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Magic men

Posted by Charles P. Pierce  May 17, 2010 12:38 PM

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It was a very strange weekend if, for no other reason, I haven't been able to get Motorhead's "Ace Of Spades" out of my head since I heard it on TV last Friday. If you want to maintain the respect of the neighbors, yelling "And don't forget the joker!" out loud at odd intervals is not the way to go at all. I'm glad there were sports there to distract me.

(Also, RIP Ronnie James Dio. Now the Race To A Death That Should Have Happened 30 Years Ago is down to Lemmy and Keith Richard.)

If you want a historical parallel to this year's Boston Celtics team, reach all the way back to 1969, and the last championship won in the Bill Russell Era. (And, yes, they played fewer games. Their shorts were also shorter and Chris Schenkel was still alive. Get over it.) That year, a Celtics team dependent almost entirely on aging and brittle veterans sandbagge...er....coaste...er...saved itself through most of the regular season so that it would have enough left to win in the playoffs. The Celtics actually finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, six full games behind the third-place New York Knicks. However, by the end of it, Russell was fresh enough to pull down 21 rebounds in Game Seven, utterly outplaying Wilt Chamberlain, who famously asked out of the deciding game.

The parallel is not exact, but the ways in which it is not all favor this year's team. The 1969 team had no young talent of caliber of Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, or Glen Davis. But what has become clear over the last two weeks is that Doc Rivers managed his roster masterfully over the course of the long regular season -- even while sustaining some comically horrid losses (Memphis at home?) along the way. Clearly, he knew more both about the individuals on his team, and about the collective personality that those individuals could form together, than anyone else did. (Not to rub salt in the wounds, but does anyone believe at this point that Claude Julien had any idea what kind of team he was coaching in the playoffs? Or that Mike Brown in Cleveland did?)

Rivers now has a fresh legs under Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and, especially, under Ray Allen. He's parceled out the time they deserve to both Davis and the resurgent Tony Allen. (Note to Tony Allen: you have found your place here. Appreciate it. You are not ever going to be The Man. Please don't go all the way to New Jersey or somewhere to find that out.) He's also got Rajon Rondo's patience at an all-time high; watch him wait just the right half-second for, say, Garnett to clear a defender before delivering the pass. Rondo's playing at his teammates' pace now. Orlando can still shoot its way past the Celtics, but it's clear that what the Magic was seeing on the court was not what it was seeing on the scouting films all season.

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