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Saturday Notebook: KG’s Back, Marquis is Close, Doc Eases Up on Baby, a Word on Conan

 

• You know why Kevin Garnett is a great player and a great teammate? Things like this (via ESPNBoston): 

“But for the most part, man, I kept asking Paul, kept asking Ray, kept asking Rondo, and the other guards, how were my shows [on Portland's picks] and things like that.”

One of the 25 best players ever, a member of the 20,000-point club (and only about 50 points behind Larry Legend, by the way) comes back from an injury and he’s concerned most about…how well he’s jumping out to cut off penetration on screen/rolls? If Amaré Stoudemire made screen/roll defense, oh, I don’t know, the 27th-highest priority on his list, he might be someone people talk about as a great all-around player and franchise cornerstone. 

If anything, KG might have jumped out too aggressively on screen/rolls last night; he was sliding out far and sliding out early, but it didn’t seem to hurt the back line of the Celtics defense. 

• Doc’s grade on KG’s return? Pretty solid (again, via ESPNBoston):

“But overall, defensively, he looked terrific. Just absolutely terrific.”

• KG addressed the fact that he was visibly limping at one point in the game (via the Herald’s Mark Murphy): 

“I got banged a couple of times,” KG said. “You know, it’s part of the game. You get roughed up. The old ’76 Pinto got banged up against the wall a little bit. Just give it gas. It keeps going.”

Can we get that ’76 Pinto upgraded to, say, an ’83 Celica by playoff time, please? 

• The rest of the post-game is, not surprisingly, focused on Ray Allen, and his instant move from goat to hero:

-Doc Rivers (via Murphy at the Herald):  “Ray’s a shooter, and you’ve just got to keep shooting.”

- Doc again, via ESPNBoston, showing he has a very good understanding of math: “But shooters shoot and eventually you just have to think the odds [are with you]. Every miss meant the odds were on our side more [that Allen would make the next one] is the way I was looking at it.” 

-Paul Pierce, via the Globe: “You know, Ray is one of the great shooters of all time – I told him that in the huddle. He had the looks, but the one we needed, he was able to knock it down, and that’s how much we believe in Ray. We told him to keep shooting. And he came up the very next play, he had the wide-open look. That’s what we expect from Ray. We believe in him that much, no matter how his night is going.’’

-Nate McMillan, reflecting on Ray’s big shot (and Ray’s wide-open miss on the prior possession—via ESPNBoston): “We lost him early,” said McMillian. “I think a possession before that he missed a 3, but then we lost him again, and he hit that same shot. You know he’s gonna knock that shot down.”

-And Ray, with an interesting after-the-fact explanation for his shooting woes (via this Herald piece): 

“What was interesting was I didn’t take any shots in the first half – I missed two layups – so my rhythm wasn’t established early,” he said. “Still, it looked good and felt good when it left my hand. It was frustrating, but I kept thinking about the next shot. The free throws were really frustrating. They were still on line, but they were long. I felt like I was off just a little bit.”

A look at the shot chart shows Ray is right—he didn’t take any shots outside about 12 feet in the first half. 

Look: Ray is shooting 34.7 percent from three-point range this season. That would be the worst percentage of his career, by a decent margin. This was not just a one-game slump. That percentage isn’t quite a disaster, but it’s not far from it. He needs to shoot better. 

• Some good news: Marquis Daniels had his cast removed and has resumed some basketball activities. He could be back just before the All-Star break, though he admits there is considerable rust to shake off (via the Globe’s Frank Dell’Apa):

Daniels said he will return to practice “hopefully next week.’’ Daniels could be activated for the Celtics’ visit to New Orleans Feb. 10. “I can shoot, I can’t palm the ball, and I was just trying to dribble and my forearm and everything was real weak,’’ Daniels said.

He can, however, play video games, tie his shoes and take a shower without holding his cast outside the shower

In any case, Jeff Clark is right: The C’s fan base is taking Daniels for granted and will be very happy when they rediscover what he brings to the team. 

• One final note on KG’s return: Hoopdata.com has a must-read piece on why the C’s defense fared so much worse with KG out. (Note: Hoopdata.com is down right; I’ll update the link later). Two conclusions from the study:

1) The C’s allowed more attempts from mid-range than normal;

2) Opponents shot over 40 percent from three-point range. 

