• 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.
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.