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One Game at a Time

Together, together, together

By Sev Sarmenta
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The NBA website is without question a basketball fan?s delight.

There are updates of every game, statistics, blasts from the past, profiles and commentary. And just in case you?re going to an NBA city, the full schedule is available as well as links to team sites that allow you to purchase tickets online.

But perhaps the most captivating feature of the site is the access to the sights and sounds of the game. Thrilling dunks, buzzer beaters, controversial calls and human interest highlights are available at your fingertips, satisfying every NBA curiosity.

What grabs attention is the access to coaching huddles, pre-game speeches and post-game interviews. It?s obvious that the cameras and microphones aren?t allowed to show Xs and Os (seems like an agreement between the league and its broadcasters) but it no way diminishes your appreciation of what coaches tell their players during important phases of a game. It reminds you that people are playing the game at such a high competitive level, are prone to slips and miscues and do need an occasional reminder from a powerful voice.

Case in point was coach Doc Rivers? redundant but effective admonition to his Boston Celtics to play together as one in Game 5 in Cleveland. With the series tied at 2 games apiece, the Celtics wanted to head back to Beantown with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to close it out at home. That would only happen, Rivers emphasized in his raspy, sideline-battered voice, if they shared the ball and allowed everyone to participate in creating wins.

Inside talk about the Celtics was that there was a rift between the Big Three Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and the up-and-coming stars of the team, like point guard Rajon Rondo. It seemed more like a case though of everybody wanting to win but trying too hard individually to make it happen.

A change in the right direction probably began when Rondo took the leadership mantle but still involved his teammates in punching out a Game 4 win. Rondo unleashed a triple double of 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists, a feat so difficult for a guard to achieve and in the playoffs at that.

Throughout Game 5, Rivers preached his togetherness gospel with occasional reminders about keeping their heads in the game. In a huddle, Rivers reminded his team, ?We got to do it together, OK? I know everybody wants to win, but we?re doing it individually. We gotta do it together. Together, together, together.? And in another timeout: ?We gotta stay focused. Don?t let your eye off on this. We can?t get comfortable out here. We gotta keep playing, every possession.?

The message clearly connected and the Celtics trumped the Cavs, 120-88, for the 3-2 lead they wanted.

Athletes or even ordinary folk respond to well-crafted messages, even if they are not so eloquently phrased or quoted from a well-known author, Scripture or military genius. As long as it is delivered sincerely and at tolerable intervals, a message can inspire and produce results.

In an era where coaches grope for the right phrase or word to say in crucial scenarios, Rivers? simple message captures the essence of team sports. Share the ball and the responsibilities. Look out for each other. Trust one another. Together.

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