On the Hunt for Super Pasture
First, apologies to the commenter who resents our lack of proofreading and goofy "ebonics." Do the former yourself, ignore the latter because it's a bad joke that happens every 1000th word. Unless this is a passive aggressive way of pining for Billups.
I can't say I hate that game, but it wasn't much fun. I've exhausted all of my wellsprings of far-reaching, Celtics church hatred, and now it's down to this: This team plays hellish defense, no doubt the product of a certain JVG protege whom everyone admires.
They score just enough to elide their absence of a smooth-clicking offense, which is exactly the brute opposite of what I'd hoped this team would do. I'm totally done wrestling with KG, Pierce is just doing his thing and clunking toward local immortality, which is just. I don't want Ray Allen to come out of this labeled a bitch, which he won't.
Rondo remains so high on my personal rankings it's not even cheeky, though I wish I could see his philosophy of basketball expanded a little. Now, it seems like so many little crazed inklings that are immediately stuffed into a safety valve.
Last night's game just left me kind of a cold. I'd almost have rather the Lakers not made that run at the end. True, it allowed me to rebuff a few taunting text messages (sort of), and gives Los Angeles a bit of added confidence as they head home. Though from a viewer's perspective, it was a tad maddening. I slogged through all that other basketball rot, only to see the larval smudge leave the mark of the butterfly with two minutes left. False hope, and very nearly a slap in the face of anyone whose attention waned, or who shut off the set. At least when the immortal Celtics/Nets game went down (SORRY FRIEND!!!!!!!), I was young, spry, hungry, and able to sit in front of set throughout despite women sulking to the contrary. Now, I lack that resolve and bravery.
But at least one good thing did come out of it. And I'm not talking about a certain absolute breaking point of the Mark Jackson/JVG on-air tension (if Jackson realizes there is any). No, it happened in my brain, and it had everything to do with a very basic binary: The practical versus the visionary, or idealist, basketball.
The main basketball point I've taken away from these two games has been the clash in philosophies. Boston is perfectly at home in the muck, confusion and chaos. Broken plays, or dumping it off to P.J. Brown because something has to happen (and does), are its bread and butter on offense. On defense, they dig in and stir up more and more of a mess for Los Angeles by utterly preventing them from getting in position. No position, no triangle; no triangle, no Lakers hell-oil machine that so much astounded us for the first three rounds.
Granted, the Celtics do target these "pressure points" in the Los Angeles offense, but they also just keep grinding away. These are the point of fortification, and from, the goal is to ensure that Kobe can't to the lane to distract from this overall strategy, or find anyone remotely suited to faciliate in his place. It is war at its most strong and viral. Joey points out that duh, Coach T for the Celtics would bring some of the classic Knicks' philosophy to bear. Protect the lane at all costs. Against the Lakers, though, this takes on a dramatic new meaning. If I had to draw a basic distinction between East and West, it would be this pragmatism vs. idealism divide.
We're used to thinking of idealism, or perfectionism, in basketball as Larry Brown fretting over slightly incorrect execution. But on a more cosmic scale, it's teams who subscribe to a system, ideal, or vision, and aspire always to erect this utopia on hardwood, and those who desire to run head-on into battle with a handful of directives and a strong taste for disorder.
For those of you keeping score, or looking for me to say such things, that's an important FD line in the sand. Watching the Lakers struggle to find their spots on the floor, to sit up in my seat whenever they did manage to do so, was like watching someone's dream throttled and reborn in rapid succession. On some level, "systems" are totalitarian, which explains why the isolation flourished in the East, alongside the gritty defensive teams that preached a descent into controlled mayhem. It's the five-man, organic answer to one dude's improv-ed attacks.
Oh, my bad, "one player of undeniable individual offensive gifts, prone to hold the ball, put on a show, and go for delf. . . I mean, the basket." RELIEF.
Anyway, on the other hand, you've got all these team that aspire to some higher sense of purpose or identity. Sometimes, as with the Lakers, it's remarkably concrete. But still, the triangle is a concept, a recasting of basketball that doesn't proceed from traditional notions of execution and roles. For it to work, it has to get set up correctly on earth, and basic human impulses must be suppressed.
If you don't think this is one of those great American debates, one that mirrors the likes of pragmatism vs. transcendentalism or capitalism vs. socialism, you're darn right even if I'd never been born. Until the very end of last night, the Lakers proved why Communism failed in the face of Nixon and Reagan. Or maybe just in the face of humanity itself, which is not so well-tuned to retain precise doctrine when the shit hits the fan and the earth's surface starts to churn.
Granted, the triangle is the most extreme version of a "system," one that is at once hyper-concrete and profoundly transformative. At this point, it's darn hard to separate from Jackson's whole guru-like ways. But it also fits so many teams we've relentlessly advocated in the past. The Suns, early, untrammeled incarnation, and the 2006 Warriors, were ideas even if their five-man fluid rage was held together only by the most loose sense of chemistry, even shared faith.
That's a far cry from the nihilism expressed by the isolation (if not in the intersection of that play and its audience). I mean, shit, all these teams of principle, who would prefer to do their thing and match it up than actively undermine their opponents' identity, those are FD. I guess they're pussies, too, but it's what I like.
So do I hate the Celtics? No, I'm tapped out. It's more that what's made the Lakers so unearthly up to this point has been their ability to gleefully impose their new rules upon the game. Whatever the opposite of reactive is, they're it. All that shit about controlling the tempo and setting the tone, they were that. The Celtics, they strike first but do so preemptively, and then push the spiral downward from there. I wonder if they really hold the game in the palm of their hand, or have simply deemed it best to let it ride out on a wave of very, very smart destruction.