Monday, May 17, 2010

Some thoughts about Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Magic and the Celtics

What a game! Two red-hot teams riding impressive winning streaks into an epic showdown—what could be better for the typical rabid NBA fan like me? This time of year always sees me drooling for heart-thumping, chest-bumping, head-bashing, fist-smashing combat on the basketball court. Enough, let’s get to some expert analysis. The Celtics have really been clicking on all cylinders as of late. Their defense is suffocating and full of energy, and each player seems to be contributing in their own special way to the offense. Ray Allen has never looked so nimble taking the ball to the hole, Rajon Rondo has emerged as a flashy, game-changing distributor with a crafty touch around the key, Paul Pierce has shaken off his recent shooting slump, and Kevin Garnett looks more like the freakish offensive juggernaut we’ve all become accustomed to this past decade.

However, two players I would like to commend in particular are Tony Allen and Rasheed Wallace. If you know anything about Bill Simmons, the die-hard Celtics fan and popular sportswriter, you would label my previous sentence blasphemy. Tony Allen has for the past few years been somewhat of a liability—note, a major liability—on the offensive end, making bonehead mistakes and not being able to make a jump shot, let alone a layup. Suddenly, during this year’s playoffs, he is making ferocious drives to the hoop (and finishing!) and performing SportsCenter-worthy highlight plays as if he were actually a decent player in the league. Speaking of Tony Allen highlight plays, the one memory I have of him is actually from a few years ago, when he tried to pull off a tomahawk jam well after the whistle was blown and play had ended. He ended up getting sent back by the rim and landing awkwardly, leading to every tendon in his knee being shredded into millions of pieces. That’s a slight exaggeration, but it did not look very good for him, and it was very, very embarrassing. I have to say that after his past couple of playoff game performances, which included one truly special facial over Antawn Jamison of the Cavs, I have erased from my mind that sad image of Tony Allen getting utterly destroyed by an inanimate orange hoop. Tony, you are a now a legitimate contributor to a championship-caliber team. What a turnaround.

And ‘Sheed. The man has finally arrived, everyone give him a warm, hearty welcome. Celtics fans this season have loathed the recent free-agent pickup for face palm-inducing acts on the court such as: repeatedly jacking up three-pointers that do nothing but clank off the side of the rim, observing his opponents stroll their way to the hoop rather than getting down in a defensive stance and actually moving his legs, rocking an awesome belly, and displaying more interest in the yummy hot dog being devoured by that guy in the funny green hat sitting in the fourth row than in the actual basketball game. But what a difference the playoffs can make. Rasheed still looks like a flabby mass of lard, but you cannot possibly question his effort in Game 1 against the Magic. I can’t remember the last time he was this active on defense. He was shoving and clawing and flailing his arms and jumping around and barking —all in a notable attempt to frustrate Magic superstar Dwight Howard out of his offensive game. And it worked. Dwight ended up shooting a measly 3-10 from the field and turned the ball over 7 times. Rasheed’s stat line itself didn’t look so great, but if you watched the game, you should have been quite taken aback by his very UnSheed-like performance. Kudos to him, I think he’s made the case that the Celtics do indeed need ‘Sheed.

If you still don’t believe that Rasheed is now a vital part of the Celtic’s playoff push, I need to slap you, but before that happens, please take a moment to process the following statistics, which should prove scientifically my point. (By the way, I’m an engineering major, so I think you should trust my analysis.)

There you have it. Numbers do not and cannot lie. When ‘Sheed has tried during an NBA basketball game this season, the Celtics have won 100% of their games. Compare that figure to when ‘Sheed doesn’t try—they only win 63% of the time. That’s a 37-point swing in win percentage.

In closing, I’d like to congratulate one Tony and one ‘Sheed for finally showing up. Good work, gentlemen.

--Charlie Fang

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