Go ahead and say it, because I know you will anyway. The Celtics got caught looking ahead to Phoenix on Friday. The Celtics looked gassed and can’t handle back-to-back games. Rondo can’t shoot. Ray Allen is not the same. We should trade Perk for Pecherov…
Okay some of those have a shred of truth in them and some of those were just for fun. The truth is the Celtics are old, but I refuse to use that pitiful excuse for this game. If the Celtics can’t handle a back-to-back after only playing five games than they are not getting out of the first round of the playoffs and they are not even winning 60 games. The Celtics just played badly, plain and simple. They played poorly and they had the luxury of Minnesota eventually having to go with their bench, who couldn’t get a second chance point if their lives depended on it. A series of one-and-done’s in the second and third quarters by the T-Wolves bench single-handedly got the Celtics back in this game. What eventually allowed them to take the lead and not give it back was what everyone knew all along: at some point the T’Wolves shots would stop falling.
The T’Wolves missing shots is a two part process (which was highlighted nicely in the bullets put up by Zach Lowe). First, the T’Wolves just weren’t going to shoot 60% all night, I don’t care if you emptied the gym and widened the cylinder. The second, is that the Celtics defense started to show some life down the stretch in a couple different ways.
The best thing the Celtics were able to do on D is push back on Al Jefferson while he tried to post up. Jefferson inevitably caught the ball about a step in from the three point arc, well out of his comfort zone. Whomever was guarding Al (Perk, KG, ‘Sheed) would then slack off and almost beg Al to take an out-of-his-range jump shot. It was the perfect way to play Al considering the Celtics went into the game knowing he was going to get his points and limited him to 18 points on 17 shots. That’s a pat on the back anyway you look at it.
Except in the way that it led to Oleksiy Pecherov having the best game of his career. Pecherov was an anomaly last night. He’s painfully slow, yet lulled the Celtics defenders to sleep enough to score 24 points and get some big rebounds. He’s a seven footer who doesn’t jump when he shoots and the only post game is a product of the hours and hours some coach made him do the Mikan drill, without a stopwatch. I just can’t fathom how a guy like this, that was guarded by Kevin Garnett, was able to have a game like this. Unless, of course, Garnett just didn’t want to touch him, which is something I can understand. Zach Lowe thinks Pecherov is the love child of Stewie Griffin and Matthew Lillard but I actually think it’s much simpler than that. Oleksiy Pecherov is the third McPoyle Twin. What’s the difference between this guy:
and this guy?
If you said only a foot, you’d be right.
The T’Wolves declined the pick up Pecherov’s option last week. If I was his agent I’d reach out to the Sixers and say something like, “I know you already have a slow, seven foot white guy in Jason Smith, but Pecherov (“Milosh only wants to play in Dallas”) would love the guest star on It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia. Can we work something out?” I think Charlie, Mac, Dee, and Dennis would jump at the chance to put Frank next to a seven footer. God I love physical comedy.
Seriously though, there is something I don’t understand and I hope you can help me. I understand the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily take their style cues from the United States (let’s be honest, we made the Snuggie), but c’mon Pecherov. That greasy look can’t be attractive in the Ukraine. Like Pau Gasol’s Farrah Fawcett Feathering and Mehmet Okur’s whatever-it-is-it-sticks-up-in-the-back and makes you look like you have trouble adding and subtracting, Pecherov has a style unto his own.
Where was I…Oh yeah. So KG probably didn’t want to touch Oleksiy Pecherov. Fair enough. That is the only way I can see Pecherov playing that well with KG on him. KG didn’t look slow or out of sorts tonight. In fact I spent most of the night screaming for Garnett to switch up and guard Al Jefferson. I really don’t know why Doc Rivers went to Perkins almost exclusively to guard Al. Aside from the obvious story line of both of them being front court mates and friends when they both played for the Celtics (writer’s only care about that stuff anyway). Perkins has undoubtedly proven himself to be a good defender, but he really exells when using his body to push big guys around. Al Jefferson, for all intents and purposes, is a finesse player. Much like KG, Jefferson can now spot up midrange, put the ball on the floor, and he has a myriad of different post moves that scream Kevin McHale.
At one point in the third quarter, the Celtics had finally switched up, whether is was due to just transition match-ups or whether it was intentional, KG matched up with Al Jefferson and Perkins took Ryan Hollins. The guard (I can’t remember if it was Flynn or Sessions) gave the ball to Hollins who promptly turned it over due in no small part to Perk’s defense. I felt vindicated (okay not really, it seemed more of a “that’s the way the ball bounces” play but I’ll take what I can get).
Aside from not being able to defend Owen McPoyle for most of the game, the Celtics’ starters looked inert last night. When the Celtics are playing poorly on offense, they let Pierce do isolations from the wing. These yielded very little positive results. When they weren’t deferring to Pierce’s isolations, they were letting Ray Allen brick wide open three point shots. It was almost painful to see Ray Ray shoot these last two games. You used to always say your obligatory “basket’s good” every time the defense failed to rotate to Ray on time (whether it was “For Three…,” “Schwapums,” “Count It” is up to you). Now you can tell every time he releases the ball whether or not it’s going to have a chance. This seems like a scary prospect, but I assure you, Ray will be back. It’s hard for a shooter like Ray to have two bad games in a row. It’s even harder for him to have three bad games in a row, especially if there is an off day in between. This is why I predict he’ll be back to some semblance of normalcy when he goes back home to the Garden rims.
A few parting thoughts after the jump.
I usually organize my In-Game Transcript by quarters so here is my quarter by quarter analysis of the Ug-fest that was the game last night.
- The first quarter the Celts came out and looked a lot like they did at their worst last year. They were slow and settled for a lot of one on one Isos with Pierce. They had huge success when Rondo drew big Al away from Perk and he got two dunks. You would think they would stick to this kind of play but they didn’t. Ray can’t hit anything.
- Bench comes in and plays well. Daniels is just so solid. Slowly worked the lead down with Minne’s bench being so bad. No second chance points for the T’Wolves. Williams still has no hands but he’s patient enough to collect his awkwardness, get the ball, and slam it home.
- Great up and under move by Perk on Al. Probably learned it from him…or Kevin McHale.
- I love how ‘Sheed’s length allows him to be lazy on defense and still formidable. I can’t count how many time he’s reached around Hollins and poked the ball away. Man, he must be so annoying to play against.
- There is no bad shot in Eddie House’s mind.
- I really thought the Celtics would pull away in this quarter and all would be forgiven. An Eddie House buzzer beater to tie it up. Could we really lose this game?
- Daniels misses two potentially momentum turning FTs.
- Does anyone box anymore? Shelden and Pierce haven’t boxed anyone all game. Pierce just got out rebounded by Pavolovic and Tommy chalks it up to Pavlovic being bigger. Weak Tommy, even for a Homer like me.
- Rondo has a huge steal with 2:30 to go. Doing something like this in the playoffs will only add to Rondo’s growing lore in Boston.
- Rondo misses his first attempt at a clutch jumper that would have extended the lead with a mintue to go. Alls well that ends well, but you got to hope this guy can figure it out.
Bonus Pecherov Joke:
- If they created Ivan Drago in some lab in Eastern Europe, then it appears they attempted to perfect that model for basketball and came up with the Frankenstein that is Oleksiy Pecherov.
The Celtics take on the Phoenix Suns on Friday, which will be a true test of their mettle. The Suns are coming off a blow out loss to the Orlando Magic so look for them to be hungry. However hard this game will be, it’s the perfect opportunity to make a statement about how one game is just that: one game.
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