Some bullet points for the Celtics 91-88 win over the Nyets:
• Glen Davis looks ready to play 24 minutes a game for this team. He’s a much better athlete than people usually give him credit for. In this game, he led a couple of successful fast breaks, used his quick hands to swipe three steals and darted over from the weak side to swat a Courtney Lee shot that would have put the Nets ahead with 23.7 seconds left. His mid-range jumper is falling, and his weight loss has made him quicker. Twice he blew by Brook Lopez off the dribble in isolation plays with the shot clock running down; he drained an easy hook on one and drew a foul on the other. Those plays would have ended in disaster a year ago.
Put simply: Baby has never looked better.
• The Celtics gave J.R. Giddens every opportunity to prove something tonight, and I’m not sure he did enough—despite a very solid 13 boards. The C’s ran the same play for him at least three times in the second quarter—a play in which he cut from the right corner into the paint just below the foul line for an isolation play/post up. He could not create a decent shot on any of those plays. He just doesn’t look ready to contribute, and he’ll be seeing a lot of either the bench or the D-League this season.
• Thanks, Ian Eagle, but I will pass on opening night tickets to the Izod Center. I live in New York City and I might be able to drive to a Sixers game faster than I can get to Izod on public transportation.
• Rondo Perimeter Jumper Watch: 2-of-6, according to ESPN’s shot chart of the game. His stroke looks better, though. The results will come. (Right?). Yes, he played 40 minutes tonight. No biggie. I’d expect him to play very little tomorrow against the Raps.
• The Grand Marquis missed the 2nd half with a stomach bug. That may explain one problem Marquis had in this game: He had trouble getting through screens when defending screen/roll plays, particularly if Brook Lopez was the screener. On one play with about 5:15 left in the 1st quarter, Daniels was guarding Chris Douglas-Roberts on the left wing when CDR tossed an entry pass into Lopez at the left elbow. CDR then did something simple: He cut to Lopez, who offered him a handoff/screen. The screen caught Marquis flush, and CDR dribbled into the paint and nailed an easy floater. Chalk it up to the stomach ailment. Marquis is smarter than that.
• Eddie House takes a lot of flak for his defense, but one thing he does very well is stay with speedy guys when they toss an entry pass and cut toward the baseline or the paint. Eddie stays in their hip pocket and keeps his hands up to defend a possible give-and-go dish from the big man.
• Lester Hudson’s jumper looks nice, but it isn’t going in yet. He works hard on both sides of the ball. There is a chance—a small one—that he can win a tiny role in the regular rotation as the season goes on.
• Speaking of line-ups: There was a stretch in the 2nd quarter when the C’s had Rondo, House and Daniels in the game at once, essentially using Daniels as the small forward. This is an interesting line-up. As I’ll write more tomorrow, the C’s most common “second units” last season involved either Pierce or Allen playing with four bench players. There was no true “second unit” in a hockey shift sense. Playing Rondo, Daniels and House with two big men is a new possibility, one that could allow Allen and Pierce to get a couple minutes of extra rest here and there. Daniels is a small but serviceable three, and the C’s used Ray as a three in spurts last season, so it’s do-able.
• Josh Boone really, really, really needs to re-think the new hair style.
• Speaking of Boone, one series of possessions late in the 1st quarter shows the difference between an elite big man defender (Sheed) and a shaky one (Boone). With about 1:30 to go, the Nets ran a Rafer Alston-Boone screen/roll on the right wing. Boone rolled to the right baseline, and his man (‘Sheed) slid over to the paint just a bit to cut off Alston’s penetration. But ‘Sheed has this way of somehow sliding horizontally and backward at the same time, so that he’s keeping Alston out of the lane while not straying too far from Boone. Sure enough, Alston dishes to Boone, who unhappily (for him) finds that Sheed is able to recover and contest the jumper in one big step. Brick. Great stuff.
Two Boston possessions later, Sheed (guarded by Boone) sets a simple off-ball screen for Eddie House near the three-point line on the left wing while Rondo dribbles the ball near half court. Rather than defend anyone, Boone just chills at the foul line. Eddie cuts in that direction, and Boone still just stands there. So Sheed moseys on out behind the three-point line, takes a pass from Rondo and drills an open three. Awful defense from Boone.
• No one in the league is as irritating (in a good way for the C’s) as Rondo is to inbounds passers and guys who have just grabbed rebounds. At least once a game, Rondo will either slap the ball away from some unsuspecting big man or jump to get his hands on an outlet pass—even as he’s jogging back on defense with his back to the ball. Tonight, the victim was Lopez. Rondo slapped the ball from Brook’s hands after a Lopez rebound mid-way through the 3rd quarter. Perk picked up the loose ball and laid it in, plus the foul. Great stuff from Rajon.
• Devin Harris has potential as a flopper, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Perk caught him with a possibly illegal screen early in the game, and Harris tossed his head back and shouted as if he’d been shot. Even worse, L’il Larry Frank, standing about 10 feet from the play, went into a fit on the sidelines wondering how this egregious miscarriage of replacement ref justice could have stricken his club. Everybody: chill. It’s the pre-season.
• Every time I watch Courtney Lee play I have the same reaction: Who is that big-looking, really athletic shooting guard? I always forget how big/tall Courtney Lee is. He’s 6’5” and yet in my head he’s 6’1”. Why is this? He’s going to be a really nice player for the Nyets.
• Shelden Williams played eight minutes and didn’t score or grab a rebound. I’m beginning to worry the C’s new Most Valuable Tweeter is not going to find a role on this club. More on this tomorrow.
• That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow we get to see the new-look Raptors.