Part I, The Event.
It was fifty-five degrees in Boston that night, but inside Corporate Sponsor Garden it was much warmer, and that wasn’t just because the thermostat was set at seventy degrees. No, there had been a geological Event at the arena, two teams tectonically grinding against one another for forty-eight minutes.
Unbeknownst to one another, our heroes, Walter “Clyde” Frazier and Thomas William Heinsohn, both emerge from the magmatic arena at precisely 9:48pm. Also unbeknownst to the pair is the fact that the energy from The Event has unlocked a mysterious force, and that force will be the reason why neither Heinsohn nor Frazier will have any recollection of the events that take place between 9:52 and 10:25pm. It will be the reason the two regain awareness at each others’ side, sitting at the bar of a certain famous pub… A pub where everybody knows your name.
Here they sit: A lemon-lime soda bubbles below Clyde’s goateed chin. His slow-blinking eyes and peaked complexion lend to our impression of him as a man contemplating a matter of grave importance. Tom wears the downturned smirk that a man saves for only those days when the his own will and the will of the universe are most in agreement. He toys with the condensation on his tumbler glass, in which a golden liquid and several cubes of ice rest.
“There are 35 milliliters of alcohol in this glass,” Heinsohn says. “I have no idea why I know that, but I know.”
“That is correct,” Clyde responds. “Our bartender has been generous to you. That is 1.16 ounces. It is 0.00029 barrels. It is 0.00032 Carmelo Anthonys. I too feel confused by my mathematical prowess.” He leans back in his chair, withdrawing from the conversation.
Tom doesn’t seem to notice this gesture. He goes on: “You know Ray-jawn – that was just ridiculous, ridiculous! – for those New York bums to think they could get away with disrespecting him like that, and he punished them for it–” Tom winces, stops. He reaches to the back of his head and begins to rub, then his hand turns to a fist, gripping what little hair he has left, and in a monotone voice, his eyes wide, he completes the sentence: “by putting up a true shooting percentage of 33.4%. That is 0.7 points per shot if you round. If the entire team had shot like him, they would have scored 61.6 points.”
As Heinsohn finishes speaking, Clyde’s hand shoots to the back of his head, his eyes glowering in pain. He says, “This pain… it’s insane! What’s happening to my brain?” Then he pauses, and in a monotone similar to Heinsohn’s, says, “On average this season, Rondo shoots 41% on two point jumpshots. If he had used every Celtic possession in which they didn’t turn the ball over and shot the ball at his average, the Celtics still would have only scored 72 points.”
The conversation between the two robot-voiced men drones on. Frazier says something about how Paul Pierce has played in 64 playoff games since the big three became the big three, and in only four of those games has he consumed near as many possessions as Anthony with near as poor results. Heinsohn responds by citing Anthony’s play against Pierce since the big three came to be: in four of the eight games, he’s finished with five fouls and overall has had a 51% true shooting percentage.
At this point, a man in a tuxedo materializes behind the bar. “Mr. Heinsohn, Mr. Frazier, I’m Woody.” He smiles and shifts his shoulder. “I’m not used to wearing these clown suits, but the boss said I had to, it being a special occasion and all.”
“What’s so special?” Clyde says.
“Aw, nothing,” Woody replies, shrugging. “Not feeling like yourselves tonight, are you?” He whips his hands out in front of him, producing a two cigars, and props them in the lips of Clyde and Heinsohn. He snaps his fingers, then opens his hands, revealing a flame hovering above each palm. Clyde and Heinsohn lean in and light their cigars.
“Well,” Heinsohn says, “I do feel a bit off kilter. But I put the feeling down to indigestion. It’s hard to digest the numbers here… The only Knick lineup to outscore the Celtics with Garnett on the floor featured Shawne Williams and Landry Fields, and the two only played 28 minutes combined.”
“Yeah,” Clyde says, “But I just thought it was because my head was still swimming after D’Antoni used a staggering fourteen different lineups last night! And on that last play! We need to score, and we’re stuck with Jared Jeffries and Ronny Turiaf on the floor!”
Woody smiles at the pair. “Yes,” he says, “everything is going as planned. You two will report back here after game two, and we will continue our little conversation. Until then, sayonara.” He then turns to leave, but a few strides in, turns back. “I almost forgot,” he says, and he opens the tuxedo jacket and removes two shot glasses with a silvery liquid in them and sets them on the bar. “Take these,” he says, “and food for thought — do either of you remember how you got here tonight?”
Clyde and Heinsohn examine the liquid, and when the look back up, Woody has disappeared. “Well,” Clyde says, “bottoms up.” The two drink their drinks, and when they set their glasses down, the bar goes dark; the din of drunken conversations fades and then is gone. A few moments later, the sun peeks through the high windows of the basement pub, and the distant cooing of pigeons reaches the ears of our two heroes.
“Astounding,” Clyde says, as he slips his fur coat on and heads for the exit.
Heinsohn strides up beside him. “Confounding,” he adds.
“Rebounding,” the two say as one.
“You said it, Clyde,” Heinsohn says, and he begins to recite the rebounding percentages of all the major players of the night. “That’s where your boys lost the game.”