Celtics turn up heat, tempo in the desert
Posted by Bryan Roy on Feb 22, 2009
Rondo was steller (AP Photo/Paul Connors)
CELTICS 128, Suns 108
Commentary (coincidentally) from Phoenix — In fear of getting buried by the suddenly resurgent Suns high octane offense, it was ultimately the Celtics that finished the first half with 68 points.
Karma? Nah. Just the harsh reality of Phoenix’s resurfaced old principals and problems with the seven-seconds-or-less offense.
Oh yeah, Brian Scalabrine started the game.
What looked more like a track meet at some points, the Celtics held off a team that had scored 140 points in its previous three games, giving the city a feel-good, basketball-is-fun-again Porter-less Suns team riding higher than Michael Phelps in South Carolina.
The Suns entered the “In Gentry We Trust” weekend with enough confidence to be considered in the “Over/Under The Fifth Seed In The West” conversation on PTI earlier this week.
Then, along came Rondo. (Remember me?)
The guy that Suns fans are still bitter over — someone that would’ve given Phoenix an incredibly deep backcourt at the helms of Nash — did what he does best Sunday at the U.S. Airways Center: Controlling the tempo and taking the high percentage shots.
Rondo scored 22 points in the first half, giving the Celtics a comfortable 15-point cushion heading into halftime.
Whether Rondo would’ve developed into the stud he is today is a completely different matter. Regardless, a relatively insignificant Goran Dragic continues to frustrate the Valley of the Sun as the backup point guard.
“They run on offense, but Doc (Rivers) told us they don’t run on defense,” Rondo told ESPN at halftime.
Boy was that an understatement.
Sound familiar? That the whole mindset that Terry Porter was appointed to change. Sure, scoring 110-plus points looks fun and exciting, but it’s defense that Steve Kerr wanted to refocus the franchise on.
Kerr said during the game that ultimately the task was too much for Porter to handle, and the learning curve would be too much to overcome for a fringe playoff-caliber team based on upside.
Nash, Amar`e and Shaq should be in the playoffs. But there was no grace period long enough to weather out the frustration of losses while a team adapted to a new mindset.
I covered the Suns’ preseason training camp in Tucson in October. To describe it in one word: Awkward.
The always-quotable Nash said (in loose translation) that, essentially, it’s now or never for this era of aging Suns.
They knew defense was what won championships: Just look at none other than our 2008 Boston Celtics. The motto was instilled through their minds, but saying one thing and actually executing it is another.
Theory doesn’t always mean reality. And the reality is that Phoenix scored 108 points against the heralded Boston defense — and lost.
Kerr was right in theory, but the pieces to building a defensive puzzle just didn’t fit in the Valley of the Fast Break.
Did I mention, Brian Scalabrine started the game?
“As Rondo goes, this team goes,” Paul Pierce said after the game. “If he plays as well as he’s playing, then there’s no way we can lose.”
Rondo is the difference maker once again. The point guard simply showed what a point guard can do for a team’s offense, in terms of setting the tempo. Rondo was the floor general, changing speeds and driving to the basket the way teams should against a defenseless Phoenix.
He was the difference maker in the first half, setting the tone and comfortable double-digit cushion that the Celtics could maintain throughout the entire game.
Rondo finished the afternoon with a double double: 32 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds.
And the low point was certainly turnovers. 19, that daunted the Celtics early on.
A stat that made us squirm: The Suns scored 90 points in the paint in Gentry’s debut earlier this week.
The concerns heading into a KG-less game track meet in Phoenix were certainly how the Celtics’ second unit big men would fare.
Despite early foul troubles, Glen Davis managed to scrape together 10 points and 3 rebounds. Perkins and Powe added just 5 points a piece.
Did I mention Brian Scalabrine? He finished with a modest 14 points of his own. Hope the whitest-looking dude in the Association remembered his sun screen for 80-degree sunshine. Like, SPF 44.
Which is a much cooler nickname than CP3.