Friday, June 11, 2010

Celtics' Raw Bench Elevates Presumption as Lakers Raise Concerns

It wasn’t long ago when the Boston Celtics, now taunting on their home floor and staring bitterly in the faces of the Los Angeles Lakers, were whining and weeping about an awful call, but relentlessly outweighed the arch-rivals in the final minutes of Game Four Thursday night.

There’s no need to denounce or disbelieve in the Celtics, who overwhelmed and surprised the visitors in every angle on the floor, neutralizing and overmatching the energy, strength, and sloppiness of the Lakers.

This time, there were signs of relief and worshipping from a competent second unit, out-balancing the disoriented opponents and salvaging a conceivable mindset in an upcoming Game Five.

Much as the basketball populace wants to believe that the Lakers are the favorable ones to win the series, forgetting about the Celtics defensive principles, heart, and guts, the ultimate instinct is denying the possibility of an older and passive franchise.

Outside of the TD Garden, on Causeway Street, the rowdy crowd believes the Celtics are still capable of winning this entire series; presumptuous in bracing the Green Machine, as we called the winningest and most hated franchise in the ‘80s era.

It was an emotional scene on a night the Celtics were balanced and composed, erupting mini-celebrations prematurely in the fourth, sure of themselves that a victory was quickly unfolding. It was a symbolic turnaround for the Celtics, recovering from an abysmal loss in Game Three by capping a fourth quarter surge in an electric romp.

It’s fair to recognize that Boston's momentum and sentimental mode in the NBA Finals reminded us that they are fittingly a portrait of a menacing assassin, securing a 96-89 win to tie a well-balanced series 2-2 while assuring a Game Six in Los Angeles.

In the most arousing exhibit, Boston’s bench scored a massive 36 points on the night and played much of the fourth. Coach Doc Rivers had trust in his second unit and left reserve forward Glen Davis and guard Nate Robinson on the floor.

Earlier in the series, the Celtics were worthless in the lamest performance in the postseason and were criticized roughly for weeping about poor calls or committing too many fouls. They are once again back in the series, fighting back with energy and physical activity while maneuvering the flow, finally glowing on the biggest stage in basketball.

For the first time this season, no signs of exhaustion or age hindered the likelihood of the Celtics stumbling in the closure of a brief reign. It’s decorous that Davis and Robinson embodies the youth and raw toughness, a contiguous mentality that motivates teammates and even the clamorous crowd in the stands, screaming whenever Robinson excites spectators with his explosive scoring and fearlessly taunts the Lakers.

It’s amazing that he’s a little man.

Fearless in taking over and fueling the loudest crowd with his energy as he fired two three-pointers in the first half. He was brilliant on this night, averaging 12 points in 17 minutes and gave the Celtics aspiration in the series.

Suddenly, it was precisely the inferior Celtics that stayed alive with a Big Baby pushing around and abusing the Lakers seven-footers and little man hitting from long-range. It’s worth noting that no team has ever come back from a three-games-to-one deficit in the finals, and the Celtics knew it was vital to alleviate pressure and avoid a decisive loss in falling behind three games to one.

So now the Celtics are tougher and ferocious, at a time when the Lakers were vanquishing the feeble and soft personality, but were brutally manhandled after establishing a presence in the paint early, until Andrew Bynum aggravated his torn right knee that swelled and painfully limited his production to 12 minutes.

From the start, he hobbled and walked awkwardly and was scoreless in the fourth quarter.

The concept that the Lakers are different, rather than two years ago when they were humiliated in a 39-point defeat, the most disheartening loss in NBA Finals history, had us believing that the Lakers were invincible and couldn’t be denied.

But then came, Big Baby, who was dancing and scowling meaner than Kobe Bryant.

His nickname is fittingly an acceptable one, drooling after he slashed down the middle to score seven points in four minutes to topple the Lakers 62-60 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. That led to his nine points in a game-changing spurt, and moments later, he stalked off the court with teammate Robinson hanging from his back, proudly jubilating over the blazing run.

“I just felt like a beast,” said Davis during his comical post-game news conference.

Now, suddenly, the Lakers are worried and furious following a sluggish and inattentive performance on a night they could have pressured the Celtics to win the next three games. No longer were they the team we seen in the first game of the series, but a team that relapsed and refreshed our memories of the softness and lack of urgency the Lakers had in the finals two years ago.

Believe it or not, Davis out hustled and out-rebounded L.A. single-handedly. He was earnest and invincible, owning the middle and corralling every loose ball underneath the rim and drew fouls or finished on a put back to sadly torment and harass the hell out of a taller and lanky Pau Gasol and ineffective Bynum.

It was essentially the second-chance points that destroyed the Lakers for which Bynum, Gasol, and Odom combined for a staggering two offensive rebounds in over 97 minutes of play.

“They got all the energy points, the hustle points, second-chance points, points in the paint, best us to the loose balls ,” Bryant said who had 33 points and seven turnovers. "I mean, that’s how the game turned around.”

With Rivers wise choice to believe in his bench, he normally would have called on Pierce to enter late in the fourth, particularly when he delivered in the first-half as the hottest player by getting the Celtics off to a fast start.

However, it wasn’t Pierce, Kevin Garnett, or Ray Allen, but instead it was Big Baby and Robinson with the gratifying night.

“They won this game,” said Artest, shaking his head in disbelief. “I mean, they won this game.”

Yes, the Celtics won it, all right?