Pace: 93 possessions (a tick above average)
Offensive Efficiency: 102.1 points/100 possessions (bottom third)
Defensive Efficiency: 96.7 points allowed/100 possessions (beyond league best)
Thumbnail: In a game the C’s really needed before starting their toughest four-game stretch of the season, the C’s won a tougher-than-it-should-have-been game against a Clips team who couldn’t stop Boston’s offense and had no answer for Boston’s defense
Bullets, with further analysis tomorrow morning:
• This was a frustrating game in spurts because when the C’s ran their set plays, the Clippers just could not stay with them. The Celtics could get open looks whenever they wanted, provided they a) didn’t turn the ball over; and b) stuck with their offense. Unfortunately, the C’s turned the ball over 13 times over the first three quarters and resorted to some ugly isolation ball during short stretches throughout the game.
But when they got the Clippers defense moving with screen/rolls, pick-and-pops, flashes to the post or baseline action? The Clips had no chance. This was partly because of Boston’s solid execution and partly because the Clippers have some guys (Baron Davis, Marcus Camby) you don’t necessarily want roving around the court.
Take the 4:22 mark of the 3rd quarter, for instance, when Ray and KG ran a pick-and-pop that ended with Ray kicking to an open KG at the top of the key. The Clips defense was compromised, and Baron Davis responded by freelancing away from Rondo taking a couple of half-hearted steps toward KG. Garnett zipped a pass to Rondo underneath, and Rajon laid the ball in.
Or check the 8:48 mark of the 1st quarter, when Rondo and Perk ran a simple screen/roll at the top of the key. Kaman jumps out off of Perk to cut off any Rajon drive to the right while Rajon’s man (Baron Davis) latches on to Perk and monitors Rajon, who just bounces at the top of the key. Perk rolls to the basket and Baron just leaves him at the foul line. An easy drawn foul for Perk.
Even simple give-and-go post hand-offs worked, resulting in dunks by Pierce and Rondo.
Easy looks, all night, when the C’s weren’t screwing it up. The Clips had no answers.
• The C’s were dominant in spurts defensively, especially from the 3:30 mark of the 2nd quarter through about the 3:20 mark of the 3rd—the equivalent of one full quarter. Over that span, the Clips scored just 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting and coughed the ball up four times.
The defense played well, but the Clippers did not make themselves very tough to guard. Until Craig Smith took over the game in the 4th quarter, the Clips offense consisted (roughly) of the following things:
1) Baron Davis isolations against Rondo in the post. Davis had seven points in the 1st quarter and five points in garbage time (the last 59 seconds of the game). In the intervening 35 minutes, he scored five points on 3-of-8 shooting. The C’s began sending helpers over to Baron’s side of the court, discouraging him from driving into the paint and encouraging tougher baseline drives or fadeaways instead. It worked.
2) Transition offense. When the Clips ran, they caused major problems. They have a bunch of quick, rangy guys who attack the basket well in space (the Davises, Rasaul Butler).
3) A helpless half court offense. The Clippers just didn’t run an effective screen/roll tonight. Their guards (including Baron) didn’t attack aggressively off the dribble even though Boston opted to go over most screens. Their bigs and wing players didn’t move well off the ball. Eric Gordon would have made a tremendous difference in this area.
• There are fewer things more terrifying than Tony Allen on a fast break. Take that however you’d like. I’m just glad he once again chose the soft lay-in over the windmill dunk when he had an easy fast break.
• Classic Paul Pierce game: 22 points on 10 field-goal attempts. When you’re that efficient, I can overlook the five turnovers, even the sloppy ones that were vintage Bad Pierce (dribbling into a crowd and losing the ball, arms flailing, mouth agape).
• The Clips grabbed 11 offensive boards in 49 chances tonight (22 percent), meaning the C’s rebounded about 78 percent of LA misses—a rate that would lead the league easily. The C’s did a solid job on the defensive glass in the 2nd half after allowing seven offensive boards in the first half. Ray Allen and Rondo grabbing 11 defensive boards combined is a good sign.
• Check out those seven offensive boards, though, and you see some of the themes I wrote about today. At the 6:10 mark of the 1st quarter, Marcus Camby slid in for an uncontested ORB because his man, KG, had moved over to help Rondo on a Baron Davis post-up. When the C’s help or switch, they get themselves in major trouble on the defensive glass. This is a trait they share with 29 other teams.