Conclusion #1 makes perfect sense: As I’ve written, the C’s in general emphasize protecting the rim and defending the three-point shot while placing a lower priority on shutting down the mid-range game. Remove their most active interior defender, and the middle becomes even more vulnerable. 

Conclusion #2 seems weird, doesn’t it? Hoopdata’s Tom Haberstroth wrote that the most likely explanation is a random statistical blip, even though the C’s faced some of the league’s worst three-point shooting teams (Chicago, Detroit, others) in KG’s absence. And that’s likely a large part of the explanation. 

But there might be something more than random here. Without KG, the C’s screen/roll defense just isn’t as good. Sheed doesn’t jump out and recover as well or as quickly as KG does, and, for all his improvement, Perk doesn’t, either. Since his return, Big Baby (when guarding the screener) has mostly been sagging down into the paint to cut off penetration instead of jumping out. 

When the big guy on the front line of the team’s screen/roll defense (i.e. the guy defending the screener) is slightly off, opposing ball-handlers get into the lane more easily and the roll guy has a better chance of getting open near the hoop. When those things happen, the C’s other three defenders need to help more aggressively than usual. And two of those defenders are usually guarding guys stationed behind the three-point line, often in the corners. 

It’s just a theory, but it is something I noticed anecdotally in KG’s absence. 

• Speaking of Big Baby, Doc seems to have come down a bit from his “Davis is immature!” scolding after news broke about Baby’s back-and-forth with Scott Zack, the pathetic Detroit heckler. Mike Petraglia of WEEI describes Doc’s reaction to Baby’s $25,000 fine on Baby:

“I have no reaction,” Rivers answered initially.

But then, as he always does, Rivers offered more perspective.

“It was high,” he added. “I thought it was extreme but I do understand, I get it,” Rivers said.

Rivers then gave a more light-hearted view on the matter.

“You just can’t do what he did and get caught. That’s my last joke on that.”

• Finally, on an unrelated note, here’s a great collection of clips of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (which ranks right there with the ’92-’94 era of The Simpsons as the greatest American comedy creation of the last 25 years) on Conan O’Brien. Conan, of course, wrote or co-wrote some of the best Simpsons episodes from that era.

And here’s a rundown of what you missed last night if you missed Conan’s last show, via the LA Times (complete with hilarious Triumph-related correction). 

Let me say this, and then I’ll drop the Conan thing: For various reasons, I was one of those guys who went to college (in the late 1990s) and basically lost touch with most of my high school friends. That meant during the summer, when I came back from school, there were a lot of evenings with the parents and my sister. When I wasn’t out of town or visiting my college girlfriend, I was hanging out with the family, reading and watching a heap of television. 

In other words: This could easily have been a lonely, depressing time.

And I watched Conan at 12:30 on damn near every one of those summer nights. The rest of my family would be asleep, and I’d get into bed and flip on Conan. And it was genius, almost every night. I didn’t care about the monologue (though I loved seeing what face Andy would make every time the camera panned to him during Conan’s intro), and I didn’t care about the guests. But I would never miss the gags that took place between the monologue and the first guest’s entrance and then again between guests. You just never knew when you’d see something amazing, something that would almost re-define your sense of comedy—of what was funny. 

Those Bob Dole/Bill Clinton/Don King “interviews,” with Robert Smigel voicing (and mouthing) the words of the interview subjects as their faces displayed on a television screen above Conan’s desk? Those were gold. The staring contests, Conan reporting from various wacky events, any appearance by Triumph, the phony “The More You Know” public service announcements, Conan and Max Weinberg hanging out, various bizarre animal characters—these were some of the most clever things that have ever appeared on television. Ever. My college buddies and would analyze these sketches, sometimes struggling to even explain why they were so funny (which is often the case with the best kind of comedy).

Once I got a job, I basically stopped watching Conan. I couldn’t be up until 1:30 anymore. 

But I will never forget those shows from the late 1990s. I looked forward to them every night, and they always delivered. Good luck, Conan.

  • http://hoopdata.com Tom Haberstroh

    You know, Zach, I thought of the possibility that the pick-and-roll defense had lagged without KG but I hadn’t seen it consistently to make that call. I think that’s a good theory.

    And the Blazers were 5-25 from downtown last night.

