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NBA Finals Thoughts Leading Into Game 3

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Some day-after thoughts on yet another season-saving playoff win by the Celtics in Game 2 of the Finals:

1. Mostly, phew. The Celtics could not afford to go down 2-0 heading home, especially after the inspired, bounce-back effort of this game, and the record-setting threes spree of Ray Allen. If they had lost, you could have stuck a fork in them. But they eked it out, and now we have ourselves a knock-down, drag-out fight that should go six or seven.

2. This was a very frustrating one to watch. Rondo pulled off a triple-double, and he was a rebounding monster, especially in the second half. But, again, it’s perplexing that he’s not more aggressive when the Celtics are in their half-court offense. Why not drive more? Rondo can drive on anyone on the floor. And when he does, (good) things happen. But too often, Rondo will dump the ball off to another ball handler near the top of the key early in the shot clock, and then not be involved. Am I the only one who thinks Rondo should be the ball handler – and not just in transition?

3. Why not stick with what worked? Also perplexing: after Ray scored 27 in the first half, you’d think the green team would keep feeding him the ball every chance they had in the third quarter, when both teams (but especially Boston) were trudging along. But his touches dropped off dramatically. In a game in which Paul Pierce was not much of an offensive presence, and Kevin Garnett was (gasp) something of a liability.

4. The mid-game sloppiness. After Boston diligently built up a 54-41 lead deep in the second quarter. Going into the half, of course, the Celtics got a stop and threw the ball into the hands of Kobe Bryant, who unsurprisingly nailed a long three with 0.2 seconds left – and then turned it over again before the buzzer sounded! The lead completely evaporated in the third.

5. And finally, the refereeing. You’ll find scant mention of this in the media, but isn’t it oddly lopsided that the Lakers had a 39-16 free throw-shooting advantage until late in the game, when they sent Boston to the line 10 times in the final 1:12? So as the officials saw it, the Celtics were committing shooting fouls two-and-a-half times as much as the Lakers were. Riiight. Pau Gasol has played very well in this series. But a few times last night he drew a foul for losing his balance.

In short: Hallelujah for the energetic — and highly effective — Rasheed Wallace and Nate Robinson.

I don’t mean to gripe on the negative. A win is a win. But make no mistake, the Celtics got by on the skin of their teeth. They’ve made it a series. They’ve given themselves a chance. But there’s no more time for inconsistency, no more room for another let-down game. The championship’s up for grabs. The only question left is this: do they want it?

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About Edward B. Colby