Pace: 92 possessions (medium/slow)
Offensive Efficiency: 93.4 points/100 possessions (sub-Nets)
Defensive Efficiency: 100 points allowed/100 possessions (elite)
The Celtics played what was unquestionably their worst half of the season in the 2nd half tonight. They shot 9-of-34 from the field. They turned the ball over 10 times. They scored 30 points in two quarters of play, with an offensive efficiency of about 65 points per 100 possessions. I used to date a girl whose little sister played in a pee-wee basketball league. We went to some of their games. I’m pretty sure her team put up at least 65 points per 100 possessions in a half or two. The Nets score 97.6 points per 100 possessions.
By the way, three of Detroit’s six best players missed tonight’s game. If Detroit had more talented players, they would have scored more efficiently tonight. The Celtics did not play up to their defensive standards. You can get away with that, to a degree, against Jason Maxiell and Jonas Jerebko. Don’t let the numbers fool you—the team played poorly on both ends, and had no answer for the Rodney Stuckey screen/roll; Stuckey alone attempted 17 of Detroit’s 33 shots at the rim, according to Hoopdata.com. Boston normally allows 10 fewer attempts at the rim per game. Yuck.
Oh: Thirteen more offensive boards for the bad guys.
Bullets (Brian Robb will have further analysis tomorrow):
• The amazing thing about the 2nd half stink bomb is that the C’s offense looked beautiful for the first 24 minutes. The C’s scored 56 points on 21-of-36 shooting, and the movement was gorgeous. The offense was flowing, with four or sometimes five guys moving in concert in ways that provided several attractive options on every play.
It started with Pierce early. Doc clearly wanted Pierce to attack Jerebko, but he allowed for Pierce to attack in the flow of the offense instead of in isolation. Three times in the the first quarter, the C’s ran a play in which Pierce darted from the left wing to the top of the key, where he took a hand-off from Rajon Rondo and dribbled around one—and, in one instance, two—screens to get space for drives to the rim. On their last possession of the quarter, Pierce (playing off the ball) cut down from the three-point line into the paint, took a screen near the foul line from Brian Scalabrine and found himself wide open under the rim. He took a nice dish from TA and finished the And-1.
• This sort of movement continued in the 2nd quarter. TA sliced from the right corner, around a Baby screen and into the deep post area, where he posted up Stuckey for an easy hoop. Rondo and TA found Perk open under the rim on three different screen/rolls. House used a surprise ball screen in delayed transition to free himself for an open three.
• I have no clue what happened in the 2nd half. I re-watched a bunch of possessions during the game and a few more after the game. I can’t see Detroit doing anything obviously different, with the exception of a semi-zone they played for about three possessions in the 3rd quarter.
One thing I did notice: A huge number of isolations on offense from Boston. Kendrick Perkins: I love your game, I love your improvement on offense, but you can’t be taking baseline fadeaways from 15-feet away with a hand in your face (Charlie Villanueva blocked it). You can’t be facing up Jason Maxiell and waving the ball around like you’re Jordan (Maxiell stole it). You can’t force a fading shot from 15-feet away on the left block with Maxiell in your face (it was an air ball).
Those were the only three shots Perk missed tonight on seven attempts. But combine those ill-advised misses with four turnovers—and four turnovers per game has been par for the course with Perk for the last month, which is a huge problem—and you’re talking about four productive possessions out of 11 times Perk tried to do something with the ball.
• It wasn’t just Perk. Sheed launched an awful three with a hand in his face midway through the 3rd quarter. (He also went for a long-distance dunk he may not have been able to finish in 2006). Glen Davis tried to isolate against Ben Wallace on the right block with about 9:00 left in the game and missed badly.
Just a lot of stagnant offense in the 2nd half. It was jarring to watch after a gorgeous first half.
• T.M.T. (Too Many Turnovers). I’m sick of writing it.
• Two unintentionally hilarious understatements from the Detroit announce team tonight:
When Scal committed a traveling violation on a fast break with about 9:10 left in the 2nd quarter: “Scalabrine has never been known as a finisher.”
When Ben Wallace air-balled a free throw with the C’s up 58-56 in the 3rd: “The free throw won’t go.” (Yeah: It was a freaking air ball).
• A miserable game for Ray Allen. He had one made three nullified because he stepped on the sideline in the left corner. He had another wiped away because he took a little bunny hop to set himself in transition. Five turnovers for Ray. You know how many times he had previously committed five turnovers in 2 1/2 seasons in Boston? Once.
