We look ahead to Game 7 of the Celtics-Bulls saga happy, for the first time, that the NBA chose years ago to extend the opening round from its former best-of-five format.
In which case, the Celtics almost surely will be dead. The longer Game 7 is extended the better it will be for the younger Bulls, whose key performers are in their 20s and whose subs have been more effective.
When you look at the matchup of starting fives, the Celtics should be winning this series based on the superior talents of
Take the best March Madness game you've ever seen and multiply it again and again and again -- and that's what this series has become. It is two stubborn teams -- the injured champs trying to hold on, the seventh-seeded underdogs with nothing to lose -- playing a seven-game tournament as if each game were a knockout, one-and-done event at the NCAA tournament. It rarely works out this way in the NBA, but a relative nobody like
For starters, it has played out this way because of
The NBA has never seen anything like this Celtics-Bulls operetta. Never has any postseason series been extended to three games of overtime, never mind four.
But what is it going to amount to ultimately? Neither team is a threat to reach the NBA Finals. When Kobe and LeBron are exchanging baskets next month, is anyone going to be talking about Chicago and Boston?
When No. 8 Golden State knocked off No. 1 Dallas two years ago, the Mavericks were a healthy 67-win team favored to win the championship. Their absence from the ensuing rounds changed everything in the playoffs. When
What we are watching here is short-term, disposable entertainment. It is terrific, it is unprecedented and it is unpredictable. But it is not keeping LeBron from a good night's sleep.
The rest of the first round has been relatively drab. So Dallas knocked off the
If it weren't for
Instead, we are reminded in a most dramatic way basketball isn't all about the money for champs such as Pierce and Allen, teamwork and effort can elevate the lesser names to some extent, and Rose is going to be one of the elite players sooner than later.
This is not an original idea -- it comes from a good friend who is happy to let me co-opt it -- but I wish the national broadcasters would include a local announcer while airing these playoff games. In the case of this series, it would do no harm for the rest of the country to be entertained by the unique point of view of Celtics color commentator
While broadcasting Game 6 from Chicago for Comcast SportsNet New England, Heinsohn called Miller "a baby'' for missing his free throws at the end of Game 5 after being clobbered in the mouth by Rondo.
Here's what Heinsohn said when Rondo and Hinrich scuffled in the first half: "This is all instigated by Brad Miller, who crybabied. Now they're going to be mean and tough in front of their fans. Put it on the blackboard, get mad, get mean, get tough -- no layups, hurt somebody.''
By including a local broadcaster, the networks would provide an insider's insight as well as an informed (and potentially biased) point of view that you don't find nationally. After one of Heinsohn's diatribes, longtime Celtics play-by-play man
The late Most was the legendary Boston radio voice who used to criticize Celtics opponents in a most vitriolic way.
"I hate a baby, a crybaby like Miller,'' Heinsohn answered with a laugh. "I hate him!''
Miller got the last laugh by contributing 23 points and 10 rebounds to the Bulls' victory. When he went to the line for a pair of big free throws at the end of the second OT, Heinsohn had this to say: "I wonder if his mouth hurts.''
Miller made both free throws.
I understand why you cared about your series in Texas, and you should understand why the rest of the country didn't. At their best, the Spurs haven't drawn a large national audience (as proven by their low ratings in NBA Finals), and they became less intriguing when Ginobili's season-ending injury took them out of title contention.
The Mavs were deeper and far more promising three years ago, when they edged past San Antonio in the conference semifinals. I don't think I'm being reckless when I draw on years of accumulated evidence to say that if Ginobili, Duncan and
You're right, Mark. Everyone should be held responsible for such an embarrassing loss in a home playoff game.
But I remember last year when the Hornets were viewed as an overachieving team with a thin bench that had no business winning 56 games. The bottom line is that they need to have everything going for them to compete in the playoffs. The exquisite floor balance that made everything work last year was ruined this season by the injuries to
They looked exhausted and decrepit around
They should seek an elite scorer at small forward or an elite point guard. I have no doubt they will offer anything and everything not named
Coaches who are trying to win a championship care how they win during the season and in the early rounds. During the season, you often hear
Of course, that perspective changes in the latter games of a playoff series. In a Game 7, no coach will worry about style as long as his team survives.
I have a different take than you on Rivers' view of those two matchups. Allen and Gordon are finishers who are expected to score down the stretch, so a duel between them is commonplace and natural. But Rondo is a playmaker upon whom Rivers depends to create for his teammates. He's a young point guard and Rivers doesn't want to see him getting caught up in a personal duel with Rose when Rondo needs to be running the offense and spearheading the defense. I think that's why Rivers shot down talk of the Rondo-Rose matchup.
No one has furthered his standing more than the Celtics' point guard (averaging a triple-double of 21.5 points, 11.7 assists and 10.0 rebounds in six postseason games), but these three aren't far behind.
Now the issue changes dramatically for the Bulls: Instead of questioning whether they can afford Gordon, they need to ask whether they can afford to let him walk or unload him in a sign-and-trade. With $26.5 million over the three seasons ahead already committed to Kirk Hinrich, will they be willing to throw another big contract at Gordon (and will he demand as much or more than the Bulls were offering last season -- which may be a reach in this financially-strapped market)? The good news is that they'll have Derrick Rose on his rookie-scale salary throughout the length of Hinrich's current deal.
Nothing is as bad as losing by 58 in the playoffs on your home floor. But these players also haven't helped themselves in the playoffs.
Here's a guy in Smith who improved his heretofore bizarre shot selection to convert a career-best 49.2 percent this season. He still attempts too many threes (2.2 per game in the Heat series, of which he is making just 18.2 percent) but he's leading the Hawks in postseason scoring with 17.2 points, and he has the talent to become a Defensive Player of the Year. But, at 23, he clearly doesn't have a grasp of the bigger-picture issues like leadership and discipline and focusing on the needs of the team, because otherwise he wouldn't be trying to turn Game 5 into his personal playground. Doesn't he think
The criticism of Saunders is that he can't win big in the playoffs, that his Timberwolves made it once past the first round and that his Pistons never reached the NBA Finals. But that's an unrealistic complaint. Only four active coaches -- Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich,