Sam Cassell is a Cold-blooded Killer
The Celtics have lived a full life this season. They have ripped off long winning streaks, played epic games with the Pistons, and fared very well against the Western Conference. If the regular season is but a prelude to the playoffs. there should be no doubt anymore that this team is capable of winning it all. But they have not had a night like last night in San Antonio.
Down 33-11 to the defending champs, playing without their best outside shooter (Ray Allen), and with their starting point guard lost in a haze, Doc Rivers turned to his newest addition and Sam Cassell thusly began earning his money.
When the Celtics signed Sam-I-Am, I was happy to have one of my all-time favorites in green, but dubious about how his outsized personality would mesh with the rest of the team, particularly the young point guard. I shouldn’t have worried.
While Rajon Rondo was struggling, Cassell was willing the Celtics back into the game by digging deep into his old-school bag of tricks. Early in the third quarter when Rondo committed a high-school level traveling violation, you had to figure the kid just didn’t have it tonight. Instead, he sucked it up and took the game by the throat. From there on, Rondo was dynamite.
We already knew that Rondo can turn the corner on anybody in the league. Now he is learning what to do when he gets through the defense and the results are thrilling. When it came time to win it, Sammy was The Man, knocking down a 3-pointer that put the Celtics ahead to stay and it was Rondo who went up to get the decisive rebound. They don’t come back last night without Cassell and they don’t win it without Rondo.
A few other observations: As anyone who is familiar with John Hollinger can tell you, Manu Ginobli is the most underrated superstar in the NBA. He’s the best player on the Spurs, and yes, that includes Tim Duncan… The bitching about the refs has officially reached epic proportions on the Comcast telecasts. You’re insulting our intelligence, guys… The eyes of the entire sports world are on the Celtics tonight as they will try to snap Houston’s 22-game winning streak on TNT. There hasn’t been this much anticipation over a Rockets-Celtics game since Ralph Sampson tried to kill Jerry Sichting.