But at the 1:15 mark of the first quarter we see an offensive board that is more disturbing: Rasual Butler launches a mid-range shot and Marcus Camby, standing behind Sheed on the left side of the paint, curls to the outside around Sheed, slides to the inside position and grabs the ball for a put-back attempt. It misses, but the Clips get another rebound and find Ricky Davis for an open three.
Watch for this: Guys are moving side-to-side around Sheed to get in good offensive rebounding position.
• The C’s tried an all-bench line-up early in the 2nd quarter, and it got destroyed, 10-2, over a 2:49 span. Bill Walker did not help his cause for more playing time by stupidly fouling Rasual Butler on a contested three (I don’t care what Heinsohn says, Walker hit Butler’s arm) and then by failing to seal his defender (Ricky Davis) as he flashed to the post on offense, allowing Davis to steal Sheed’s entry pass.
I’m sorry, but we have no evidence to suggest Bill Walker is ready to be an NBA player, highlight dunks in garbage time aside.
• Remember that little list of the three types of plays that made up the bulk of LA’s offense tonight? That applies to all but the first 7:10 of the 4th quarter, when Craig Smith went into full-on Beast Mode and scored 10 points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from the line.
Are we ready to add the 6’7” Craig Smith to the list of “undersized” power forwards who have disproved the notion that undersized power forwards can’t succeed in the NBA?
He scored in two ways tonight: 1) Glen Davis didn’t pay him the proper respect. Davis guarded Smith for the first stretch of the 4th quarter and moved off of him far too readily. He jumped out at Butler on a Butler/Smith screen/roll on the left side, leaving Smith an easy one-step path to the rim after Butler dumped him the ball. A few possessions later, Baby drifted away from Smith on the left side of the floor to “help” on the opposite of the floor as Kaman and Butler ran some screening action. Smith flashed to the paint, took a pass and drew a foul.
2) The C’s then removed Davis from the game and tried Perk on Smith, and Smith was far too quick for Perk. He beat Perk off the dribble along the baseline for a lay-in and a drawn foul.
All of this occurred, by the way, as Doc kept KG on the bench for the first 6:44 of the 4th quarter. And I applaud that minutes discipline with KG.
• Smith torching Perk is also something of an indictment of Rasheed Wallace’s lateral quickness. The C’s didn’t even try him on Smith in the 4th quarter, choosing instead to have their starting center guard a 6’7” power forward while Rasheed Wallace stuck with Kaman.
• The T’Wolves selected Craig Smith with the 36th pick of the 2006 NBA draft. Here are some players (good and bad) selected ahead of Smith: Adam Morrison, Patrick O’Bryant, Saer Sane, Oleksiy Pecherov, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Roy, Ronnie Brewer, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, Josh Boone, Maurice Ager, Paul Davis, James “Flight” White and P.J. Tucker.
In other words: Anyone who tells they have a clue about the NBA draft is lying.
• By my count, the Clips turned the ball over four times on overthrown no-chance 70-foot outlet passes. Yuck.
• There seemed to be a bit of nastiness to that Baron-Rajon match-up, right?
• A new playbook wrinkle tonight: I’ve noted before that a play the C’s really like is to have Rajon bring the ball up the left sideline while the three wing players clear out to the opposite side of the court and KG vaguely moves into position to set a screen for Rondo. Normally, Rondo accelerates along the left sideline and toward the hoop before KG even sets any sort of screen. But tonight, he waited for KG to set the screen and dribbled around it to his right, a play that freed him for a jumper from the left elbow.
He didn’t take that shot, but it was there for him. Something to watch.
• Eddie House needs to take ballet lessons or something to avoid these foot-on-the-line twos. All four of his shots were two-pointers between six inches and one inch away from being threes. He made two.
• Shelden Williams is officially out of the rotation.
• Rasheed Wallace is 1-of-4 from three-point range and is now shooting 29 percent from deep. The Clippers paid no attention to Sheed at the top of the key late in the game, giving him any three-pointer if wished to take.
• Unusual line-up alert: We briefly saw a line-up of Pierce, Perk, TA, Sheed and Ray in the 2nd quarter. That line-up had played about 20 seconds together so far this season, according to Basketball Value. Was the eight minutes I spent looking this up a waste of time? You decide.
• Two dunks in one game from Pierce!
That’s it from me tonight. We’ll have more tomorrow. Enjoy the win. The Hell Streak begins Thursday.