  • Sal

    I understand why people are looking at this game in a positive light. KG is back, the c’s actually one a game, and the defense wasn’t bad. But, I don’t think it was as good a win as everyone is making it out to be. Ray is still slumping. We need OT to beat a blazer team that is missing their franchise player, they have no center, and their 2nd (or 3rd, depends on opinion) best guard went out in the 3rd. I don’t know Im glad the c’s won of course but I am still real worried the team. Hopefully we can finally get into a rhythm, win a few home games, and get Daniels back to help a (better looking?) bench.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @Tom: I know you thought about it, for sure. Who knows if it’s true. I usually tend to error on the “random noise” theory, esp last year when everyone was wondering why the C’s were playing better offensively without KG for a bit.

  • heh8meN1

    Thanks to the free week on NBA League Pass, I finally understand Celtic Fan.

    Two words: Tom Heinsohn.

    Wow. Is there a bigger HOMER outside of Springfield? Man, please take off the lime shades. I bet even Jimmy the Greek is rolling in his grave saying, “C’mon Man!”. Thank God CBS bannished him to the Chowder Bowl. If I never hear him again, it’ll be too SOON. Good luck with that cELTIC fAN.

    CELTICS TV. Where Amazing Fans Drink Green Kool Aid.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wYbpVL8OzY

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @heh8meN1: Whoa: You’re telling us Tommy Heinsohn is a homer??? I had no idea! I thought he was being completely objective and took everything he said as gospel!

    You have really opened my eyes. Thanks for visiting!

  • Jason

    No one argues Tommy isn’t a homer, but I think he plays it up intentionally at this point. There is no more truly oblivious (meaning he actually believes he is being objective) and hateable homer as Hawk Harrelson of the Chicago White Sox. All homer announcers are difficult to stomach, but he is beyond brutal.

  • joseph

    It isn’t that Heinsohn is a homer. Every announcer is. But seriously, Heinsohn takes it so far. I’ve had the opposite experience. With league pass I’m finally able to hear local announcers outside of new england. It is really refreshing to hear people whose undeniable bias doesn’t prevent them from appreciating the game of basketball itself and even once in a while evaluating something objectively. I’ve heard Heinsohn complain even when fouls are called his way as if he is so furious about the possible universe we do not inhabit in which the foul was called the other way. Whatever, not on topic, I’ll leave it at that.

  • MikeD

    People need to take it easy on Tommy. He is what he is and he isn’t going to change for some whiny old commenter on a Celtics blog. Love him or hate him, he has done more for the Celtics and the NBA than you can imagine. Have some respect for the man.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    Wow, I couldn’t disagree with Doc more. They are turning this into a loyalty, faith, & trust issue instead of a let’s go with what is actually working on the floor. I fear this attitude they have will cost them more than they are willing to pay in days to come. There is nothing wrong with anyone having an off shooting night or for that matter an off shooting skid, but to let that guy shoot you out of the game is just digging yourself deeper into a hole. It’s self destruction. It’s the arrogant, we’re gonna win my way or not at all. That’s just stupid. There are other shooters on the team, & it not fair to them to waste a bunch of possessions hoping somebody the coach wants to be hot will get hot. Doc’s strategy …somebody else is hot, but let’s get it to the guy who is open & not hot & maybe they will get hot. How does that make any sense? We’ve seen everyone go through streaks. The problem is not making decisions based on what is ACTUALLY WORKING in the game at hand. Doc can’t bring himself to sit a starter just for ONE game. Doc is scared to death to say, ‘Ray, I love ya & you will have better games, but you are off tonight so have a seat while we see what Tony (shot 4-5 & stayed in front of Andre) can do’.

    This is a huge issue I have with the Cs. If someone is hot, in a zone, then you’ve got to get that guy the ball & milk it dry. I think they are among the worst in the league at getting the ball to the hot shooter. Anyone who has ever played basketball knows some nights certain guys have it, & some nights they don’t. Get the ball to the hot shooter. Some nights it is gonna be Ray. Some nights it won’t.

