On Wednesday night the Jumbotron wasn’t necessary.
In a throwback to an age when the crowd knew how to spur its hometown team on to victory without graphic instructions, Wednesday night’s game five victory over the Pistons demonstrated what it truly means to enter the Garden.
A frantic energy pulsed in 360 degrees, from the parquet to the rafters, through 16 World Championship banners and into and out of the mass of green and white that furiously beat its vocal chords for the right to guarantee at least one more home game.
And the prodigal son, he who had derailed this seemingly invincible cruise ship like an Atlantic glacier, turned back the clock.
There is no sound quite like the collective anticipatory half-breath that comes a short second before the sound of leather stroking nylon. When the crowd at TD Banknorth Garden places itself in the game, officially as part of the rhythm of the contest, giving the Green an unfair advantage, nothing raises decibals quite like a profound dagger from Ray Allen.
And after a postseason of futility, he once again failed, this time to play like the scared, ineffective legend on his last legs that we have grown accustomed to, choosing instead to rise to the occassion and nail down Detroit’s coffin with precision accuracy.
Allen’s 29 points on 9 of 15 shooting from the field, including 5-6 from the ABA line and 6-6 from the philanthroper’s half-circle, led the way for Boston. While he was neither the leading scorer for the Celtics (that was Kevin Garnett with 33 points) or the best all-around player (that was Kendrick Perkins, the creator of a stat sheet filled to the brim with 18 points, 16 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals), he was the engine that fueled the return of Celtic Basketball.
Quick passes and deadly shooting mixed with a defensive unit moving as one for the better part of 48 minutes allowed the casual fan to see what all the hoopla was about after 66 regular season wins: Team.
While Jesus set the Garden on fire, Mr. Shuttlesworth did not do so alone.
Allen received aid from another typically strong performance by Paul Pierce, who continues to feel out each game and his teammates’s psyche’s on a given night in order to provide whatever spark proves necessary to burn his opponents. Pierce’s strong defense shut down Tayshaun Prince, and he added an efficient 16, 5, and 6 in 44 minutes. Rajon Rondo also joined in, shooting poorly but dominating every other phase of the game with 6 rebounds, 13 assists, 4 steals, and a blocked shot.
Yeah, that happened.
In an atypical moment, Doc Rivers also lived up to the billing that once earned him NBA Coach of the Year honors with an undermanned Orlando Magic squad.
Eschewing his penchant for playing anyone with a Celtic jersey covering his back, be it six big men for 30 seconds each or perhaps the 47-year-old wearing a Robert Parish jersey in the fifth row, Rivers rode his stallions hard, exactly at the right times. No starter played less than 39 minutes, and Rajon Rondo, whom Doc has jerked around throughout the playoffs, remained on the court for all but two brief 60-second sessions.
Recognizing that the artist formerly known as Sam Cassell and the handleless Eddie House can’t handle the intense pressure supplied by Lindsey Hunter at the point, Doc allowed his energetic youngster to steer the ship nearly the entire game, minimizing a Piston strength and converting it into a Boston opporunity.
While Leon Powe proved during the regular season that he deserves to play postseason minutes, shrinking the rotation and choosing PJ Brown was an understandable choice by Rivers, one that gave the Celtics rhythm. The bench combined to play less than 32 minutes, a number that will surely need to climb in Detroit on Friday night, but a correct sum given game five’s working mathematics.
Finally, choosing to foul in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter when the Pistons were down by only three points and had possession was genius. Demonstrating faith in your own shooters over the opponents’ can be risky, but when you have three potential Hall-of-Famers ready to avoid rim shots like a seasoned drummer and a cast of characters with shooting percentages that would make any shooting coach jealous, you’re on the right track.
Game five elated. It scared. It highlighted flaws and featured the game of his life from one young beast.
But above all, it renewed the Garden’s faith in the strength of a fading star.