Film Don’t Lie: The Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks, and Cube

Film Don’t Lie looks at the playoff series in retrospect and a movie. The movies are often bad, but they really only serve as an expository device. Plus, you’re reading a basketball blog. Come on.  -Ed.

See, because Boston-New York was a horror film, get it?

“AND THE BARTENDER SAID WHY THE LONG FACE, AND IT WAS A HORSE!”

Anyway, Cube‘s actually about how humans will inevitably fail themselves. Even if they are able to outwit their own devices, they’ll fall victim to their own neurotic impulses. You can get out of the physical boundaries we build for ourselves, but you can’t get out of the spiritual, mental, and emotional traps we’ve designed to destroy ourselves.

The Cube, obviously, is the Celtics. The Knicks, obviously, are the poor dead bastards trying to get through the maze.

So much of the film is spent trying to decipher what the Cube is, where it came from, why the victims are within it, how it works, how you do prime factorization on the spot when you’re worried gigantic laser spikes are going to pierce you in the face. That’s pretty much what the Knicks spent this series trying to do. Trying to understand who the Celtics were, how you beat them. The Celtics, even after all this time, are unpredictable. They have guidelines, principles, kinks in the chains, but you have to spend so much time figuring them out that by the time you’ve discovered the secret, your time is up and you’re dead.

Rondo’s return to World Destroyer mode is the closest thing we’ve got to the overall aesthetic design of the Cube. Look at it. It’s smooth, detailed, sharp, clean, and solely focused. It also doesn’t react. It’s not affected by your frustration or successes, your victories or failures. It just rotates and executes. And that weird ball-fake non-whip pass he’s got going on? Well, the excessive violence in Cube can border on the irrational. You’re waiting for spikes with lazer tips that actually transmit poison. It’s completely over the top, which reveals the biggest secret about this movie.

It’s bad. It’s really pretty bad. The characters are caricatures but not in any sort of revealing or funny way, there’s no overt symbolism or subtle comparisons for sociological discussion, it’s just a bunch of dead over-exaggerations of traditional archetypes right on down to the mentally challenged wunderkind (who becomes more or less interesting if you watch Cube 2: Hypercube and Cube: Zero like I have, depending on how drunk you are when you watch them). And this series? There was a lot to consider, a lot to think was going on, but in reality, it was just a team without depth facing a robotic construct that didn’t happen to press the right rooms in the first two games, still took its fatalities, then cleaned up when the game really got going.

But if you want what’s interesting about the whole thing? The way the characters fail themselves. Not just Quentin’s psychopathic paranoia, but the lack of trust in one another. Which is frustrating until you understand, of course they weren’t going to survive. They couldn’t trust one another. They didn’t even know one another. It was entirely possible one of them was a spy. It was possible one was going to slow them up. After Game 2, Melo talked about how he made the right play, and he expected Jared Jeffries to make the layup. That’s removing yourself from the responsibility model. It’s the same as not making a decision in the Cube because you don’t want to be wrong. But Toney Douglas was like the opening victim. Far too impulsive, far too reckless with his decisions, and yet timid and meek at the worst times, too. The decisions have to be clear if you want to survive. The Knicks as a group are doomed by the same thing that doomed the poor folks in the Cube. Someone else pulled the strings and stuck them in the box together. Dolan’s incessant meddling with the negotiations process was only going to have one result from the beginning: the team surrendering too much for a player at a position which is in no way vital to D’Antoni’s system. The Depth afforded them by the other players, and more importantly, the versatility, was considerably more important. But hey, whatever, let’s get put in a box and try to fight our way out of it.

You can believe that Kazan is able to escape the Cube at the end, but that’s unlikely. It’s a government operated facility (we find out later) and there will be people waiting. But getting beyond the select group of participants the film focuses on, there’s really no escape. The Cube has the advantage in the percentages, and keeps on rotating.

All that’s left is to see if people can change, and if they’re smart enough to realize they have to.

by onkel_wart on Flickr

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.