Win against the Clippers? Check.
Alright now this to-do list gets tricky.
The Celtics are about to face their toughest five game stretch of the season book-ended by two of the lesser teams in the league, the Clippers and Wizards. One can only hope the C’s don’t come away with only two wins. Not only are these games important for overall standing, but also for “standing up.” The Celtics will need a lot of “standing up” from some likely and unlikely sources if they are going to have chances against Orlando, Atlanta, and the Lakers.
Kevin Garnett needs to prove that the hobbling he does on the court is more getting his legs back under him (pun intended) than it is about residual pain from the hyper-extended knee. The Celtics bench needs to step up and dispel the notion that they have a match up problem.
The problem with that is, they do.
The Celtics’ match up problem is exemplified by last night’s offensive flourish from Craig Smith. Casual NBA fans see a line from Craig Smith that reads:
|Craig Smith, PF||22||3-6||0-0||7-10||2||3||5||1||0||0||0||4||0||13|
and think, “who the hell is Craig Smith?” If you, being the astute NBA fan you are, turn to them and say, “he’s the bulky 6’7″ guy who keeps punking Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins,” you’d be right.
Craig Smith continuously had his way with both Big Baby (I don’t care what you want, I’m not calling you Uno Uno) and Kendrick Perkins. While I like Smith as a player, this is not a testament to an offensive juggernaut waiting to emerge. This is a game that typifies a problem the C’s have had all season.
The following is information that should not exist, but does:
October 30, 2009 against Chicago
|Joakim Noah, C||28||7-10||0-0||2-2||6||4||10||4||0||2||2||2||-33||16|
|Jannero Pargo, PG||22||6-12||1-2||0-0||0||1||1||0||0||0||2||0||-6||13|
November 14, 2009 against Indiana
|Dahntay Jones, SG||33||7-15||0-1||11-15||0||4||4||4||0||1||3||4||+8||25|
November 25, 2009 against Philadelphia
|Willie Green, SG||14||5-7||2-2||6-6||0||1||1||4||0||0||1||2||+4||18|
|Jason Kapono, SF||29||8-11||4-6||0-2||0||1||1||1||0||0||0||2||+2||20|
November 27, 2009 against Toronto
|Jarrett Jack, PG||33||5-8||0-1||8-8||0||1||1||5||2||0||2||3||-3||18|
December 1, 2009 against Charlotte
|Nazr Mohammed, C||19||6-10||0-0||4-8||3||2||5||0||1||0||1||0||-4||16|
December 3, 2009 against San Antonio
|DeJuan Blair, F||22||9-11||0-0||0-1||5||6||11||0||0||2||1||2||+10||18|
December 8, 2009 against Milwaukee
|Ersan Ilyasova, PF||43||6-17||2-6||5-6||3||5||8||1||3||0||1||2||-13||19|
December 10, 2009 against Washington
|Andray Blatche, PF||26||7-10||1-2||2-2||1||2||3||3||5||0||1||4||-4||17|
December 12, 2009 against Chicago
|Taj Gibson, F||34||3-9||0-0||6-7||3||8||11||1||2||2||1||4||-19||12|
December 18, 2009 against Philadelphia
|Willie Green, SG||45||6-13||1-4||3-3||1||3||4||4||2||1||3||3||+2||16|
December 22, 2009 against Indiana
|Earl Watson, PG||36||6-13||3-7||3-4||1||6||7||6||1||0||5||3||-4||18|
December 30, 2009 against Phoenix
|Leandro Barbosa, SG||23||5-13||1-5||6-7||0||2||2||4||4||0||1||2||0||1|
January 6, 2010 against Miami
|Udonis Haslem, PF||38||7-13||0-0||5-6||4||5||9||1||1||1||2||2||0||19|
January 18, 2010 against Dallas
|Erick Dampier, C||22||5-6||0-0||1-2||1||6||7||0||0||2||4||2||+15||11|
January 22, 2010 against Portland
|Andre Miller, PG||47||11-23||0-2||6-6||4||4||8||8||2||0||6||1||+2||28|
The NBA does not exist in a vacuum, thus there are a plethora of reasons for why the aforementioned players had such offensive outbursts against the Celtics. The being said, a few conclusions can be drawn just looking at the numbers, which I will attempt to explain…..now:
Have you seen Rodney Dangerfield’s ghost on the court this season during Celtics games? Cause I have. Zach put it best in his bulleted recap when he wrote, “Glen Davis didn’t pay him the proper respect”referring to the defense played on Craig Smith. This seems to be a pretty common theme and one that bears out little blame on the C’s. There are a lot of good players in this league and on every team. I’m sure if the C’s had their druthers, they’d rather give Jason Kapono the chance to put up a twenty spot on them rather than Andre Iguodala.
