NBA Playoffs Will Go On Without Boston's Celtics

May 12, 2011
Originally published on May 12, 2011 6:23 am



First, the Los Angeles Lakers lost in the NBA playoffs, and now the Boston Celtics are gone, after they lost a deciding game to Miami by 10 points.

NPR's Mike Pesca is tracking the fall of the pro basketball elites - and maybe the rise of some new ones.

Mike, good morning.

MIKE PESCA: Soon we'll be left with no one.

INSKEEP: Except for you, of course.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: It's kind of hard to beat the Heat when they've got LeBron James and he scores 33 points.

PESCA: Yeah, with - you know, the Heat are playing well. They're really playing cohesive, a lot of energy. In last night's game, they were trailing to the Celtics. With four and a half minutes to go, they were trailing by six. And from that point on, the Celtics did not score. The Heat scored the game's last 16 points. LeBron James scored or assisted on every point but one.

Sometimes I think his brilliance is overshadowed by what went on in the offseason. He's just one of the game's best scorers. And the amazing thing about him is - that fact that he's one of the best scorers is not even the most impressive part of the game - his game.

He's a great rebounder. He's great at preventing the other teams from scoring. And he's such a good facilitator on offense, a tall guy who sees over the defense, makes good decisions. You have to honor his offense. So he draws the defense in. He is a great player to watch. Sometimes, you know, with all the extra stuff, we forget it.

INSKEEP: I'm curious. When you say the Celtics didn't manage to score in the last several minutes of the game - the last four-and-a-half minutes of the game - did they really get that cold, or was the defense that good?

PESCA: Oh, LeBron stole the ball. And the Celtics were - it was an aging team who plays disciplined basketball, the Celtics, against a really energetic team in front of an energetic arena with the Heat.

The game is one of those games - we could get seduced into thinking this, but you just come away thinking, wow. This is really the Heat's time.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about whose time it is, because normally - in recent years, anyway - the time - it's been the time of the Celtics. It's been the time of the Lakers. They have repeatedly - I mean, they're the historic elites in the NBA. And...

PESCA: Yep, the three last champions, right.

INSKEEP: Yeah, exactly. And they've been on top the last several years, once again. And now we have a changing the guard here.

PESCA: Right. And so we could seduce - be seduced into thinking again that youth will be served. And there are some good young teams. The Bulls are a very good young team, the Thunder out West.

But, you know, when you talk about the Celtics and the Lakers, they kind of lost for different reasons, I think. I think the Celtics did this year what they've always been doing, and it just hasn't worked as well. Or maybe their competition got better.

But the Lakers got a little bit away from what they've been doing. And what they had been doing is just let Kobe Bryant score all the time. They've got more players involved in their offense. It didn't work for them. So maybe it's like a Tolstoyan family thing. Losing teams lose for different reasons.


(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Look up that reference about how happy families are all the same and unhappy families are alike in different ways and interesting ways.

Anyway, the Oklahoma City Thunder, I guess they count as a happy family at the moment, since they're up in their series.

PESCA: They're doing well. I think the turning - they won last night. They looked very good against the Memphis Grizzlies, a surprising eight seed. The turning game in that series, if the Thunder do go on to win, was probably last game - a triple overtime game, where Oklahoma City won.

INSKEEP: Mike Pesca, I'm told you have a very important point to make here this morning, and you have 40 seconds to make it. Go.

PESCA: Yes. If I could, for a moment, break from my normal form and advocate a little bit: There is a trend in the NBA that I believe has crested and needs to be noted. It is the trend of people in the arena wearing the same color shirt.

Now, I don't speak of the players. They're in uniforms. They should be dressed uniformly. But you watch these games on TV, and all the fans wear either all white shirts or all blue shirts. In Chicago, they call it seeing red. In other places they call it seeing white.

And I would just like to say, it might be fun as a fan, but monochromism is not the same as fanaticism.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: It is the visual equivalent of a vuvuzela. Please reconsider, fans of the NBA.

INSKEEP: What if everybody wears a Hawaiian shirt? Would that be OK with you?

PESCA: Yeah. Or one dash, and the undulate. That could be cool.

INSKEEP: OK. Very good. Mike, thanks very much.

PESCA: Thank you for your time and courtesy.

INSKEEP: NPR sports correspondent Mike Pesca, right here on MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.