Pace: 89 possessions (slow)
Offensive Efficiency: 110 points/100 possessions (top 10)
Defensive Efficiency: 100 points allowed/100 possessions (league best)
Some bullet points to tide you over until Brendan’s full recap:
• During the ESPN chat last night, I wrote the following: “If you’re a sub.-500 team that plays hard, you’re almost guaranteed to play the C’s close in Boston this season. It’s uncanny.” Of course, this is exactly the kind of silly, knee-jerk generalization I strive not to write on this site. But after early-season home blowouts against the Bobcats, Bulls and Jazz, the C’s have undeniably fiddled around with lesser teams in Boston. Golden State and a badly undermanned Philly team hung around into the late stages, and the Bucks did tonight despite shooting just 43 percent and committing 20 turnovers.
And I can’t help but write the following mathematical property: Allowing 14 offensive rebounds to the 22nd-best (or 8th-worst) offensive rebounding team in the league = A sign that the urgency just was not there.
• That said, the C’s basic defensive foundation—their screen/roll defense—was as stalwart as ever and completely flummoxed Brandon Jennings for the bulk of the game. They did exactly what they should have done: forced Jennings into taking two-pointers on the move. When Rondo was in the game, they defended Jennings the same way on screen/roll every time: Rondo chased him over the screen while the screener’s man (usually Perk) slid over along the foul line to cut off the lane. The message was simple: Go ahead and pull up for that contested 18-footer or make a difficult move to the rim and test our defense.
The box score will show Jennings took four shots from three-point range (where he came in shooting nearly 45 percent), but two occurred during the last 1:49, when the game was over and the Bucks were in desperation mode.
• The C’s took 67 shots tonight. That is extremely low, as offensive rebounds and second-chance shots continue to be hard to come by. The C’s have taken fewer shots just once this season (last week’s blowout win in Charlotte) and attempted 67 or fewer shots just five times last season. (Record: 3-2).
• Could we have gotten a more typical TA performance in his long-awaited (by which I mean not long-awaited) return? Zero points, two missed free throws, two turnovers, one rebound, one assist and a team worst -8 in six minutes.
But it wasn’t just the stat line. It’s the way TA teases you with a pretty play only to undo all the good he’s achieved by doing something dumb. And this transition occurs almost instantly. Within two minutes of entering the game for the first time, TA bullied Carlos Delfino under the rim, received the ball, fooled Delfino with a shot fake and drew a shooting foul.
And in that moment, I was thinking: “Yes! This is exactly what the C’s need from TA. The team doesn’t draw a lot of fouls, and that’s one thing he’s good at and oh my freaking god he’s about to convert this into an And-1!”
And then he missed a relatively clean lay-up. Didn’t even graze the rim. Then he missed both free throws.
Throw in a classic TA charging foul on an out-of-control fast break drive, and I officially ran through a season’s worth of the Seven Stages of TA in six minutes of playing time.
But damn if he didn’t look good driving to the foul line area, drawing the D and dishing to shooters on the perimeter. Right?
(It begins. Again.)
• To the C’s credit, they milked mismatches whenever available. That meant a lot of KG against Ersan Ilyasova in the post (especially early, when KG scored eight first-quarter points). KG continues to shoot the ball well—he was 9-of-13 tonight. Even better? Those nine free throw attempts. After getting to the line just 22 times in 11 games, KG has attempted 39 free throws in the team’s last 10 games.
• The line-up experimentation continues, and it’s generally hard for me to take a game seriously when Doc Rivers has Brian Scalabrine playing small forward for extended minutes—and against a small Bucks line-up to boot. He was actually guarding Charlie Bell for one possession in the 2nd quarter.
We saw this in the pre-season: The team wishes Scal could play the three. He can’t.