He also didn’t make a shot until the 3:26 mark in the 4th quarter. I’ll ask again: At what point do we start worrying about Ray Allen? That’s an honest question. I don’t know the answer.
• Ok, Arby’s, let me see if I understand this: Some fast food chains give home fans a free chalupa (or chalupa-like food product) every time their team scores 100 points. You give some lucky Detroit fans a free small order of french fries when a Detroit player records a triple-double? Why not just give out a free cup of ice whenever Ben Wallace hits a three-pointer? Or two free ketchup packets if Chucky Atkins hits double digits?
• The big men who form the back bone of the C’s stalwart screen/roll defense were off tonight. As Rondo did his job and chased Stuckey over screens, the big guy guarding the screener usually sagged into the paint, conceding the short jumper. This is fine, if a) you at least jump out and contest; or b) you don’t let Stuckey blow by you if he decides to put his head down and drive.
Too many times tonight, they did neither.
• No one on the court could defend Villanueva adequately.
• I mentioned this earlier, but let’s revisit it: Detroit grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in 38 chances—an offensive rebounding rate of 34 percent, which would lead the league. The C’s, an elite defensive rebounding team in each of the last two seasons, came into this game 16th in defensive rebounding percentage and will likely fall another spot or two once tonight’s stats are factored in.
Of all the negative trends we’ve seen in this current 4-7 stretch, this one worries me the most.
If you want to simplify, there are four sorts offensive boards:
1) Athleticism ORBS: We saw a few of these tonight, when Sheed and Brian Scalabrine were in decent position, only to have better athletes (including Rodney Stuckey, who grabbed six offensive rebounds tonight) fly in from behind and out-jump them. This will be less of a problem if/when KG returns and Big Baby plays himself into shape. But Sheed can’t jump. There will be a couple of these per game.
2) Laziness: Watch the tape of that Jonas Jerebko put-back with 3:38 to go that put Detroit up 84-76. Jerebko’s guy (Pierce) has to leave Jerebko to help on screen/roll. Sheed recognizes this and moves over beside Jerebko on the right edge of the paint as Ben Wallace goes up for a short shot. Except Sheed literally just stands there, straight up, on Jerebko’s right hip. Jerebko is literally giving Sheed inside position if Sheed wants it. All he has to do is slide to his left and box Jerebko out.
Instead, he just stands there as Jerebko slips past him for the tip-in. Awful. I trust this sort of thing will not happen in the springtime.
3) Bad luck rebounds: Long and unpredictable, sort of like M. Knight Shyamalan envisions his movies. There’s nothing you can do about these.
4) Compromised Paint Rebounds: This is Boston’s biggest problem, by far. This usually happens off of screen/rolls, when one big guy (defending the screener) has slid over to cut off a ball-handler’s penetration and the team’s second big has moved away from his guy to help defend the roll man. If a shot goes up in this situation, your best rebounders are out of position; the paint is compromised.
This is where your other three guys have to do more. If, say, Rodney Stuckey shoots an 18-footer from the elbow off a screen/roll, the guy guarding the three-point shooter standing in the weak side corner has to sprint in and box someone out.
It’s not easy. It’s not always a matter of “effort,” either, since the last thing you want to do is leave a great shooter open in the corner in case the rebound squirts away to someone else who passes the ball to your guy.
But the C’s are getting killed with these kinds of rebounds.
• The Pistons TV crew did their best to make it seem like the Palace crowd reacted strongly to Rasheed Wallace’s return to Detroit. They didn’t. If you think they did, you’ve forgotten how the fans—and the Pistons organization—reacted to the return of Chauncey Billups last season:
The differences are striking. Sheed got a separate intro, but it was nowhere near as enthusiastic and loud as the one for Chauncey. And there is no comparison in the crowd response. Some of this is due to the fact that the Pistons were still decent last season when Billups returned, and that unexpected trade ripped Billups away from his team and fans while Sheed left for cash.
But this also has to do with the difference between someone who always plays hard and cares most about winning and someone who sometimes puts his own temper above his team and dogged his last season in Detroit.
• To Doc’s credit, both Ray and Pierce played fewer minutes than their season averages tonight.
That’s it for me tonight. I’m tired and cranky. Brian Robb will bring some added analysis of this game tomorrow.