This series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics is like a season of 24.
There’s Jack Bauer (LeBron), the guy who makes everything run smoothly. There’s Chloe O’Brian (Mo Williams), Tony Almeida (Shaq), and Curtis Manning (Antawn Jamison) — the guys who help Jack along the way.
Then there are the villains, nested and nested again until you finally reach the inner crust. That weak outer shell of the terrorist organization this year is Paul Pierce, who is playing like a withered silhouette of his former self. As you move further in, there’s Kendrick Perkins and Ray Allen, mostly pulling their weight but also not playing great ball.
Further inside, still, is Kevin Garnett. He’s still the emotional leader of the team, and his defense (not to mention his fearsome scowls) still might make you soil your pants. The core of the resistance? That’s Rajon Rondo, who has matched LeBron step for step through the first four games of the contest. As for Rasheed Wallace, he’s the mercenary who gets popped in hour one.
Continuing the analogy, the good guys have hit their road blocks (like Games 2 and 4), absorbed criticism from the Big Wigs in the White House (Doc Rivers chastised ‘Sheed for his pitiful play, not to mention the press’s unwarranted abuse after Game 2), and persevered (they’re still even as they begin their fifth game).
In the end, though, everyone knows who’s going to come out on top. Jack will find the terrorist mastermind and make him pay as always. And Cleveland will advance from this series.
How’s that for an unusual comparison for an NBA playoff series? Meanwhile, there has been nothing but a plethora of wonderful storylines surrounding this matchup.
The one I love most is LeBron’s demanding that he guard Rondo in Game 5. This is clearly an attempt at oneupsmanship directed toward Kobe Bryant, who undertook guarding Russell Westbrook in the Lakers’ opening series against the Thunder, and I wouldn’t be surprised if NBA fans are Tweeting up @LeBronsAnkles later on tonight after the game. I’m all for competitiveness, LeBron, but let’s not be ridiculous: Rajon Rondo is too quick even for the God among men. You’re already waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than Bryant anyway. There’s no reason to subject yourself to the embarrassment of getting beat by Rondo just to show you’re superior all while having all your offensive energy sapped away.
A close second is Spike Lee’s pulling for the Celtics because he thinks their victory will probe LeBron to opt out of his deal with Cleveland and instantly gravitate to Madison Square Garden, where Lee makes his second home. Sure, many think LeBron will ditch the Cavaliers if they fail, yet again, to come away with the hardware. But just as many believe a win will clear LeBron’s conscience and allow him to leave his home state on good terms. Moreover, he seems pretty confident it will be the Knicks. There are a lot of suitors out there for LeBron and some just as desirable as New York. Hell, Spike, maybe putting together a major (and incredibly boring) documentary on the King instead of his arch nemesis Kobe would have scored you some points with the man.
There’s also the disintegration of the great Paul Pierce in front of our eyes. His dreadfully slow dribble moves look more like slow-mo replays these days than ever before, and watching his uncontested layups rim out or his three-pointers brick is more painful than one of Bauer’s interrogations. How horrid it it to watch one of the franchise’s greatest scorers in history fail to play high-school-level ball.
Then there’s the dazzling play of Rondo. Ever seen the movie Leon: The Professional with Jean Reno and Natalie Portman? The bug-eyed boy from Kentucky is just like Portman’s character; he learned from the best when they were still the best, and now he’s taking the action into his own hands. Say goodbye to the big three and say hello to my little friend.
How about Shaq’s ineffectiveness? The Diesel is looking more like the 87-octane unleaded nowadays, and you’ve got to wonder if this is the final year for him. Didn’t he promise two years ago that he was going to play only two more years? That certainly won’t be the case if the Cavs dethrone the Lakers in the Finals and Kobe finally tells the Big Cactus how his ass tastes. It seems like he just has too much fun in this league to retire before he’s confined to a hospital bed watching Seinfeld tapes and playing Scattergories with his wife and the team doctor like in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Taking a backseat to no headline is the general consensus that Doc Rivers will dip from Boston after this season. Bill Simmons put it well today: “I mean, you have a better chance of seeing Doc Martens coach next year’s Celtics team.” (I would have preferred Doc Gooden, but that’s coming from a baseball nut.) Never has it been so obvious yet so ignored that a coach’s fate with a team is determined for a team that is tied 2-2 with the best team in the league in Round 2 of the NBA playoffs. Kinda crazy, ya know? But, hey. I’d want to get the hell out of there, too, if I had to deal with Wallace every day.
Which brings me to my next point: the Cavaliers’ long-range shooting. Cleveland’s three-point assault has undergone more swings than a PMSing Tyra Banks. 33 percent. 19 percent. 42 percent. 19 percent. For a team that hangs on to players like Delonte West, Anthony Parker, and Jamario Moon for their spot-up shooting skills, this is quite a laughable sign. Maybe Mike Brown should be less worried Rajon Rondo and be more concerned with bricking open treys.
So what does this series hold for the future? Well, there’ll be plenty of drama that doesn’t have a lick to do with play on the basketball court. But as I said above, the Celtics are not going to win this series. LeBron is waiting to seal this series until he has to, maybe because his elbow is hurting so much. At any rate, the Cavaliers should be worrying more about how they’re going to stop the insanity that is the Orlando Magic than anything else right now, not the least of which is who is going to guard Boy Wonder for Boston.