The Absurdity Of The Bulls/Celtics Series
May 1st, 2009
I feel obligated to write something about the Bulls/Celtics playoff series. It has been untold drama, brilliant excitement, and well worth the fortnight of 7am finishes. It’s been better than Megan Fox’s shadow, worse than De Niro’s moustache in Cop Land, and awesome to a fault. And I feel inclined to write something that describes it all.
But the truth is, I don’t want to. I don’t think I can. The series has been so unilaterally brilliant, so unrivalled in its drama and so and flawlessly flawed in its execution, that I’m not capable of writing the words to accurately describe it. I don’t think anyone is. It’s as though someone decided the Coach Carter series of films should rival Police Academy, wrote six of the most implausibly cheesy scripts ever written, and nailed them all on the first take in front of an audience of millions. The drama, for lack of a better word, is perfect.
Disregard game three for a minute. (The Bulls forgot to turn up to that one, so it’s best we pretend that it didn’t happen.) Over the other five games, the other 275 minutes, and the 1,000 or so possessions, the difference between the two team’s aggregate score is one freaking point. There have been seven overtimes in four games, and one game that was decided in the final second of regulation. Never before has there even been more than two overtime games in a series. And yet we’re at four already, with one still to play.
It is almost unfathomable how close these two teams are. It will never happen again. It doesn’t matter now about the peculiar series of events that made it this way; what we have now, quite possibly, are the two most evenly-matched teams in the sport’s history. All the planets have aligned, and this is the basketball equinox.
How many plays have there been that, if only minutely different, would have meant the series was over by now? How many things only had to go ever so slightly differently for the result to be different? What if Rajon Rondo was called for the goaltend of Kirk Hinrich’s lay-up? What if Eddie House knew where the three-point line was? What if Ray Allen hadn’t tiptoed it, twice? What if Ben Gordon didn’t kick the cooler and get a technical? What if Joakim Noah didn’t gamble for that steal? What if he missed it? Does Brian Scalabrine then get his Horry on? What if they called Paul Pierce dragging his pivot foot six yards in the first OT?
What if John Salmons doesn’t take that airball three at the end of regulation? What if the moving screen on Glen Davis that set up the House two was properly called? What if Hinrich hadn’t MISSED THAT LAYUP?!?!?? What if Brad Miller had thrown a shot up at the end of OT? What if Pierce hadn’t turned down passing to an open Allen? If Joakim Noah misses that gambled steal, does Scalabrine put the Celtics up 126-123? What if Pierce hadn’t fouled him?
And those are just from the last 16 minutes of game five. What about the other 287 in the series?
Everything that has happened in this series has happened in reverse, too. Brad Miller has choked in the clutch and won a game down the stretch. Ben Gordon has almost won games single-handedly, and done his best to lose them too. Derrick Rose showed that he’s ready for both the big time and bedtime. Kirk Hinrich, one of the worst clutch performers of the decade (a man who shot 14% in the clutch last season) has turned up for the big stage. Ray Allen has been brilliant or non-existent. Paul Pierce can gut out a win, but only sometimes. Everyone has been brilliant for stretches and terrible in others. (Tyrus Thomas even went a game without sucking. That’s rare.) The only consistencies have been bad officiating, worse coaching, John Salmons’s relentlessly gormless “my beard is so heavy it’s pulling my bottom jaw to the ground” face, and Kevin Garnett’s unabashed “personality”. Just those and all the overtimes.
And then on top of that, we’ve had all the bonus drama. Rajon Rondo’s carnal desire to hurt someone. Kirk Hinrich’s swag. Ray Allen being really, really, really, really good. Joakim Noah showing the world what Bulls fans knew since January. The long-overdue debut of Aaron Gray’s playoff beard. Doug Collins’s fluctuating opinions on how tall Ben Gordon is. Tony Allen’s death threat. Kevin Garnett’s injury. Ben Gordon’s injury. Leon Powe’s terrible luck early in the series. The huge plays down the stretch. Danny Ainge’s heart attack. The terrific individual execution. Brad Miller’s permanent “tickle me again and I’ll throw a paddy right here and now” scowl when things go badly. Vinny Del Negro’s palms being welded into his armpits. Stephon Marbury losing games through being afraid to shoot. Brian Scalabrine getting key minutes while sporting a head like an upside-down carrot cake.
It’s brilliant. I just only wish the stage was bigger.
At the end of game six, I called my friend, finding myself with a desperate need to explain to someone what I’d been watching. They probably didn’t appreciate the call at 7.45am on a weekday, but they got it anyway. I tried to explain what I’d been watching, why I was so excited, where this series placed in the all-time history of the sport, how there’d been so many if-onlys and impossible shots that even Matthew McConaughey would have turned down the script. She didn’t quite understand, or even really try to. But she meant well when she said;
Thanks. Go Bulls.
I am continuously intrigued by the esoterica and minutiae of all the aspects of building a basketball team. I want to understand how to build the best basketball teams possible. No, I don’t know why, either.
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