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Celtics Give Up Season High, Means Nothing

 

Here’s something that tells you all you need to know about this game, a loss (recap here) in which the C’s gave up a season-high 127 points to a mediocre team: When the Celtics absolutely had to get one rebound–when they were down 122-119 with 33 seconds left and Derrick Rose missed a jumper–Eddie House was left to box out Brad Miller. 

Eddie House is 6’1”. Brad Miller is 7’0”. Miller obviously got the rebound on the left wing, beat Eddie (who had jumped for the board) on a loping, preposterous drive into the paint and dished to John Salmons for the game-icing lay-in (and the foul). 

It is here that I could ask why Doc Rivers had taken Kendrick Perkins out of the game for this possession, leaving a super-small line-up of House-Pierce-Allen-Marbury-Rondo to get the essential stop. I could lament that the C’s missed an opportunity to move a game ahead Orlando for the “all-important” second seed. And I could criticize a truly bad defensive performance, full of slow rotations, missed assignments and poor decisions (hi, Mikki). 

But, really, the line-up that was on the court at the end of the game (and for most of the fourth quarter) shows how meaningless this game is in the long run. It was fun to watch precisely because it was so gimmicky. If the Celtics go on to win the title this year, this game will merit one paragraph in the Globe and/or Herald quickie book chronicling the season–and only then to note Leon Powe’s knee injury (update forthcoming). It is a game we will have long forgotten come the playoffs. 

Since I’m under the weather and need to get the bed early, I’m going with bullet points for the rest of this recap. Sorry. 

• The defense was bad tonight, and it was bad before the C’s went into small line-up mode and surrendered the offensive glass to Brad Miller (who grabbed five offensive boards after the 6:00 minute mark of the third quarter). The Bulls got to the line 16 times in the first quarter, primarily because the Celtics were sloppy in screen/roll defense. We see it on two straight possessions with Rose as the ball-handler.

On the first (4:58), Noah is the screener; on the second (4:33), it’s Tyrus Thomas. On each, the man guarding the screener ran out at Rose, allowing the screener to roll free toward the basket. And both times, the helper (Perkins, who was mostly solid tonight) rotated too late–allowing the screener/roller to receive the pass deep underneath the rim. Noah laid the ball in off a pump fake, and Thomas drew a foul on Mikki Moore, who had scrambled back to help–again, too late.

Overall, the Bulls shot 53 percent and got to the line 41 times. Ouch.

• A humbling, humbling game for Bill Walker–but one with a silver lining. In one quick sequence late in the third, he went to help on Kirk Hinrich, who had used a screen to shake loose from Rondo at the top of the key. Hinrich picked up his dribble and faked a pass to the wing. Walker bit–badly. Hinrich cruised in for the lay-up. About 30 seconds later, Walker took a pass from Pierce along the baseline and threw down a monstrous dunk over Brad Miller. Walker apparently didn’t realize the ref had called an offensive foul on Pierce. He glared at Miller, drawing a technical. (Hilariously, Bulls announcer Stacey “Burger” King still gave Walker “props” for the dunk, exclaiming, “He went upstairs!”) Then Walker got caught between John Salmons (who he should have been guarding on a switch) and one of the Bulls’ big guys on the perimeter–and sort of stood there, motioning for Perkins to take Salmons. Salmons promptly took the ball and drove for the lay-in.

At that point, Doc motioned for House to get off the bench. I thought for sure he’d been replacing Walker, House called for Ray Allen instead. Good for Doc. Give the kid a chance to play through it. And sure enough, Walker scored on an offensive put-back on the next C’s possession. Keep working, kid.

• There will be a lot of talk about how the small line-up shot the C’s back into this game. And that will be sort of true. But be careful. Moore and Perk were both on the court for the third quarter run that gave the C’s an 11-point lead. 

And in the second quarter, it was the following line up that changed a 46-38 deficit midway through the second quarter into a one-point halftime lead: Moore, Rondo, Allen, Pierce and House. Small, yes. They played pretty well on offense, scoring on seven of 12 possessions. But it was the defense–and the Bulls bad shooting–that really got the C’s back into the game. The Bulls scored on only three of 10 possessions from the 5:16 mark until the end of the half.

A few notes in individual players, after the jump.

• It is hard to overstate how invisible Marbury was in this game. We expect athletic guards to burn him on defense, as Rose did in the fourth quarter. But we don’t expect Marbury to look so passive on offense. 

Here’s one sequence at the 10:16 mark at the second quarter: Marbury is the ball-handler on a screen/roll on the left wing. The Bulls switch on the screen; Hinrich follows the screener and Salmons moves onto Marbury. Salmons plays about five feet off of Stephon, giving him the left baseline. The Bulls have nobody underneath ready to stop a drive. Marbury, though, doesn’t even look to drive. He takes a couple passive dribbles before passing off and staying out of the way. 

In 13 minutes, Steph was 0-for-2 with zero points, one assist and one turnover. He’s just not producing enough on offense, and playoff time is near…

• Let’s end on a positive note: Pierce (37 points, 29 in the second half), Rondo (26 points, 10 dimes) and Perk (14-10-4 blocks) all played very, very well tonight. The picture below shows Rondo’s shot chart. By my count, that’s 3-of-6 on perimeter jumpers, and they weren’t gimmies. Without KG in the post and with the offense a bit disorganized at times, Rondo was forced to create his own shots on the perimeter–and he made them at a decent clip. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In any case, we’ll have more tomorrow on Powe as well as preview of the game against Miami which will find the C’s even more short-handed than they were tonight. Let’s hope that KG and Davis are back on Friday, and we can get back to some normal, meaningful hoops.

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