Pace: 95 possessions (medium-fast)
Offensive Efficiency: 109 points/100 possessions (top ten)
Defensive Efficiency: 107.5 points allowed/100 possessions (average)
Thumbnail: The C’s wasted a dynamite first half by letting the Wizards back into the game (boo!) but then composed themselves and pulled out a win against a team that came to play (yay!). And Rajon…Rajon is getting there as a scorer (10-of-20 from the floor, tying his regular-season career high for FGAs).
This was a strange game that felt over at halftime, after the C’s blitzed the Wiz for 64 first half points on 63 percent shooting and managed to not allow a single Wizard rebound in the 2nd quarter. (Read that again). The C’s dominated the interior, taking advantage of mismatches (Perkins-Jamison, Sheed-Oberto) and all sorts of openings created by various screen/roll combinations. The Wizards could not rotate fast enough, and the C’s interior passing just decimated them.
Boston attempted 21 first half free throws (to just eight for the Wiz), and though Washington shot a smidgen over 50 percent (21-of-41) for the half, you never got the sense that they had Boston’s screen/roll defense figured out. They could not get into the paint.
And then the 3rd quarter started, and it all went to crap. The Wiz went on a 22-6 run to take a 72-70 lead.
What the hell happened? As usual, the tendency among the die-hards will be to blame the Celtics. And there is certainly some blame to go around. Paul Pierce committed three fouls in the first 4:30 of the quarter, forcing Doc to replace the captain with (gulp) Tony Allen. But the Wiz had already cut the lead to 70-64 at that point. The C’s had missed their first five shots of the quarter, allowing the Wiz to get back in the game despite the fact that Washington needed 13 offensive trips to score their first 14 points of the quarter—not a good scoring rate.
At that point, the C’s were in control of the game. They had just been missing shots—some tough, some easy. It happens. You’re still up by six against an inferior club. Re-take control.
Then the real ugliness began.
The C’s turned the ball over five times in the last 7:00 of the quarter, including three cough-ups in a span of four possessions, a streak that catapulted the Wiz into the lead. The Wiz also grabbed offensive rebounds on four of six possessions during an overlapping stretch, and those boards turned into a made free throw, a three-pointer and two regular baskets.
These are the streaks that drive you crazy and lose you games. The Wiz only grabbed eight offensive rebounds in 38 rebounding chances (21 percent) under Boston’s basket, so Boston did its job on the boards in a general sense
But damn if it didn’t feel that way. And that’s because the timing of those rebounds was so damaging. When the C’s absolutely needed to finish a defensive stop and derail the run, they could not do it. (Nor could they do it with 1:21 left, when Jamison grabbed a rebound in traffic and tossed in a typical Jamison awkward-yet-effective over-the-shoulder put-back to tie the game at 98).
And Tony Allen, I’m sorry, but there’s a reason Celtics fans really have a hard time with you. Just watch the tape at the 5:03 mark of the 3rd quarter, when Jamison steals your badly telegraphed (and lazy) cross-court pass to Ray Allen, streaks down the court and converts a fast-break lay-in as you give him a nice little love tap across the chest so that he gets an extra free throw.
That’s a potential five-point swing in 10 seconds of terrible decision-making. And I won’t even address the palming violation later in that quarter—committed when there wasn’t a defender within 10 feet of Tony.
I’m sorry. I’ll stop. This is the guy’s second game back, and he was a team-best +14 (which is proof more that plus/minus can be a shaky stat for individual games than of Tony Allen’s positive contributions). And Tony did help in the 2nd quarter run, with 3-of-3 shooting, a couple of offensive boards and generally good, mistake-free play.
In any case, all of this ranting requires two disclaimers. One: The Wizards offense played well in the 2nd half. The C’s strategy on screen/roll was to have Rajon chase Arenas over the screen while the big man (Perk) dropped back to the foul line to prevent penetration. In the first half, it worked.
In the second half, Gil said to hell with it, put his head down and drove into the lane. It wasn’t pretty, but he either finished strong or drew the defense and dished to someone else. It might have been the best any team has attacked the C’s screen/roll defense this year for an extended stretch.
