Saturday, April 23, 2005

Playoffs?!

Is anyone else unable to hear the word playoffs without thinking of the great Jim Mora "Playoffs!" reaction, and then, in celebration, mimicking his voice to yourself over and over until you've creeped out everyone in the grocery store? Yeah, me too.

So tonight the Celtics open their postseason the way they have opened many others, against the Indiana Pacers. Unfortunately this series is battling the Seattle-Sacramento matchup for the "One that Nobody Cares About" trophy in the first round, and it's easy to see why. Without Ron Artest, the Pace are a somewhat uninspiring bunch, and while the Reggie Miller comeback has been a charming story, it has meant that we have to, you know, watch Reggie Miller again. He's a great shooter, but the coming off three picks - hoisting a jump shot - flailing to the ground like he just got electrocuted got old about 15 years ago. It's not bad basketball as much as it is bad television. The Boston papers want us to wonder if the young and inexperienced Tony Allen can guard him, but that's not much of a story. Athletically, he can stay with him all day, but Reggie's veteran savvy/cheating should get him 15 points or so. Not enough to swing the game. Wait - stop the presses - Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, and Bob Hoskins are all in a movie together. Who do you think had the funnier reaction when told they were expected to call a human being "Jet"? My money's on Hopkins, who seems like an inappropriate racial slur sort of guy. Anyhoo, back to the game. The real story of this series is going to be Jermaine O'Neal vs. Mark Blount. If totally healthy, O'Neal can be the one unanswerable force for Indy, and a real challenge for Boston big men. Blount has had a fascinating season so far, swinging wildly from corpse in sneakers to respectable big man on any given night. LaFrentz can't body Jermaine, and Perkins is a little too awkward to stick with him, so Blount will have to step up if O'Neal plays at 100%. And if Mark can reliably hit the 15 footer it'll pull Indiana's one shot blocker away from the basket. Should be interesting. The only way The Ninth sees Boston losing this series though is on a mental breakdown. If they play Doc's game, the Pacers are through - they just aren't athletic enough to run with the C's. But if things get hard for Boston I'm not convinced that Pierce and Walker will stay on message. They've won together in the playoffs before, and it wasn't by looking for a cutter under the basket. Who's to say that if down 10 points in the 4th quarter Paul and Antoine don't revert to the 1 on 1 show? Pierce is still vulnerable to such lapses, and Walker has already ominously noted that "things are different in the playoffs". I'm sure Rivers is concerned about a mutiny by his superstars, and has probably already talked with Gary Payton about how to keep them in the flow. The Celtics are certainly the better team, but unless they understand what it is that makes them so, Indy could make this thing a series. We'll find out tonight at 8.
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