• Doc is also settling into a pattern of using House as the first sub off the bench and playing Rondo with either four back-ups or three back-ups and one starter during the 2nd quarter. Doc went away from this against the Spurs, choosing instead to keep Rondo in as Tony Parker’s primary defender. Doc did not show Jennings the same respect tonight.
It will be interesting to see how these line-ups perform over the long haul. This strikes me as a smart thing to try. House’s shooting ability should mesh well with the starters, and Rondo’s play-making could help the bench. But we’ll see if the “on paper” attractiveness translates to reality.
• Andrew Bogut ate up Kendrick Perkins tonight, and it got me to thinking: Orlando, Cleveland and Boston spend a lot of time thinking about each other. The C’s are fortunate to have a post defender (Perk) strong enough to defend Dwight Howard one-on-one. The Cavs didn’t have that player last season, so they risked their chemistry and traded for Shaq.
Meanwhile, here’s Andrew Bogut facing up and taking Perk and Sheed along the right baseline, juking Perk in the post and nailing hooks and turnarounds.
Maybe the C’s are fortunate Bogut plays for the Bucks. He averaged 16-9 against Boston last season, and his rare combo of strength and quickness clearly bothers Perk.
• ESPNBoston‘s Chris Forsberg reports that the Celtics are now 12-0 when Sheed makes at least two three-pointers in a game. I sort of hope the team does not tell Sheed about this.
• Speaking of Sheed, he made a corner three tonight! Only 11 of Sheed’s 109 three-point attempts this season have come from the corners, according to NBA.com’s Hot Spots feature. I will have more on this later in the week. It’s worth noting that the corner three came about by accident, after Sheed fumbled a tough Pierce entry pass on the left block and ran to recover the ball in the left corner.
• Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a beast on defense. Pierce finished with an efficient 15-5-5, but he took only nine shots. And he had to work hard for those shots when Mbah a Moute was in the game. Pierce was running around screens along the baseline and at the elbows as if he were Ray Allen, trying anything to get some space.
And what happened when the Bucks replaced Mbah a Moute with Charlie Bell in the 1st quarter? The C’s went right to Pierce in the post against Carlos Delfino, and the captain easily converted an And-1.
• Just four minutes for Shelden Williams tonight. That’s five sub-10:00 games in the his last eight. Tonight may have been about match-ups, though; Shelden would have had a difficult time guarding mobile power forwards like Ersan Ilyasova and Hakim Warrick.
• Every time I write a preview, I predict a final score. If I do this blog for 10 years, I may never get one right. But tonight I came close. I predicted 98-86. Damn.
In the comments, I also predicted a 6-of-19 performance for Jennings. He was 7-of-19. So close.
• The C’s are a different sort of defensive beast this season. They are still #1 in team defensive rating (as measured by points allowed per 100 possessions), but they’ve slipped to #6 in opponents’ effective field-goal percentage and #13 (likely worse after tonight) in defensive rebounding, according to Basketball Reference.
But they are forcing turnovers at insane rate. Chalk up 20 more tonight. The Bucks turned the ball over on 22 percent of their possessions. Overall, the C’s are forcing turnovers on 17 percent of opponent possessions, a rate higher than any team has averaged since the ’06 Bobcats.
Can the C’s keep this up? I doubt it. Which makes it paramount that they clean up their defensive rebounding when the games matter.
• How many times have we seen the play where KG gets the ball in the post, passes over his shoulder to Rondo as Rajon cuts into the lane and immediately touches a quick pass to Perk for the lay-in? I never get tired of it.
• Some house-cleaning: KG passed Sixers legend Hal Greer tonight to move into 30th place on the NBA/ABA all-time scoring list and 25th on the NBA-only list. Next? Larry Legend.
• Ray Allen will likely join the 20,000 point club on Thursday against Washington. He’s sitting at 19,986 after tonight. A pre-emptive congrats to one of the league’s great guys and one of its all-time great shooters.
That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow I’m off to MSG to watch UConn play Kentucky and get a glimpse of John Wall.