Pace: 91 possessions (slow-ish)
Offensive Efficiency: 105.5 points/100 possessions (bottom third)
Defensive Efficiency: 106.5 points allowed/100 possessions (average)
This is why it’s silly to worry about home court advantage this early in the season and to look at the schedule and say, “Hey, the C’s could be 24-4 when they meet Orlando on Christmas!” Because there will be games like this, when the team just doesn’t play. I mean, credit to Philadelphia and all—they scored right at their season average (106.6 points/100 possessions) against arguably the best defensive team in the league. And they “held” the C’s to well below Boston’s average offensive production.
But you can’t turn the ball over 17 teams in a slow-paced game and allow Philadelphia to grab 17 offensive rebounds in 47 rebounding chances (36 percent, an offensive rebounding rate that would lead the league by leaps and bounds).
It’s easy to just say “Get a rebound, guys!” But let’s look at why the C’s didn’t get the key rebounds. Let’s look in particular at Elton Brand’s game-winning tip-in. Why was Brand able to do that? Well, because he was boxing out Paul Pierce. Wait, Paul Pierce? Why was Brand boxing out the C’s small forward?
Well, because the Sixers ran a screen/roll on the left wing with Brand (guarded by KG) setting a screen for Iguodala (guarded by Pierce). The intent was to have Iggy dribble left around the Brand pick. Except Brand never actually set the screen. He made a motion to do it, and KG suddenly jumped out to cut off Iguodala.
Brand noticed this and said, “Ok, then I’m abandoning this play and cutting to the hoop.” This was a smart move, because it basically forced the C’s into a de facto switch. The cut came so quickly—again, before Brand actually set a screen—that KG could not recover. Flash forward 10 seconds, Perk forces Marreese Speights into a tough 16-footer, and there’s Brand boxing out a helpless Pierce under the hoop. Ball game.
Whose fault is that? Why did KG jump the screen so quickly? Don’t we have confidence in Pierce’s ability to fight through it and stay with Iggy?
On a night when the a lot of the C’s poor habits returned, it’s fitting they lost the game on a strange defensive decision that led to an easy offensive rebound.
But of course that’s not really when they lost the game. That happened in the 3rd quarter.
The 3rd quarter was just a morass of bad Celtic basketball. It started at the 9:34 mark, when the C’s were still up, 59-47, and let Philly back in with turnovers and poor decisions on defense. Look, I don’t want to demean the Sixers, but they’re an average offensive team (at best) and generally have trouble scoring unless you give them some help.
Help is three straight unforced turnovers starting at that 9:34 mark when Ray Allen just dribbled the ball away turning the corner on a screen/roll. Then KG forced a damn near impossible pass from his perch on the left block to a cutting Ray—a staple of the C’s offense, yes, but one that KG tries to be too cute with sometimes, and this was one of those times. The next time down, Pierce tried to split the double-team on a screen/roll and lost the ball.
Forcing it. Lots of forcing it during that 3rd quarter. Perk was guilty of it, too, tossing up at least three difficult shots from a bit outside his wheelhouse against pitch-perfect defense from Dalembert and then Brand—and missing badly each time.
I’d guess that a dozen of the C’s 17 turnovers were basically unforced. Shelden Williams travels trying to make a move 20 feet from the hoop. Rajon Rondo throws a fast-break pass to KG but tosses it about 10 feet too far (and out of bounds). Someone throws a pass to Eddie House, who is sitting in a chair on the bench. Just sloppiness.
On defense, this was a bit a reversion to bad form from Rajon Rondo. Too much unnecessary gambling when average, disciplined defense would have sufficed.
The best example: With 2:54 to go in the 3rd, Jrue Holiday threw an entry pass to Brand on the left block and cut toward the basket to get out of Brand’s way, allowing Elton to work one-on-one against Scalabrine. Holiday ended up outside the paint on the right side of the hoop.
Now, is Scal-Brand a bad match-up? Sure. But it’s not as disastrous as it would have been three years ago. Chances are, Brand is going to end up with a contested 15-footer or a runner in the paint. He’s not going to blow by Scal for a dunk.
But Rondo decided to freelance. He abandoned Holiday and came over to double Brand. Watch the tape. Jrue doesn’t know what to do at first. He just stands outside the paint for a couple of seconds before realizing, “Wow, he’s really not going to guard me, huh? I guess I should cut to the basket now.” He makes the cut, Brand finds him and KG and Pierce dive down to help (off of Thaddeus Young and Iggy, respectively). Holiday makes the right play and finds Iggy on the right wing for an easy three-pointer.
That’s just unsound defense. Yes, the C’s held Philly to 40 percent shooting, but a handful of mistakes like these cost Boston this game.
You know what? It happens. This isn’t the first time the C’s have failed to bring it against a bad team at home, and it won’t be the last time. The team is 20-5. Let’s move on.
• Sheed: I can live with the technicals, if only because I’ve accepted them as part of my life, sort of like I’ve accepted the fact that the 6 train in Manhattan will always be awful. (You hear that MTA? You suck. Please feel free to hike my fare and cut service. The MTA: Going my way!).
But I can’t accept ejections. I don’t care if the calls were ticky-tacky or questionable (and two of his three fouls were). You can’t get ejected, you can’t yap at the ref and go after him like a manic, forcing poor Tom Thibodeau to give you a Posey hug just to restrain you. When you get ejected, you hurt the team. Kudos to Doc for somehow still limiting KG’s minutes to 34 even without Sheed.
• I am finalizing the Tony Allen Dos and Donts list, but I think we can safely add the following (a few of which have been suggested by commenters):
Do: Aggressively deny the ball against great shooters (he did this perfectly against Kapono, earning a steal and a dunk).
Do: Engage in hilariously awkward post-dunk celebrations, as long as they do not involve jumping, acrobatics or something else that could hurt your knee.
Do not: Go 1-on-2 on a fast break.
Do not: Try running jump hooks in the lane because you just dunked and you’re excited.
Really, though, TA helped tonight. Zero turnovers for TA, and that’s the key for him. Can he do that consistently?
• The growth of Rajon Rondo is just fascinating to watch. He got his most extended time as Alpha Dog with four back-ups tonight, and he showed the ability to be a go-to scorer. The C’s played the first 3:34 of the 4th with Rajon-House-TA-Shelden-Scal, and the Sixers outscored Boston by three in that span; Perk replaced Shelden, and the C’s played the next 1:08 with that group, outscoring Philly by one, according to Popcorn Machine.
So, basically: Rajon was the primary option for nearly five minutes and the C’s hung in. They only scored on three of eight offensive trips, and two of those hoops were “I’m taking charge” baskets from Rajon—once by turning the corner on the screen/roll and going in for a gorgeous lay-in, the next time by just blowing by Holiday at midcourt, forcing Speights to jump out at foul line and nailing a floater plus the foul. Very encouraging stuff.
Rajon also created good three-point looks for Scal and House. They just missed. Maybe they’ll go in next time.
This is interesting to watch.
• Before Sheed got himself ejected, he was working hard in the post against Speights and Brand. The C’s went to him there on three straight possessions, and he produced points each time—two field goals and a shooting foul. Good stuff. Too bad he got ejected!
• And being ejected, by the way, is the only way Sheed can go through a whole game without jacking a three. That happened tonight. How much do you want to bet it never happens again all season? What kind of odds could we get on, “There will be one more game this season in which Sheed doesn’t shoot a three”?
• That’s it for now. Apologies this was a bit later than usual—I had a farewell party for a former co-worker last night and had to wait until this morning watch this horror show game.
Enjoy the snowstorm, everyone!