Friday, May 28, 2010

NBA playoffs go from sour to sweet

For weeks there were complaints about the early rounds of NBA playoffs being non competitive with one sweep following another.

Never mind that few folks would have chosen the Phoenix Suns to beat, much less sweep the San Antonio Spurs. Or selected the Spurs to defeat the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, for that matter.

There are those observers, including myself, who believed the Miami Heat had a legitimate chance to surprise the Boston Celtics in the first round. Miami had ended the season playing well, while Boston had struggled throughout the season's second half.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have come and gone, but it was just a couple of weeks when that squad looked like the up-and-coming squad that had a chance to throw legitimate fear into the then shaky and injured defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

However, NBA nuts like myself, now have the Celtics holding on to the cliff with every finger and nail as they attempt to hold off the rejuvenated Orlando Magic. The Magic appeared to have thrown in the towel during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics, meanwhile, were throwing blows with a smothering aggressive defense and a balanced solid offense that could attack from many angles. They were ahead 3-0 and had Game Four at the house.

Two defeats later, the Celtics can't be sure who among Glen (Big Baby) Davis, Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels will be healthy enough to play in Game Six at their gym. Even if they can play, how well can they play or will Davis and Daniels remember playing after suffering freak concussions during Game Five.

And each respective injury speaks to the unknowns attached to merely stepping onto the court. The Celtics began Game Five with a somewhat comfortable 3-1 lead over the Magic and walked off with a tenuous 3-2 advantage and 25% of their squad requiring serious medical attention and hopefully quick recuperation.

When Davis was hurt, he had not left his feet. Dwight Howard drove to the basket and was smacked across the wrist by Nate Robinson in an attempt to block his shot. (For the record, no foul was called.)

What goes up must come down and Howard's arms came down with his left elbow landing on the cheek and nose of Davis.
Perhaps had Robinson actually blocked the shot, Howard's elbow might have missed Davis. No one knows that, but we do know Davis looked like Joe Frazier against George Foreman after the big forward was struck.

Wallace goes to the basket and extends to make a layup and came down like a 54-year-old after reaching for a book off the top shelf of the library. His back was sore as heck and stiff and many of us can speak to that feeling.

Grissom suffered his concussion after when his head bumped into the body of Martin Gortat on a baseline double-team. How flukey is that?

Still unmentioned is how close Celtics center Kendrick Perkins came to being suspended after receiving two technical fouls. One technical was rescinded, but it didn't have to roll like that.

So here the Celtics are having wasted two opportunities to close out the Magic. The Beantown Boys have a shot Friday night at the crib before the world comes crashing down. The last thing they want is a seventh game in Orlando before a maniacal crowd and buoyed, confident Magic squad smelling blood.

Since I believe each game is it's own entity, I believe the Celtics are capable of shaking off three defeats and still winning a Game Seven.

However, that's not the way they are trying to get to the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons.

Phil Jackson just the other day was speaking about how losing those two games in Phoenix put them into a situation they should embrace 'because that's the way it should be for a championship team.'

Wonder if he was thinking that when Jason Richardson banked in that game-tying three-pointer right in front of Phil's throne? I doubt it.

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