In a day where speculation is running rampant around KG’s knee injury, it may be easy to forget the Celtics lost a tight one last night in Utah in the wee hours of the morning.
Much like the Lakers game when the Celts hung around with LA for the final four minutes of regulation plus overtime without KG, I was encouraged by the fact the Celtics stuck with Utah during the entire second half without Garnett, even leading most of the way.
The truth is the Celtics had an endless number of opportunities to steal what would have been a rare win for an opponent in Salt Lake City. (Utah is 23-6 at home)
An ugly fourth quarter for the green ensured that from happening but there were a healthy number of positives to take out of this game to go along with the unsightly final frame. Let’s break it down.
Kendrick Perkins: The beast had himself quite a game with 12 points on 6/6 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds. Perk even took a page out of KG’s playbook by helping to fill his absence by hitting a couple mid range jumpers, including one to prove the bank was still open after hours in Utah.
I think in all honesty we have to hold Zach Lowe partially responsible for jinxing this loss given his recent post looking at Perk’s numbers in Celtics’ wins earlier this week. The Celts lost their first game last night when Perk had a double-double however the principles of Zach’s observations about the beast rang true throughout this game.
Quite simply, when Perk was involved with the offense, the Celtics played better. In one of his best scoring performances of the season Perkins took his last field goal attempt with 7:56 remaining in the 3rd quarter. The C’s were up by 6 at this point. With Perk taking no more attempts over the final 20 minutes of the game the Celts were -11 as a team. You can draw your own conclusions.
Rajon Rondo: The Point Guard came through with another efficient performance on the road with 15 points and 7 assists on 5/7 shooting. Although it was a mistake prone night for most of the C’s, Rondo limited his miscues with just one turnover and attacked the basket aggressively in the 4th quarter which resulted in a couple of easy baskets and trips to the line.
Overall it was an impressive follow up to his triple double in Dallas as Rondo is looking more confident in every performance on the road against elite teams. This trend is a very encouraging development for the C’s as the team will need Rondo to produce on the road in the playoffs this year to make it past an improved Cleveland team. More after the jump.
The Celtics Defense in first 3 Quarters: The team defense was sharp coming out of the break as the Celts held the high powered Jazz offense to 29% shooting in the first half and 33% through 3 quarters while only allowing 60 points. A notable number considering Utah is a team that averages over 105 points a game at home.
The numbers indicate that this was clearly one of the Celtics best defensive efforts of the season as the C’s team defense rotated well and did well in keeping Utah out of the lane by forcing them to take some tough contested jump shots for much of the game.
Utah’s shooters finally heated up in the fourth quarter leading them to the win but the C’s defense did not letdown during this stretch, it was more a matter of the Jazz marksmen coming to life.
Free Throw Shooting: The Celtics did not get to the line for much of the first three quarters, but when they did they squandered away points going 8 of 15 in this period ending up 19/29 from the line for the game. In a game that was still tied with under 90 seconds effort and with little margin of error with KG out, the off night from the line came back to hurt.
Offensive Ball Movement: Once KG went down, this part of the Celtics offense became virtually non existent as the Celtics became overly reliant on Paul Pierce. In doing this The C’s also failed to involve Perkins (see above) and Ray Allen at all in the final frame as Ray only took one shot in the final twelve minutes.
In almost a carbon copy of the 4th quarter last week against Dallas, the C’s fed the Truth at the top of the key for some isolation possessions hoping to take advantage of mismatches against Deron Williams and Matt Harpring. Pierce got similar looks at the basket as the Dallas game but he was not on tonight missing all seven of the jump shots he took in the final period.
Pierce went 45 minutes so fatigue may have had something to do with the poor shooting. The Celtics stubbornness in failing to adjust their offense given Pierce’s off night came back to bite them here though as the Celtics kept going back to a well that had dried up in the 4th quarter.
Turnovers: This has been the Celtics achilles heel throughout the past two seasons and it reared its ugly face once again last night. The Green were sloppy throughout the night with 19 turnovers, a number much too high if you expect to win in a tough place on the road like Utah.
Dick Bavetta: The CSN crew was all over Dick Bavetta the entire night and rightfully so. The entire Celtic bench from Brian Scalabrine to Gabe Pruitt were treated like rookies with some questionable touch calls throughout the evening.
The Celts were whistled for 12 more fouls than the Jazz during the game including an absurd two minute stretch in the 3rd quarter when Scal picked up 4 fouls, forcing him to the bench for the rest of the period. The free throw discrepancy between the teams was closed during the fourth quarter as the Celts lived on the line for the quarter. All this being said it should be noted that the refs certainly did not cost the C’s the game. However it should be stated they did not do the Celts any favors either.
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