Ten thoughts following a Game 7 that included Brian Scalabrine dramatically moving ahead of Shelden Williams in the battle for 11th man status. Oh, and the Lakers won the NBA title and Doc is gone and Sheed is going to retire. And that's all swell, but how about Scal putting the lockdown on Lamar Odom? Talk about having Uncle Mo on your side heading into free agency.
1. Sorry, I'm not buying into the idea that the Celtics suddenly got old the last game of the season. That's not what happened. Did the defense look old and tired? Nope, the reason the Celtics are not NBA champs today is that for the last 15 minutes of Game 7 they fell back into the same "stand and watch" offense that caused them to dump so many double-digit leads in the regular season. A buffet of isolations. Not sure why they think it's going to work, but they stuck with it until the (very) bitter end. The word from Danny Ainge, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce after the game was "stagnant," and that's about right. And there is no excuse for that in a game in which Rondo was aggressive and Garnett looked as healthy as he did all season. Four guys watching Paul Pierce shoot contested, off-balance 22-footers isn't the best way to make a 13-point lead stick against the best team in the NBA.
2. Ray Allen is going to take some lumps around here over the next couple of days, and I get it and suppose he deserves it. He was useless on the offensive end of the court in Game 7 (3-of-14) and other than the first half of Game 2 wasn't a scoring factor in the series. And it wasn't from a lack of quality looks, either. How many shots from Allen in the last five games of the series would you put in the "forced" category? Might average out to one a game, but just. But let's be fair. He'll be 35 years old in July, played 45:16 in Game 7 and completely shut down the very best basketball player in the world. Before the game started any Celtics fan would have signed for Allen's box score if it meant that Kobe would shoot 6-for-24.
3. Paul Pierce, though, takes a hit. I think it's safe for now to keep Hondo with Larry, Cooz and Russell on the Mount Rushmore of Celtics players. Getting outplayed by Ron Artest in a Game 7 -- particularly in the fourth quarter -- is not the kind of stuff that finds its way on a plaque in Springfield. He's been a great Celtic, he's a lock Hall of Famer, but whoever the coach is next season has to address the Pierce situation. He's simply not the consistent scoring force that he was even a couple of years ago, and yet he's still treated that way in the offensive scheme during the last six or seven minutes of every tight game. Have to think that's a huge reason for the tension between Pierce and Rajon Rondo. It's a Cap Rooney-Willie Beamen kind of deal. I think Pierce still has a lot of offer, of course, but he might need to take half a step back in 2010-11.
4. Here is the Game 7 experience for Rasheed Wallace in 150 words or less:
Got the start. Hit a couple of jumpers early. Maybe didn't box out as much as he should've in the first quarter. Missed a few 3-pointers. Hit a couple more jumpers. Foul trouble. Played hurt and played hard the entire way, and never got that seventh technical foul. After the game he continued to keep his cool, reportedly making his way into the locker room of the referees before being escorted out by security. He then went to the team bus still dressed in his Celtics uniform. Doc Rivers tells the media that he "doesn't know if Rasheed will ever play again." Not sure if Sheed earned his 2009-10 salary, but he sure came a lot closer than anyone thought was possible two months ago. Never ever dull.
5. If I had an MVP vote it would have gone to Pau Gasol. Do you realize that in three of the seven games Gasol had at least as many offensive rebounds as the entire Celtics team? That's Dennis Rodman territory. Plus, the five double doubles in the series and a 19-18 in Game 7, an all-time great performance that deserved a better game around it. He bailed Kobe out in Game 7, plain and simple.
6. Kendrick Perkins was missed, as was expected. But let's not make it out to be even one of the three biggest reasons the Celtics lost. Wallace and Glen Davis combined for 17 points and 17 rebounds, not too shabby. And Andrew Bynum (1-of-5, two points in 19 minutes) didn't do much of anything after an active first couple of minutes. When the Celtics had a 13-point lead in the third quarter I didn't hear much about Perkins. And the way Davis and Wallace played it's likely that Perkins would have been on the bench down the stretch even if he had been healthy.
7. Five questions ...
Which moment did you find more awkward: Mitch Kupchak telling Adam Morrison that there wasn't room for him on the championship podium while Vanessa Bryant walked up, or the Doc-Phil Jackson handshake after the game?
Did you think Rondo needed to take that 3-pointer with 11 seconds left, or were you hoping for a quick two and a foul? The Celtics were only down four and the Lakers had an awful night at the line. I would have gone the route of extending the game.
Is there a bigger conflict of interest in history than Magic Johnson working as a studio analyst in a series involving the Lakers? And by the Lakers I speak of the team Magic referred to as "we" during the postgame trophy presentation. Even by ESPN standards this is a joke.
After watching the Celtics silence Bryant and hold the Lakers to 32 percent shooting in Game 7, do you think the Bulls feel pretty good about their coaching hire?
Does this mean that we can put an end to the "2008 Celtics vs. 2010 Celtics" debate? No chance that '08 team A) kicks away a 13-point lead in Game 7 or B) fails to show up for Game 6.
8. Sure sounds like Doc is a goner. The past tense got a brisk workout during his postgame press conference, and his level of emotion seemed unusually high even for a crushing Game 7 loss. Even the media got swept up in it, giving him a round of applause that it usually reserves for "Free Chipwich" announcements.
If Doc is in fact on his way out (and I do hope it's his choice and not some problem with ownership, as has been heavily rumored) it will be fascinating to see which direction Danny Ainge goes to land a replacement. Will it be a guy closer to the K.C. Jones school or the Bill Fitch school? Hands off or micromanager? Yeller or hugger? I hope it's not Kevin McHale, for several reasons. I don't want to see him even put an ounce of tarnish on his legacy in Boson, and I worry that walking into a veteran team on the (even slight) decline is a no-win situation. And I like him on TV, don't want to lose one of the good ones. Oh, and I have no evidence showing that he knows how to coach in the NBA. So maybe Danny should open the "proven winner" file before he makes a move. But don't give up the ghost on Doc staying. How often do you see a coach walk away from a legitimate title contender?
9. Strange to think this about a team that was one win away from Banner No. 18, but this is an important draft next week. Other than point guard, the Celtics could use help everywhere. And right away, because whoever the pick is won't be walking into training camp just hoping to avoid the D-League. The Celtics will need help, and a rookie with some polish could find himself playing a nightly role with the team. My best guess is with the uncertain future of Wallace and the age and injuries to Garnett they would love to land a power forward/center type. Who knows if a decent one will be there at the 19th spot, of course, but if there is, I bet they scoop him up.
10. In the final 1:23 of Game 7 the Celtics hit a trio of 3-pointers, the third of which (by Rondo) cut the lead to 81-79 with 16 seconds left. And during the timeout following the basket you could feel the Lakers wondering what, exactly, it was going to take to put this team to sleep so they could get to the podium, put on dopey hats, and wave their arms and shout at cameras. The crowd was spooked as well. The 2010 Celtics had officially become a team that refused to die. A remarkable transformation from the 27-27 crew that seemed only too happy to show up and lose at home to New Jersey and Memphis. I've never seen a team make such a dramatic switch, and I doubt I will again.