Thursday, April 8, 2010

Gallo Versus the C's

In Boston, the Celtics are affectionately reffered to as the "C's" and the NHL's Bruins as the "B's." The nicknames, in each case, are clearly derived from the first letter of each franchise's team name. There may be a lot of prestigious universities for book learnin' in the Hub but nobody has ever accused the locals of being particularly clever or level-headed up there when it comes to sports.

But, I digress. While watching the Knicks take on the Celtics this season (and last), the petulant antics of Kevin Garnett have made me think of another C-word. Not Celtics. But another C-word. With four not six letters. And, last night was no different.

The Big Ticket kept on and keeping on with his tired, highly-orchestrated and generally-in-the-direction-of-a-TV-camera demonstrations of "intensity" while counter intuitively appearing genuinely angered by anyone who attempted to play the game with similar measures of violence and energy. How dare you play assign a foe to guard me! Zounds! What nerve of another man to mix sweat with mine. Apparently scowling and hand checking are his toys. Not yours. Or Danilo Gallinari's.

I hate harping on this (aside from the fact that I don't want to seem petty for taking non-hoops digs at a better team) because I rooted for Garnett in Minny all those years. When Sprewell landed in the Twin Cities I was following the T-Wolves through the myriad twists and turns of that above-ground skyway they got out there. But he's really become both a caricature and a whiner. And a Cunt. There, I said it. I feel better.

Garnett repeatedly tried to intimidate Gallo and sent a few cheap shots his way after plays were over. Thankfully, like he has shown a penchant for doing for the past few months, Gallo was fired up and not felled by the grandstanding. He chirped back. And he got aggressive on offense, scoring 19 of his 31 points in the third quarter.

Particularly impressive was his game-winning bucket in the final minute. Boston foiled (quite easily) the Knicks' attempt to run a pick and roll for David Lee, forcing Billy Walker into a poor three-point shot. Clang. Lee industriously grabbed the offensive board and kicked it to Gallo. Unselfishly, the young Italian looked to get the ball back into Lee. But Lee slowed him up and came to the top of the key to set a screen. Bank. Game. It wasn't the prettiest shot. Or what the coach drew up. But Lee and Gallo made it work. Both showed their selflessness on the play.

Although everyone has known for some time that Gallo could bank in knock down buckets from deep, he's been trying to amp up his rep on the other side of the ball down the stretch. The last stop of the game provides a glimpse of his desire and attention if not his skill at defending. Just like Boston knew the Knicks were going to try to get the ball from Toney Douglas to Lee on a PNR on their last play, New York knows that the ball is looking for Ray Allen as Boston tries to prolong the game. Gallo denies the ball nicely and Rasheed Wallace ends up taking a bad-looking three at the buzzer.

Putting aside the fact that the buzzer was sounding, the Celtics likely wouldn't have come down with the board like the Knicks just had when forced into a bad three of their own. The Celtics hadn't been getting to many of the key boards or loose balls for some time. This was largely thanks to Lee and D-League call-up Earl Barron. When asked about Barron after the game, Gallo reveals just how his stature and comfort level have grown. He lights up like a proud father when Tina broaches the subject of his teammate's performance and even jokes that Barron's time overseas helped prepare him. The way that he carries himself off the court and goes right back at veteran bullies like Garnett shows that Gallo thinks of himself as a superstar.

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