3 votes – Kevin Garnett: The Big Ticket is back in a big way these playoffs. With Antawn Jamison looking absolutely helpless against KG, Mike Brown decided that Shaq might be able to slow down Garnett. Garnett disagreed. Creating separation at will, he used his patented fade-away to get the Celts off to a great start, which was huge in order to get the crowd involved early. For the rest of the game, he just picked his spots on offense, rebounded, and most importantly made the Celtics defense look almost as good as it did in 2008. Surprisingly, there was also a lot less of the douchebaggery we’ve come to expect from the great man. Maybe being out on the playoff court again after his injuries in 2009 has helped him appreciate the game anew. Or maybe just seeing Antawn Jamison and Shaq trying to guard him brought a smile to his face. In any case, 3 votes for a cheery and spry Kevin Garnett.
2 votes – Rajon Rondo: I think he’s the first player in NBA history to dominate a playoff series featuring a two-time MVP, two other MVPs and a Finals MVP…and still come out of it being described as “raw”. Think about it; he still throws boneheaded passes, he still looks like he takes shooting tips from Joakim Noah, and he still gambles way too much on defense. And yet he’s completely ripped this series apart. It’s what makes him so hard to place amongst his NBA peers. You watch someone like Steve Nash, and you marvel at all the shit he’s perfected – you literally see the thousands of hours that man has dedicated to his craft every time he steps out onto the court. Then you watch Rondo, still with plenty of holes in his game, putting up lines just as impressive (and often more so). I’m still not totally sure what to make of it all, but I know that he’s rocketing up my list of “must watch” players, and his match-up against Jameer Nelson (in career-best form) should be a ripper.
1 vote – Rasheed Wallace aka ‘Sheed aka Roscoe aka Dirty 30: For two huge Fuck You threes, right when the Celtics needed them. As I texted someone during the game – the Cavs could have withstood Pierce’s barrage, but a ‘Sheed 3-ball is like a kick in the crotch. There’s no getting up.
My own quick take on Lebron:
I found Game 5 as disappointing as everyone else (particularly because I had a big bet on it!). But the Game 6 “failure” has been badly overplayed. LeBron was really in a bit of a no-win situation, since we know that his elbow was clearly restricting his dribbling and passing – if you’re not convinced, consider how many times a game he would usually throw one of those wicked whip passes, and then try to remember just one this series.
When he tried to drive – answering those calls of Be Aggressive!!! – he’d either get to the rim and look great, or just lose the ball completely (thus the 9 TOs). So basically, his options were to;
a) Shoot a bunch of Kobe-esque jumpers, which isn’t his forte, and wouldn’t have won them 2 games in a row against the Celtics D.
b) Drive like a maniac and turn the ball over 15-20 times.
c) Drive when you see an opening, shoot some Kobe-esque jumpers and defer to team-mates the rest of the time.
He chose option c), and got killed for it. But I feel like if he had chosen a) or b) the result would have been no better, and he still would have gotten killed for it.
Antawn Jamison, on the other hand, played one of the worst back-to-back playoff games of all time, especially considering this is a supposed All Star. As John Hollinger tweeted, the biggest lesson of these playoffs is “Don’t trade for Wizards”.