Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.
THE BIG ONE: CELTICS ESCAPE FROM SPURSThe last few minutes in Boston were beautiful chaos, as the unexpected kept happening in a wild finish between two of the league's premier teams: the Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs. When the dust settled, the Celtics held on for a 105-103 victory, but it wasn't without fireworks.
The Spurs, down nine points late, mounted a furious, and somewhat lucky, comeback thanks to a Manu Ginobili three, a Tony Parker steal-to-layup finish and two Richard Jefferson free throws. Up two with the ball, the Celtics ran the clock, turning the ball over to their late-game savant, Paul Pierce.
Pierce missed the game-icer, but the smallest guy on the court, Celtics guard Nate Robinson, not only came out with the rebound but intelligently shuffled it to Ray Allen, one of the league's premier foul shooters. With less than 10 seconds left on the clock, the Spurs were forced to foul Allen, a career 89.4% free throw shooter, who inexplicably missed both free throws that also would have iced it.
Matt Bonner then secured the defensive rebound for the Spurs, who quickly took timeout to diagram a final, potentially game-winning play. Everyone in the building knew it was going to Manu Ginobili, who had multiple game-winning plays in December, and that included Pierce, who expertly contested a Ginobili jumper at the buzzer, blocking it cleanly without fouling. Rajon Rondo, who finished with an absurd triple-double (see below) then did his best Magic Johnson impersonation, tossing the ball high in the air to burn out the rest of the clock. Ballgame, Celtics.
The result was a little evidence supporting a conclusion made by Celtics center Kendrick Perkins: it will be extremely difficult to beat this group in a seven-game series. Even without Perkins and starting power forward Kevin Garnett, the Celtics managed to make multiple heady, playoff-type plays while in the process of throwing a game away. Robinson's rebound and dish, Pierce's defense and Rondo's clock killing are the kind of time/score plays that come naturally to a tested team, but pretenders always seem to mess up.
Wednesday night's madness is worth another look. Here's a nice video breakdown, courtesy of NBAHiighlights on YouTube.
GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:
Rajon Rondo: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 22 assists, six steals, one block in 44 minutes in a Boston Celtics home win over the San Antonio Spurs.
Kevin Martin: 45 points, two rebounds, four assists on 13-18 shooting, 6-8 three-point shooting, 13-15 free throw shooting in 39 minutes in a Houston Rockets home lose to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dwight Howard: 28 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block in 43 minutes in an Orlando Magic home win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Kevin Love: 35 points, 15 rebounds, five assists in 45 minutes in a Minnesota Timberolves overtime loss on the road to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Jose Calderon: 20 points, three rebounds, 17 assists, two steals in 38 minutes in a Toronto Raptors road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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- Be sure to check out this week's NBA Drive video.