Kevin Garnett: Did anybody else notice KG tongue-lashing an impassive Ben Gordon last night (as beautifully illustrated above)? Way to stay classy, Kevin. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure there are rules prohibiting a player on the bench from verbally abusing an opponent who happens to be strolling by. But you know, the refs have a history of turning a blind eye to Garnett’s “intensity” in Boston. Just ask Jose Calderon.
Ben Gordon: He gets full marks for logging a team-high 51 minutes on an injured hammy, but damn, that dude is a straight-up gun. A lot of times, an injured player will try to work himself into the offense. Not Gordon. He’s more likely to grab the offense by the throat and try to wrestle it to the ground. Ben discharged eight shots in the first quarter, two of which hit the target. Hey, sometimes the only bad shot is the one you didn’t take, right? I don’t know why I’m complaining, though. That’s the Air Gordon package. Complaining about his gunnery is like using a pack of wild, angry dogs to protect your home and then feeling guilty when they maul somebody.
The Celtics’ front line: How about those Boston big men, huh? Without Garnett, the Green Monsters were supposed to be vulnerable up front, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Kendrick Perkins had 19 rebounds and 7 blocks. Those are game-of-your-life numbers. And then there’s Big Baby. Forget the 21 points on near-perfect shooting (7-for-11 from the field, 7-for-8 from the line). Davis made great decisions, took advantage of mismatches and set some seriously brutal picks. Trying to get around Baby is like trying to break into a bank vault with a stick of butter. There’s no “wicked-awesome picks” column in the box score, but if there was, Glen Davis would stuff it full. Oh, he also had a game-high plus-minus score of +16.
The end-of-game defense on Paul Pierce: Remember that 15-footer he knocked down to send the game to overtime? Thanks to a defensive switch, Pierce was able to shoot it over the shorter Derrick Rose, which means he might as well have been shooting over a traffic cone. After the game, I went back and watched a slow-motion replay of that sequence, and it sure looked like John Salmons was super-quick to switch off of Pierce on that play. I see that kind of thing a lot in pickup ball. Not many people want the responsibility of defending the last shot. I’m not saying Salmons was ducking his duty, but that’s sort of what it looked like from the danger-free comfort of my easy chair.
When asked about the defense he used on Pierce in overtime — during which the Truth blasted the Bulls with three straight jump shots — Vinny didn’t exactly dismiss the question, but he essentially let it pass as a great player hitting tough shots. And that’s pretty much true…to a point. But you know, Ray Allen (who fouled out in the fourth quarter) was out of the game. That meant the Celtics had an offensive non-entity on the floor (Tony Allen, who went scoreless in 17 minutes off the bench). So why didn’t Vinny use Tony’s man to trap Pierce, or at least force him away from that little area around the free throw circle he loves to isolate and shoot from? I understand that Del Negro has had a lot of success in this series letting Salmons guard Pierce one-on-one. However, he basically let Pierce have the shots he wanted to take. And sure, Paul had to hit them, and they were difficult, contested shots, but I would have much rather seen Tony Allen with the ball than Pierce.
The “non-flagrant” foul: The NBA’s official rule on flagrant fouls states: “A flagrant foul-penalty (1) is unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent. A flagrant foul-penalty (2) is unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent. It is an unsportsmanlike act and the offender is ejected immediately.” Well, Brad Miller was bleeding from the mouth, had a tooth knocked loose and looked like he would have had trouble spelling his name. Brad needed stitches to close the wound and, for all we know, he might have even thought he was the Batman. That sure sounds like “unnecessary and excessive contact” to me. But it wasn’t a flagrant. Also, notice the closed hand, which is nowhere near the ball, looks almost fist-like.
It’s funny. Back in March, Trevor Ariza hit Rudy Fernandez in the head from behind and got treated like some sort of deranged serial killer in the media and across the blogosphere. A flagrant was assessed on the play and Ariza was ejected (though not suspended from any future games). But I guess that play was different because Rudy, who was airborne at the moment of contact, got injured, and because Ariza is bigger than Fernandez. In this case, Miller was the big man, and he’s certainly not a threat to leave the ground unless launched from a very sturdy catapult. Oh, and the Ariza-Fernandez incident occurred during the regular season, whereas this is the postseason, which made Rondo’s mugging of Miller just a good, hard playoff foul, right? Riiiiiiight. And I’m sure that seeing double at the line didn’t affect Miller’s free throw shooting, either.
Update! More on this situation from TrueHoop: “Doc Rivers raved about the foul, and rightly so: If that’s not going to be called a flagrant — a common call for blows to the head that are not plays on the ball — it’s amazing. How else could a player who was well and truly beaten both prevent a wide-open layup, and reduce a player’s likelihood of hitting his free throws? As it was called a regular personal foul, Miller had to shoot the free throws himself, or be replaced by a Bull of Doc Rivers’ choosing. Miller shot, and missed, while blinking again and again, apparently impaired by the fumes of the compound used to close the wounds in his mouth. If it had been called a flagrant, Vinny Del Negro could have specified the shooter of his choice (in the playoffs, Ben Gordon, John Salmons, Derrick Rose and Tyrus Thomas are all over 80%), and the Bulls would have had the ball after the shots. With a flagrant, the Bulls would have been favorites to win. Without a flagrant, a blow to the head of the guy shooting for the game is a savvy tactic.”