The second disclaimer: The C’s responded with a cool 9-0 run in the 3rd and sound offensive play the rest of the way. Ray Allen righted the ship late in the 3rd with two long jumpers (the latter set up by a pass only a handful of point guards could make—a high cross-court pass Rondo threw from the right baseline to the left wing).
And the C’s late-game execution was fantastic. KG hit a long jumper off a pick-and-pop with Rajon. With 2:11 to go and the score tied at 94, Paul Pierce did what Paul Pierce does—get to the foul line in crunch time, thanks to a well-designed screen/roll with Ray Allen as the screener.
From there, Rondo took over. A gorgeous floater followed by an aggressive baseline jam (thanks to a KG screen Wiz fans in the ESPN chat room claimed was illegal), and then it was a matter of hitting enough foul shots.
Let’s go with bullets the rest of the way:
• About Rajon: I really can’t remember having so much fun watching a player. This is our guy, and we are watching him grow every game. He attempted 20 shots, by the far the most he’s taken this season (and tied for his regular season career high). According to his shot chart, half of those were jumpers, and he made four of them. He also attempted a half-dozen floaters that ranged from “he should make that” to “that’s a tough shot” to “that should have been a tough shot but he made it easy for himself.”
He’s getting better at all of these shots. Now, 4-of-10 on jumpers isn’t great, but the fact that he took ten of them is noteworthy in itself. This is a guy who just wouldn’t take them last year—and his coach was fine with that refusal. This is a guy who, not two weeks ago, made us wonder whether he was cautious about attacking the basket because he was afraid to get fouled and shoot free throws.
Not tonight. Progress. Thrilling, thrilling progress.
• Sheed took just two shots tonight. That will likely never happen again, and I’d have to re-watch the game to figure out why it happened tonight. I can tell you this: Asking Sheed to guard mobile big men is defensive suicide. He can’t do it. Andray Blatche, who is becoming a nice player, made Sheed look bad.
Maybe he’ll be able to guard the Blatches of the world one he gets in shape? I doubt it, though.
• Tonight was a very good demonstration of where KG is as an offensive player. He was excellent in the 1st half, with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, almost all on dunks or wide-open jumpers created by penetration or pick-and-pops. Those looks mostly dried up in the 2nd half, and suddenly you saw KG taking a turnaround, then one of those jumpers where he takes a dribble to create space before shooting. And he missed those.
This is what I was hinting at the other day when I wrote about the fact that somewhere around 80 percent of KG’s baskets this season have been assisted on—by far the highest rate of his career. He is working beautifully within the offense but is struggling to create his own shot.
Is that a skill he can recover?
• Nick Young: You’re an NBA player, please stop celebrating after every single basket you make. The smirking head shake, the dusting off the shoulders thing—it’s tired, and we don’t need to see it after you make a (bad) jumper to put your team up 12-10 in a December game.
• In a way, DeShawn Stevenson’s flagrant foul on Kendrick Perkins was a dirtier play than the infamous Trevor Ariza foul on Rudy Fernandez that had Blazer fans calling for everything short of a murder trial. Stevenson shoved Perkins in the back with two hands as Perk went airborne for an easy lay-in. Ariza at least made something resembling a basketball play. Stevenson just shoved a dude into the basket support and the photographers. But everyone will forge it because Perk made the shot and bounced right up.
• The C’s got burned making a mistake that is epidemic around the NBA but rarely happens in Boston: Over-helping. Watch those two Andray Blatche jumpers at 8:30 and 7:48 of the 4th quarter. On the first, Sheed just decides he doesn’t feel like guarding Blatche and would rather stand around the edge of the paint even though the C’s have Earl Boykins well bottled up.
On the next possession, Shelden Williams does the same thing (though not with nearly the same laziness) and leaves Blatche alone for an easy three from the right corner. I realize Blatche had made on three-pointer before then, but the general point is not to over-help, and doing so cost the C’s during a key stretch tonight. More sloppiness.
• Isn’t it remarkable that I can get to this point and not even mention that Kendrick Perkins went for 16-11 with two blocks? This is just par for the course now.
That’s it for tonight. Look for some more analysis tomorrow as we wind down the week and get ready for the dysfunctional Bulls on Saturday.