Thu May 29 09:00am EDT
The thing that kept popping into my giant, Irish head during Game 5 was the idea that, "eh, I didn't really mind that."
Not the game itself, I really didn't mind that (who could have taken issue with that one?), but even the screw-ups that Boston and Detroit kept throwing out there every so often, the turnovers and missed shots and defensive slips ... I didn't mind those.
Most of the turnovers were forced, which is significant. Both Boston and Detroit turned the ball over on exactly 18.5 percent of their possessions, and for the Pistons it was quite a bit of a departure, because Detroit tied for the NBA lead this year by coughing it up just 11.5 percent of the time. 32 combined turnovers in a game like this is a lot, regardless of the speed of the action and the tempestuousness of the flow.
But they were forced. Things could have gone smoother, adjustments could have been made, passes could have been better, but this was more a by-product of the other team's sound play rather than the other messing up.
And missed shots? Early shots? These were layups that weren't going in. Rasheed Wallace missed a 16-foot turnaround jumper on the left baseline. You're never going to complain when Rasheed is aggressive offensively. You shouldn't, at least. Those were good shots that didn't go in.
Overall, this game was just a function of two teams that are on top of their games, at a point in a series (and season, for that matter, with the sheer amount of game tape to go through) where teams tend to know every play call and every angle in which to defend against or work through. That isn't to say the Celtics weren't prepped (and pumped, probably) beyond belief for Game 5. They were. Boy howdy, were they ever.
You can really tell that the Boston coaching staff had these guys ready to play. Plays were anticipated; picks were called out and steeled for seconds before the Pistons even got around to setting the damn things. Boston had Detroit's defense and offense sussed out from the absolute beginning.
And you know what? It almost didn't matter, because Detroit is that good. On the road, they still managed to make this a one-possession game in the final minutes, in spite of Boston doing just about everything right. God, what a game.
It was a faster game that you'd usually expect from these teams (92 possessions), and the offense was just spot-on despite the many, many miscues: Boston offered 115 points per 100 possessions, Detroit 111.
That's a lot, really, for any team; but for these Eastern Conference powerhouses, these clutch-and-grab specialists, these guys that prefer to contest jumpers rather than make them, that's just a remarkable accomplishment.
Loved Kevin Garnett, just filling in spaces, hitting jumpers (33 points on 17 shots). Loved Rodney Stuckey, screwing up all over the place defensively (shooting gaps, etc) but acting as Detroit's bailout guy in the closing seconds of some possessions, while giving his team 13 points and three assists in just 23 minutes.
Loved Paul Pierce - 16 points, six assists, five rebounds, just one turnover - amazing help defense and perfect man defense. This guy's help defense was incredible in Game 3.
Ray Allen! Jumping straight up, 29 points on 15 shots!
Richard Hamilton turned the ball over six times, but I don't mind it when you score 25 points on just 15 shots, and offer six assists and four rebounds. Kendrick Perkins had his second so-so defensive game in a row, but he was dominating the glass for Boston, and finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals.
Kendrick may talk a lot, but big talkers are often the biggest competitors on the court, and that's the reason Kendrick Perkins may have been the MVP of Game 5 of the Conference finals, and someone like Jackie Butler is somewhere far, far away.
Boston dominated the glass overall, 42-25, but I really don't know what the Pistons could have done different in this one. Rasheed Wallace has to check KG 20 feet from the hoop (Garnett only finished with seven rebounds himself), and the Pistons have had a somewhat floor-bound power forward in Antonio McDyess playing center all season.
Sure, the Pistons list Wallace as the center, but it's McDyess who has to handle most of the center-ly duties, and he didn't have a chance against the bigger, bulkier, and younger Perkins on Wednesday night.
Not a lot to quibble with, all day, save for some ESPN foibles. As usual, Mark Breen, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy called a pretty good game, and the crew really stepped aside to let the action speak for itself at times. But, as it often is, Jax and JVG managed to be right about an instance in the game whilst being completely wrong about why, exactly, they were right.
For instance, P.J Brown's foul on Jason Maxiell in the first half wasn't a flagrant foul, but not because "it's the playoffs, man," or because of some other batch of hard-guy twaddle. It wasn't a flagrant because it wasn't a flagrant, Brown went for a shot block and Maxiell unfortunately fell hard to the floor.
Late in the third quarter, James Posey wasn't justified in picking up a technical (in concert with Rip Hamilton) because "he had his big man's back." Rather, he was rightfully ticked off at the two cheap shots a rightfully ticked off Hamilton threw his way in transition, following a blatant Kendrick Perkins foul on Rip that the referees missed. It wasn't because Perkins was fouled on the resultant break a few seconds later.
Also, you have to love the way ESPN throws up an "ESPN" graphic in the top left-hand corner of the screen when showing Derek Fisher's foul/no-foul on Brent Barry, with the purpose of obscuring TNT's graphic in the same spot. As if anyone with half a brain would turn to ESPN during those six seconds and assume that they were watching TNT.
For those of you counting at home, it was the second "ESPN" graphic on the screen at that time (there was a smaller one the bottom-right). There you go, Bristol, I mentioned your station four times in two paragraphs.
BBC America. BET Jazz. NBA TV. Now I feel better.
It was in line with ESPN's insistence in telling us on their tickers that the Western Conference finals can be found on ESPN Radio, rather than TNT. It's typical Bristol, they do a lot of brilliant work, but they also want to be your remote. So, there's that. Some great, a lot brilliant, some good, and some that makes you want to burn television sets.
Beyond that ... what a game! Nothing groundbreaking or earthshaking. Just workmanlike performances from two teams that cannot stop working.
It sounds like a throwaway line, but I really do appreciate the effort that these two teams have come through with over the last ten days. And all I can add on top of that is that the game is being replayed on NBA TV, with logos intact, at 3:30 this afternoon, EDT.