AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
3 votes – The Bulls-Celtics series. Where do I start.. Maybe I’ll start exactly how I started Day 11, and that is by quoting what I said on Day 9. “Surely the remaining games of this series won’t be able to top Game 4? Right?”. Let me tell you something about that line – it wasn’t even a serious question. It was a complete lie to you all, one of those comments you write down just to create the right dramatic effect to end a paragraph. At that time, for me to be proved wrong the Bull-Celtics series would had to have morphed into arguably the greatest playoff series ever. As if that was going to happen. Hell, I’ll just write it anyway, it will get my readers thinking…
And then it happened. Game 6. The greatest first round match of all time. Probably the most intense drama-filled exhausting game I’ve watched in my life, of any sport. As you know I’m not a Bulls fan or a Celtics fan. But I’ve never before been turned into such an emotional wreck by two teams I wouldn’t normally care less about. I’ve already talked about how this game became the Greatest Story on Earth, how NBA fans and non-NBA fans alike were stuck glued to the TV or the radio or the online play-by-play. It’s become one of those classic sporting moments where time almost freezes. “Where were you when the Bulls and Celtics went to three overtimes?” people will be asking. Make no mistake, it’s right up there with Game 5 of the Boston-Phoenix 1976 Finals when Garfield Heard hit “the Shot Heard Round the World“. I don’t know if this Bulls-Celtics game will still be talked about as fondly in 30 years time – after all, it wasn’t the Finals and it didn’t feature any single shot as remarkable as Heard’s – but it would almost be impossible for a series to ever contain as many closely fought games as this. I heard an amazing stat last night during the telecast: you take away Game 3 (the blowout) and the remaining five games results in a points differential between Boston and Chicago of 1 point!
After the game ended, before I settled down to write this post, I decided I very much needed a beer to calm my nerves. That wasn’t the only reason. I’m in Boston, had arrived earlier in the day, and I wanted to see how the locals were coping. I walked down the street to the local tavern and sure enough, the TNT broadcast was still on the TV and everyone was still grouped around it. But I didn’t see any rowdy Celtics fans, any anger or frustration or even amazement. I saw a bunch of guys sitting very quietly, looking physically and emotionally fatigued. I saw a few shakes of the head when some replays were shown, and a few moans during the close-ups of Ray Allen’s foot-on-the-line shot. But apart from that, they all looked dead. “What did you think of that game?” I said to the guy at the bar next to me. “It’s probably the greatest game I ever saw, and we lost” he said, looking a little pissed off. “But it’s still probably the greatest game I ever saw”.
In all seriousness, Ray Allen has to get the 3 votes for this game. I’ve never awarded 3 votes to a player on a losing team, but I feel I can make an exception here. To put it bluntly, if the Celtics win this game, Ray Allen’s performances goes down as one of the greatest ever in playoff history. It transcends Dirk’s 50 against the Suns a few years back, anything Kobe has done, and maybe even Lebron’s epic Game 5 against Detroit. Why? Because when you combine a 51-point winning effort with a classic triple-OT game in one of the greatest series of all time, you end up with a serious triple-whammy effect that is overwhelmingly historic in every possible sense. If you were trying to build the foundation for ‘The Greatest Playoff Performance Ever’, the setting of Game 6 is pretty close to perfect. As it is, the Celtics lost and Ray’s performance will probably be overshadowed by the game itself. Noah’s full-court driving dunk over Pierce will probably be more remembered than any shot Ray hit in that game.
2 votes – John Salmons. Just one of the many memorable individual performances last night belonged to John Salmons, and I want to highlight it here. Salmons hit the shot that sent the game to a second OT. In that second OT he completely took over, scoring 7 points and almost ending the game there and then. But thanks to another miracle Ray Allen shot, we weren’t done. People expected big things from Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose in a game like this, but John Salmons was never supposed to be anything more than a solid role player who could create his own shot when necessary. On this night he scored 35 points on 13-22 shooting, and proved himself as a big-game player. John Salmons will never again be thought of as a “solid role player”.
1 votes – Derrick Rose. Could have given this vote to Artest for leading the Rockets out of the first round, or Rashard Lewis for carrying the Magic without Dwight. But last night, anything outside the Boston-Chicago game just seemed so irrelevant and lame. Rose made the play to end the game that didn’t want to end. His block on Rondo was amazing, given the fact he looked like he was too grounded to rise up, and that he did it with his left hand (Rose is right-handed). His 28 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists give him series averages of 20-7-7. Game 1 was no fluke. Derrick Rose is fearless, unfairly talented, and now accustomed to making big plays.