    It should not be an insult or a problem if Ray or Paul or whoever is sitting because someone else is on fire or playing better defense that ONE night. That’s being a good teammate and playing to win the game not coddle someone’s ego. We’ve already had one loss because of this die hard starter attitude—-remember how we all could see an injured Paul hobbling around unable to defend at the Pacers early in the season? Doc saw guys blowing by Paul over & over, but he was too stubborn & loyal to Paul to follow common sense & pull Paul for that ONE game=the team lost. Doc also has the philosophy of ‘take the open shot’, but the ‘open’ shot is not always the best shot. Someone could be open for a reason. I’m sure Perk will always be open from the 3pt line. Should he shoot that open shot? The best shot is whoever is on fire or an easy shot. Imagine Michael Jordan getting hot & then taking him out of the game or trying to get everyone else shots when everything is going in. Sheed got hot last night in the 2nd quarter around the lane–not from the dreaded 3pt line (Sheed has one of the best bank shots I’ve seen for a big man). He was doing what Doc has desperately wanted him to do—take shots closer to the basket & hit them. Instead of continuing to feed Sheed around the lane Doc subs him out. This loyalty to the starters over who is playing the best basketball that night is gonna come back to bite Doc. You have to go with what works, not with what you want to work or what you wish would work.

  • Tom

    I was at the game on Friday, the building was buzzing with KG coming back. People were way more into it than the Bruins game on Saturday. The game really felt like it was ours. There were many times in the 4th quarter where I felt the game could end if the Celtics would just make one more shot. Of course everyone missed their opportunities. Rondo could have sealed the game with 50 secs or so left, but somehow the ball came back out of the rim to give Portland a chance! The play before OT was awful by Pierce, I don’t get why he didn’t do the pull up jumper (ones he was making).

    I was on court during the warm ups. It was amazing to see how everyone was goofing around. The only person that took it seriously was KG. The guy was breaking a sweat warming up alone! It was amazing to see them from 5 feet out.

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  • MikeD

    Cptn Bubbles – I see your point that if someone is having a better night that we need to get them the ball, but in this situation that doesn’t really apply at all. Tony was 4/5 for a reason, because he was only taking the smart, easy shots that he should be taking. Call me crazy but I would rather have Ray keep shooting on an off night then try to get the ball to Tony Allen with the game on the line. This isn’t some fatal flaw of the Celtics like you seem to think it is, Doc trusted his veteran who has hit countless big shots/game winners over his career and it worked out pretty well.

  • dslack

    Hey Zach, I feel the same way about Conan. Same era, same experiences. I’ve watched him the last 2 weeks, and he has been fantastic. Looking forward to his resurrection in September on Fox.

  • Tom

    http://img503.imageshack.us/my.php?image=dsc2442.jpg

    http://img8.imageshack.us/my.php?image=dsc2439r.jpg

    His warmups were all good. I can tell you Tony Allen couldn’t make any of his..

  • Cptn Bubbles

    No, I don’t really want to get the ball to TA if the game is on the line. Give Ray that shot. If it is for the game I agree give it to Ray unless TA is wide open for a layup. Ray has hit many more game winners than probably all of the Cs.

    My point is how do we get in such dire, desperate, last second situations? What is going on during a game? What is actually happening out there? If Ray is missing shots & someone else is hitting shots, ex Paul, then get the ball to Paul & milk that. Ray was 3-14. That’s way too many possessions wasted when there are other Cs who can hit shots. Perk is shooting 64% & Perk shot the ball TWICE. Ray shot the ball FOURTEEN times. That is RIDICULOUS.

    If TA is defending like a madman or if he is 4-5 then give TA more time on the floor & let Ray rest. TA also plays better D than Ray so there are 2 things working for you. Doc should not feel bad about sitting starters if other guys are playing better THAT game. It’s just ONE game. Doc is saying all the time that the starters need more rest. There is nothing wrong with a starter sitting when their shot is off or their defense stinks. There needs to be accountability for everybody. I’ve heard over & over that players respect & play hard for coach Pop at San Antonio because he yells at Timmy. He holds their stars just as accountable as the bench. If starters are doing things wrong they need to fix it or sit & let someone else do it right.

    Part of being a good teammate is recognizing when my shot is off & getting the ball to a hot shooter or taking higher percentage shots closer to the basket or working to get your teammates better shots (set a screen etc).

    Some nights I’m upset because Ray Ray is on fire, & they don’t get him the ball. That is stupid. It’s not about any one player. It’s the concept of doing what is actually working in games. If TA is shutting people down & making shots in the lane go with it. Let him stay in the game until he gets tired or he loses the touch. Doc will not go with what is working like that. He will sub TA out & put the starter having a miserable night back in. He wants his starters approval more than he wants to go with what is actually working.

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