About a week ago, I was disrespecting Flip's Pistons and praising KG's Celtics for taking of business against lower ranked teams.
What a difference seven days makes.
Watching the fourth quarter of last night's game, this team seemed hardly championship material. Rondo and the Hawks' Mike Bibby were competing for worst performance by a point guard in a playoff game, Ray Allen couldn't hit the broadside of an Irish Pub, Paul Pierce was flinging his headband and getting T-d, and of course, the artist formerly known as the Big Ticket was strangely silent in crunch time.
What in the name of Tim Donaghy is happening here?
After all, Bibby was trying to hand the game to Boston with his abysmal play and suspect free throw shooting. The Celtics would have none of that; all the quality ball movement and unselfish offense play we saw in the regular season was non-existant. Rondo couldn't even get the ball out of his hands the last play of the game, jacking up a wild shot from the ex-urbs. Is this really the team with the most regular season wins? Yes, and that's an important point to be made as we head to game seven tomorrow.
The tri-core of this team--Pierce, Allen, and KG--haven't won anything. Ever. Only Cassell and Posey have, with Posey playing like he's been there in this series. In the end though, this is all about one or more of the Big Three taking it to another level. We've heard ad nasueum about how these guys--especially Pierce and Garnett--have never been surrounded by the talent they deserve in their careers. There are no excuses now. Allen tried to step up last night and failed. Given KG's mismatches against the Hawks front line, he would be the logical go-to guy at crunch time on Sunday. Atlanta is playing agressively, but a little ball movement should enable KG to get point-blank shots in the low post...if he wants it.
I'm predicting Boston will win tomorrow, but this is the challenge facing all three of these stars, the ability to rise to the occasion when it truly counts: in the playoffs. The main problem? This is only the first round. While it does say something about Atlanta's possible coming of age, this Celtic struggle isn't helpful for a team with championship aspirations. Game Seven matchups are generally for the semi-final and final rounds.
IIf they win, they will be facing another less talented team in Cleveland, but they'll be competing against a player who's already demonstrated an ability to elevate his game against superior competition: King James. This isn't going to get any easier.
Most of the league and their fans were envious of Boston when they were able to put this club together in the off-season and manufacture such a dramatic turn around. Now, facing a Game Seven, they have to be envious of the rest and preparation everyone else is getting, as the second round approaches.
The fact remains this is what the Big Three requested: a chance to compete for a ring. I can only say...be careful what you ask for.