Speed Read: Celtics Win Is Bold, Spurs Look Old

After the first two games in Boston resulted in a 1-1 series tie, the Celtics-Bulls series felt like a truly 50-50 proposition. That’s definitely no longer the case, thanks to a 107-86 Celtics blowout that often wasn’t even that close. If there were any questions whether the reigning NBA champions would mount a credible defense after they lost game one, those concerns were answered last night, starting with a handful of Paul Pierce connections as the game tipped off, and continuing with another monstrous playoff performance from point guard Rajon Rondo.

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Look, there’s no debating that rookie of the year Derrick Rose is going to be one of the league’s great players. And while he’s shown flashes of an ability to control the series at times, he’s never really been able to keep up with Rondo, who is taking the “third-year leap” concept to new heights. If Denver star Chauncey Billups is the MVP of the playoffs’ first two games, Rondo has the early lead after Game 3.  Playing on a sprained ankle that was bad enough to need help from two teammates to get back to the lockerroom, Rondo still scored 20 points, hitting 8 of 15 shots and dishing out six assists while corralling 11 rebounds and finishing with five steals.

It was an impressive performance, one that was only truly outdone by Pierce, who finally decided to stamp his authority on the series as a whole. The Celtics captain scored 24 points, hitting his first six shots as Boston took firm control of a series that truly seemed to be slipping away from them. Now, instead of doubts about whether they should have trailed 2-0 heading back to Chicago, the only question is why they weren’t up 2-0 themselves, considering the fact that Pierce had a chance to win Game 1 at the free throw line himself.

Things were far different for 2007’s champion in Dallas, where the Mavericks  thoroughly trounded intra-state division rival San Antonio to take a commanding 2-1 lead in the teams’ first round series. The final score was 88-67, but San Antonio trailed by nearly 40 points in the first half of a game that was practically decided by the intermission report.

Dallas may not be known for defense, but the Mavs held a San Antonio team that looked positively incapable of creating its own offense to 32 percent shooting after it hit half of its shots in the first two games. The Spurs look old, they look tired and they look as if Manu Ginobili really may have been the key to all the team’s past playoff success. Without the slashing Argentine, San Antonio looks headed for an early exit, which isn’t the kind of thing that anyone is used to in South Texas, or anywhere else for that matter.

An early exit is more than Tony Gonzalez has been able to get in Kansas City in recent years, which is precisely why he wanted to be done with the Chiefs. After months of lobbying behind the scenes, the All-Pro tight end finally got his wish yesterday afternoon, landing with the Atlanta Falcons on an offense that may be evolving into one of the league’s most dynamic.

Tony Gonzalez

Rather than draft Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons somehow found a way to land one of the greatest tight ends of all time. The real story is how they landed him for only a second round pick in next year’s draft.  Yes, the 2010 draft class should be significantly deeper than this year’s, but conventional wisdom still holds that a second round draft pick in the hand is worth a third round draft pick in next year’s bush. So, the Falcons essentially just landed Tony freaking Gonzalez for a third round pick.

How could Atlanta have pulled off something no one else in the league could? It’s not hard to come up with conspiracy theories, particualrly since Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff worked for Kansas City’s Scott Pioli in New England. Sure, familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed bargain basement deals, but if Pioli felt he had to trade Gonzalez — and if he insisted on sending him to the NFC (which he surely did) — then why not cut a little slack on a former protege?

The Kansas City Star, among others, is reporting that the Chiefs may have received a better deal from Cleveland and other teams closer to the draft, so there’s ammunition for conspiracy theorists (not that they need much). Others claim the Chiefs were offloading Gonzalez to set the stage for a big draft day move that will involve the No. 3 pick, an intriguing scenario that’s right out of the Patriots playbook for former Pats personnel chief Pioli.

It’s not the first time that former New England colleagues have been accused of being in cahoots with one another, and given the spread of front office talent from the league’s most successful franchise, it almost certainly won’t be the last either. The real question is whether there were actual shennanigans involved … and whether anyone can find enough proof to make those accusations stick.

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Which team, down 2-1, is most likely to win their series?

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