On the flipside, twenty from Kapono? The strategy of letting the lesser guy beat you isn’t suppose to result Kapono getting 20 points!
The bottom line is that there are certain players in certain situations the Celtics have to respect more than others. Take Smith last night. If he’s continuously beating you off the dribble, into the paint, and making his patented fall-away-baby-hook, than you need to revise your game plan. You have to put a quicker guy on him to keep him out of the lane, you have to box him out on the glass, and you have to have a guard help down to contest the fall-away from behind. When Smith takes a fall-away baby hook, the ball is right at eye level for Paul Pierce. All that being said, Smith has had a solid career in the NBA for a reason- that being the fact that despite his physical limitations, he has found ways to contribute. If it were as easy as I described to defend Smith, than he would be out of the league. All I’m am suggesting is a defensive scheme or assignment revision is warranted.
The same “no respect” argument can be made for the Udonis Haslem stats listed above. If you remember back to January 6th, Haslem was continuously wide open on the baseline and completely torched the C’s with his midrange jumper- all while Rasheed Wallace chirped in his ear. ‘Sheed chirps at everyone, sure, but usually not when it’s blatantly obvious that a player is exposing ‘Sheed’s inability (lack of desire?) to close out shooters.
Hustle and Flow
Ahh, the mobile power forward rears its ugly head all over this list. Andray Blatche, Ersan Illyasova and the energy guys like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Nazr Muhammed all exposed the lack of lateral quickness on the Celtics front line.
Perkins is a methodical bruiser who gets his blocks with great anticipation and discipline. If he doesn’t have time to anticipate, he’s going to get out hustled by guys like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Nazr Muhammed. Perkins also has a respect issue. Against bigger guys, Perkins gets in great position and really fights tooth and nail for rebounds. Against guys like Joakim Noah, he has this “are you serious?” attitude. This ‘tude results in both Noah scooting around him for boards and me screaming at my TV. Whether he really disrespects Noah that much or it is just a defense mechanism (pun intended), Perkins cannot match Noah’s lateral quickness.
I don’t really want to go too far into it, because it’s so painful, but Rasheed Wallace defends guys like the old annoying guy at the gym. He chirps, he stands straight up and flat-footed, he reaches, fouls, and annoys the hell out of you. That can take a person completely out of it in a pickup game, but in the NBA it just puts guys on the line and checks on David Stern’s desk.
Erik Dampier is Unguardable!!
Non-offensive Guys Offending the C’s
I can’t imagine being a professional basketball player and knowing the league and its players inside and out so well that you can be sure on a nightly basis who is going to kill you offensively, and who is going to be out there for their defense and IQ. I also can’t imagine what it’s like when that gets flipped on its head and you get beat by the likes of Andre Miller, Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson, and Willie Green twice (ouch!).
When watching games against Portland, Indiana, and Philadelphia I’m willing to bet I’m in the majority when I see a questionable shot present itself for these guys and I’m saying under breath, “ohhh take that shot!” Doesn’t it hurt so much worse when it continually goes in? I spoke with Brian Robb earlier about this concept and he brought up an interesting point. A lot of guys who get the rim against the Celtics not only get there with relative ease, but also finish at a high percentage. This makes complete sense when you consider Andre Miller shoots from outside about as well as Marquis Daniels. In terms of Willie Green, he is like DeShawn Stevenson in the way that I picture him getting his game check in the mail and thinking, “Yesss, I fooled them again! Hot dog!” I don’t know why either of those guys are in the league, and someday soon I’ll send a little email over to Philadunkia and see if he can explain it to me.
Jarret Jack, Jannero Pargo, and Leandro Barbosa?
Yeah these are just good players and I’m not really sure why I put them on the list. I think it’s because they are still both their respective teams 6th or 7th option and it always hurts to get burned by guy waving the towel.
The best Celtics fans can hope for is that KG being back and getting up to full strength will solve all these twilight zone-esque scenarios. It’s pretty clear Joakim Noah is not getting to the basket as easily with KG patrolling the paint.
Kevin Garnett brings the defensive intensity but also takes the pressure off Perkins to do what he’s incapable of doing: moving laterally. Garnett guards the guys who move, Perkins guards the guys who try to move you. It’s a brilliant combination, but whether it solves all of the Celtics’ woes remains to be seen.
The best any of us can do is sit back, watch and (try to) enjoy the show.