Pace: 97 possessions (fast)
Offensive Efficiency: 112 points/100 possessions (top 3)
Defensive Efficiency: 98 points allowed/100 possessions (league-leading)
The Celtics won this game by 14 points and held Golden State to a point total that would rank at the bottom of the league once you adjust for pace. But this was not an encouraging defensive performance. If the Warriors weren’t determined to toss the ball all over the place like a bunch of high school kids who just chose up sides in a pick-up game, they could have put up nice offensive numbers tonight.
The C’s screen/roll defense just wasn’t there in the first half. The C’s point guards (Rajon Rondo, and then, after Rajon picked up two fouls in the first 3:23 of the game, Eddie House) tried to fight through Mikki Moore/Anthony Randolph screens or chase Monta Ellis/Steph Curry over them. That’s the proper play, and it’s the play Doc has instructed them to make.
And they got burned for it. And they got burned because the help defense from the big men—other than Perk—was not up to snuff. Wallace was particularly bad early. Instead of anticipating the screen and hedging to the side or jumping out over the screen, the C’s big men just sagged back under it, allowing Curry and Ellis to turn the corner and zip by them in the paint. From there, they could take the ball to the rim or kick to an open shooter on the wing whose man had bolted to help inside. There’s a reason the Warriors shot 50 percent in the first half despite being the Warriors and taking their usual share of Bad Warriors Shots.
But it wasn’t all Sheed. Watch at the 52.7 mark of the 2nd quarter, when Corey Maggette takes a dribble hand-off/screen from Mikki Moore, takes two dribbles left and pulls up from the top of the key after realizing that no one was guarding him because KG sagged into the paint instead of jumping out. Even Heinsohn noticed: “That’s the easiest jump shot Maggette will get in his life.”
The C’s tightened things up in the 2nd half. If you watch the tape, you’ll see they had their big men jump out on the ball handlers much more aggressively, even trapping them at times. It disrupted the screen/roll, and when you disrupt the screen/roll against a team that doesn’t have a Plan B—either because it they don’t care to or because they ignore it—then Plan B becomes jacking up bad shots and committing turnovers.
Still, this was not as good a defensive performance as the efficiency stats would suggest. The Warriors shot 45.7 percent from the floor—about league average, including 50 percent in the first half (21-of-42). Cut the turnovers from 21 to, say, 13, and the C’s are in trouble. And I’d say at least eight of those 21 turnovers were completely unforced.
The C’s won this game with offense. We’ll get there in a second. But first: Anthony Randolph must be addressed.
The Hoops-o-Sphere loves Anthony Randolph and hates Don Nelson for not playing Anthony Randolph enough. But Randolph was a train wreck tonight. Yes, he scored 11 points and grabbed 8 boards in 24 minutes, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a sloppier performance this season (maybe because Tony Allen hasn’t played yet). Four turnovers, and these weren’t turnovers the C’s forced with great defense. We’re talking palming violations and a blatant travel while trying to make a move on the wing with nobody near him. Not to mention two awful goal-tending violations where he swatted at the ball after it had hit the glass (and despite the fact that neither shot had any chance to go in).
And it could have been worse. Lots of slips, near slips and precarious juggles. I can’t claim to watch every Warriors game, but I watch them in snippets, and Randolph is not as good right now—on this team, in this situation—as a lot of us think he is. Maybe the coach has ruined his confidence (he tore up the Summer League, after all), maybe his teammates are unhelpful, maybe he needs to play more to get through the learning process. But Anthony Randolph, tonight, caused as much harm as he did good.
Back to the C’s and their ultra-efficient offense tonight. This story splits neatly into two halves:
First half: The C’s just pounded the ball inside. Perk and KG combined for 20 points at the half on 8-13 shooting from the floor, and Golden State had no answer. Watching Vlad Radmanovic try and guard KG on the left block was just sad. I think Rondo and KG set the record for “most obvious telegraph ever of a backdoor alley-oop” with about 9:00 left in the first quarter, only Radman somehow missed the signs. KG went to post up Vlad on the left block, and Vlad responded by trying to front him as Rondo eyed the situation from the perimeter. He and KG stared at each other for at least two full seconds before KG spun and Rondo delivered the alley-oop pass.
Even people in the crowd saw it coming. Poor Radman.
In any case, smart teams take advantage of mismatches and stick with what works. Credit the C’s for going inside early and often.
Second Half: Rajon Rondo arrives. It’s lazy analysis to say it at this point, but the team is different when Rajon Rondo is attacking the rim with at least some intent to score. It’s not a coincidence that the Celtics hit their second three-pointer of the game when Rondo turned the corner on the left baseline, drew the defense under the rim and kicked the ball to a wide open Pierce on the right wing. And it’s not a coincidence that Sheed hit his first three-pointer of the game a few minutes later on a pick-and-pop when Rondo drove right and drew two defenders, including Sheed’s.
And it’s probably not a coincidence that those plays came after Rondo had already established he was attacking the rim to score instead of looking to dump the ball off.
A dozen points in the 3rd for Rajon on his way to 18-12-7 (and four turnovers) after being in Foul Trouble Prison for most of the first half. Solid offensive performances from the rest of the key guys, though KG’s inability to get to the line remains troubling
Overall, a win that raises more concerns than anything else. But you take those wins and move on. Orlando arrives Friday. My dislike is already simmering.
• Nice to see Eddie House hit some shots, including a foot-on-the-liner from the left corner off an inbounds play on which the Warriors literally didn’t guard him. Terrible.
• Mikki Moore: Two fouls in the first 2:12 of a game in which his short-handed team, on the second half of a back-to-back, badly needed him to avoid foul trouble. Where have I seen this before?
• The C’s again looked shaky on the defensive glass in the first half, when they allowed the Ws to to grab seven offensive boards out of a possible 21 rebounds on the C’s end—33 percent. That’s bad. But they cleaned it up in the 2nd half, allowing just one Warriors ORB. Of course, the Warriors rank 28th in offensive rebounding, so no reason to celebrate.
• Sheed screamed “Ball Don’t Lie!” three times by my count after the refs whistled him for swiping Anthony Randolph’s right arm on a fast break. Sheed got the ball initially but then got a whole lot of Randolph’s shoulder. Is that a foul? In any case, Randolph missed the first FT, and Sheed unloaded the Triple BDL. Awesome.
• When the C’s played Charlotte, I wrote about how the team had great success when Rondo brought the ball up the left side of the floor and the C’s ran a pick-and-roll for him near the sideline just past midcourt—about 40 feet from the hoop. I wondered then if the C’s liked this play or ran it out of necessity because Charlotte was pressing Rajon far from the hoop.
After tonight, I’m leaning to the former. Three times tonight (all in the 2nd half), Rajon slow-dribbled over the midcourt line along the left sideline and stopped there, waiting for a screen to his right. And three times, he ignored the screen and zoomed along the sideline and around his defender, forcing the W’s to collapse and creating all sorts of open passing lanes.
I’ll have more on this later. It’s a great way to force Rajon into being aggressive and driving toward the hoop.
• I’ve always liked Corey Maggette, and I always will. I’d take on him on the C’s in a second. I’m fully aware of his faults—selfishness and questionable defense. But dude can draw fouls and get to the basket any time he wants. And he’s built like a freaking Greek god.
• 18 more turnovers from the C’s. Sigh.
That’s it for tonight. More tomorrow. 9-3 is a good thing.