Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Flannery was snowed in on Sunday, so he did what any hoops junkie would do and watched all the basketball he could. This is what happened.
SNOWBOUND AND DOWN -- Over a 24-hour period from Friday to Saturday afternoon, the greater Boston area got around 2 feet of snow dumped on our doorstep. It was a weird time in the Hub. Friday was a ghost town and Saturday was a giant neighborhood après-ski at the only bar that opened so everyone could kill three to four hours, which is about how long it took for each round to be poured. Nobody really cared because we were all thankful to have some place to go and everyone knows Monday will be terrible.
The T still wasn't working on Sunday, there's no place to park and side roads are profoundly f---ed. I spent several hours digging out my car and there's no way in hell I'm moving it now. Some people resort to laying out rocking chairs, traffic cones and cement blocks to preserve their work, but I'd rather wait until March.
There's a tunnel leading from my front door to the sidewalk, which has been cleared about the width of a small child, and every crosswalk is a river of snow, mud and slush. It's basically the reason why duck boots were invented and I'll probably be wearing them unironically for the next month. The flooding will start on Tuesday at the latest.
All of which is a long way of saying I skipped one of the best games of the year at the Garden to watch TV on the first post-football Sunday on the NBA calendar and I'm still rationalizing the decision. Here's what I saw.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SEASON OF CHRIS PAUL'S CAREER
After missing nine games with a knee injury, Chris Paul got his first-game clunker out of the way on Friday against Miami and on Sunday he shredded the Knicks for 25 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals in 30 minutes. It was a tour de force performance that reminded everyone that there is no Best Point Guard in the NBA debate as long as Chris Paul is healthy.
Before he got hurt, he was no worse than third in any MVP discussion. Some will say that the Clippers' 3-6 record without him is more evidence for his cause, but that doesn't mean as much as the games LeBron James and Kevin Durant have actually played. (More on this later.)
And none of that really matters because the totality of Paul's second season with the Clippers will come down to what he and they do in the playoffs. Unlike LeBron, who has won everything there is to win and is playing for history, or KD, who has more of a career in front of him with a franchise core already in place, Paul and the Clippers are in a make-or-break season.
He's 27 years old and will be a free agent after this season. He'll probably re-sign with Los Angeles, and if he does and everyone stays healthy he'll have more chances in his career. But this is Paul's best chance to date and the sum of his playoff pedigree includes six series over four seasons and only two trips to the second round.
Rajon Rondo, for example, has played in 58 more postseason games than Paul and even Deron Williams has been in 10 more. Now, it isn't Chris Paul's fault that the best player he had in New Orleans was David West and the third-best evolved from an aging Peja Stojakovic to Rasual Butler. His Hornets teams went just about as far as they could go, which is a credit to Paul, but no farther.
Chris Paul needs a long playoff run the way Jason Kidd needed one in his first season with the Nets. He doesn't need it for validation that he's great or that he carried an undue burden in the early part of his career. That's a sucker's argument. He needs it for himself.
AS FOR MELO
THE TRANSITIVE PROPERTY OF THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
Theory: The Bulls are the second-best team in the East with a healthy Derrick Rose, but the Pacers are better right now. The Knicks offer the toughest matchup for the Heat, but if they play the Celtics in the first round, there will be blood. All of this clears the way for the Nets to acquire Josh Smith and lose to Miami in the conference finals in a fitting tribute to the Hawks.
LEBRON IS JUST, I DON'T KNOW
Coming into Sunday's game against the Lakers, LeBron James had scored 123 points on 59 shots in his last four contests. That's ridiculous, obviously, but doesn't really get to the heart of the matter, which is that LeBron can do anything he wants on the basketball court right now.
He scored 32 points against the Lakers on 18 shots and the only reason he wasn't more prolific is he settled for a handful of jumpers. Metta World Peace, one of the best and toughest perimeter defenders of his era, was like a fly trying to stop Godzilla. It's to the point where we're all surprised when his shots don't go in, even when he settles for perimeter jumpers.
Think about this: In the past 12 months, LeBron won his third MVP, his second gold medal and his first championship ... and he's still getting better. Or think about this: LeBron James was presented to us as a prodigy, a can't-miss genius who would make us rethink everything we thought we knew about basketball ... and he's doing it.
For all the abuse LeBron has taken in his career, he's delivering on that promise. So, let's make a vow to treasure this moment in time.
SPEAKING OF LIVING IN THE MOMENT
Ah yes, that Nuggets-Celtics triple overtime madness that I skipped. The Nuggets played in Cleveland on Saturday night and arrived in Boston less than 18 hours before tipoff. You can easily make the argument that the Celtics should have won this game, just like they should have won the other six games they won after beating Miami on the day they learned Rajon Rondo tore his ACL. The Clippers were without Chris Paul last week, while the Lakers were missing Pau Gasol and whatever's left of Dwight Howard's dignity on Thursday.
The thing about whether they're better without Rondo is the kind of oxymoronic babble that keeps the talk radio lines humming, but it's getting harder and harder to rationalize what the Celtics are doing. Tired and worn out as it was, Denver had still won nine straight and 15 of 17 before Sunday and this was exactly the kind of game the Celtics would have lost earlier this season.
None of this makes any sense, which is why it's so great. I've had a ringside seat for all of the Celtics revivals the past few years. Nothing they do shocks me anymore, yet I still reserve the right to be surprised.
Paul Pierce put up an absurd line of 27-14-14 in 54 minutes including a ridiculous three-pointer that sent the game into triple overtime. Like Vlad Guerrero hitting a ball six inches off the ground and two feet outside over the fence, Pierce is a master at making terrible shots.
Kevin Garnett played 47 minutes, the most he's ever played in a game for the Celtics, and had 20 and 18. Doc Rivers took him out at the start of the second overtime, heresy in most instances, but the extra rest seemed to recharge him long enough to bury four jumpers and keep Kenneth Faried -- all of 6 years old when Garnett debuted -- from murdering the Celtics in transition and on the glass.
The Rondo question will be answered in time. Even asking it makes a mockery of the last three years when Rondo has been the difference between the team being broken up prematurely and advancing farther than they had any right to go. The only reason they're still together is because Rondo wouldn't let them lose against Cleveland back in 2010.
The Celtics might wear down by March. They might get trucked on their long road trip after the All-Star break. They'll see the Garden only three more times between now and March 13, and they are a far better team at home than they are on the road. All of that could happen and is even likely to happen, but the rules of common sense just don't apply to the Celtics.
FIVE REASONS KG DOESN'T WANT TO LEAVE BOSTON
1. He hates change.
2. He likes playing for Doc Rivers.
3. He hates change.
4. He won't leave Paul Pierce stranded.
5. He hates change.