already won one NBA Championship, he has been called twice to the NBA All-Star team, and has managed to become the starting point guard in an otherwise veteran team. He had had some trouble earlier in his career particularly when it came to keeping his temper. He was young and talented but needed to put aside his ego and really learn from the Celtics Big Three.
But perhaps the best was yet to come. This season, Rondo completed 17 assists, which tied with Oscar Robertson for the third-most assists in the Celtics season opener. In the third game of the season Rondo kept up his momentum to collect a career-high 24 assists along with a triple-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) against the New York Knicks, the same team –sans Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony that the Celtics would sweep in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs-.It tied him with Isiah Thomas as the only players in NBA history to have at least 24 assists in a triple-double.
Rondo’s 50 assists through the first three games of the season tied John Stockton’s NBA record for most assists in the first 3 games of the season. In the next game against the Detroit Pistons, he finished the game with 17 assists for a total of 67 assists, which is the most assists for a team’s first four games in NBA history. With a 15 assists effort the following day, Rondo again set a record for most assists through the first five games.
Now, before Sunday’s game against the Knicks, head coach Mike D’Antoni made a comment that probably made it to the Boston Celtics locker room. Let’s consider that by this point, the Celtics where up in the series by 3-0 and were about to finish the Knicks off in the Madison Square Garden. Let’s also consider that neither Amare Stoudemire nor, certainly not, Carmelo Anthony had managed to slow down Rajon Rondo. Still, the New York Knicks said before game for began that Rondo was good basically because he was playing next to Allen, Garnett and Pierce, and not because of his own skills.
That been said, Rondo was coming off a triple-double, including a franchise playoffs record 20 assists on game three. And he didn’t slow down on game four. Rondo scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting with 12 assists for a 101-89 triumph at Madison Square Garden. Knicks had Melo, but seem to miss Chauncey Billups a bit too much, and suffered because of it.
That was enough to give the Celtics a well-deserved weeklong rest before round two of the NBA Playoffs. As of press time the Celtics are the only team that has secured a pass into the second round.