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Saturday Notebook: Parsing the Wreckage

 

• If you want to understand the C’s place in the current Eastern Conference hierarchy, look no further than this quote within Bret LaGree’s recap of last night’s game on the Hawks blog Hoopinion:

Not coincidentally, the Hawks really should do everything in their power to be in Boston’s half of the playoff draw.

Or this little nugget, which appeared in a couple of game recaps (via the Globe): 

“The Hawks’ PA announcer asked the Celtics as they trudged off the floor, “Is it a rivalry now?’’

Dear Hawks announcer: I know your job is to say dumb things that get the lame Atlanta crowd perked up, but if you’re implying that Celtics-Hawks is no longer a rivalry because of a regular-season sweep, you are dumber than I had thought. That is all.

• The Celtics know things are off right now. The team has lost 10 of its last 16 games and is now 1-6 combined against the Hawks and Magic. Lots of reflective post-game quotes from the C’s. Here’s KG in the Herald:

“They’ve seen the chinks in the armor. You know, we didn’t win it last year, but teams are coming out and playing us like we’re the champs. That’s respect. Now we’ve just got to figure out a way to make an adjustment or go to another level and just get our consistency back, just playing hard-nosed.”

Look at that first line: The chinks in the armor. That’s a bold admission from a prideful man. 

Here’s Rajon Rondo calling for change (via ESPNBoston):

“We gotta make a change and do something about it quick,” said Rondo. “Not a trade or anything, but just making some changes in the locker room, amongst ourselves. Every guy has to look in the mirror and hold themselves accountable.”

If I could recommend one change, it would be this: STOP TURNING THE DAMN BALL OVER 16 TIMES PER GAME.

• The other big “story” of the day is, of course, The Sixth Man Who Should Die of Gonorrhea And Rot in Hell.

Kendrick Perkins made a joke before the game about the team putting a “hit” out on Jamal Crawford, and the Hawks apparently used this as motivational fodder (via John Hollinger on TrueHoop):

“I heard something about it before the game,” said Crawford of Perkins’ comments. “We got fired up.” 

And:

“We played them here, we played them there, we played them with their whole team, we played them without their whole team,” said Crawford of the four meetings. “We match up well with those guys. We definitely respect them, but we don’t fear anybody.” 

Side note: Why does Jamal Crawford talk as if he has been on the Hawks for five years? In any case, there’s no denying Crawford has destroyed Boston this year. In four Atlanta wins, he’s averaging 20.3 points per game on 46 percent shooting and 40 percent from three-point range. Just as disturbing, he’s also getting to the line six times per game and dishing four assists. 

In an essay today, Celtics Town calls Crawford the “thorn in Boston’s side”: 

Give a lot of credit to Crawford. But don’t forget to blame the Celtics’ defense for allowing Crawford to once again have his way.

Often, the help defense was late. Sometimes, it was nonexistent. Almost always, it was ineffective.

To me, the source of the C’s problem with Crawford last night was not their defense but their offense. Crawford scored 11 of his 28 points (and dished four of his six assists) in the 6:43 span bridging the 1st and 2nd quarters in which the C’s committed seven turnovers and had two shots blocked in transition. This allowed the Hawks to get into the fast break, and that’s where Crawford thrives, both as a one-on-one scorer (his cross-over, And-1 on Pierce) and three-point outlet (his corner three early in the 2nd quarter). 

The C’s half court defense on Crawford wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the reason Crawford went off. Carelessness with the ball on the other end turned Crawford into a more dangerous offensive player than he really is. 

• Paul Pierce calls out the team for allowing Joe Johnson too much room to isolate in the 4th quarter (via the Herald):

Added Pierce: “We let them isolate us, and that’s the way they play. They did it four games vs. us. I think we should have done a better job with our help defense, getting another man to bother him. When those guys get going, they can really go off.”

This is an honest question, not a rhetorical one: Who’s at fault here, the coaches or the players? Boston did a nice job mixing up their looks on Johnson for the first three quarters but decided, for whatever reason, not to double him in the 4th quarter. Now, to Atlanta’s credit, they stopped running screen/rolls for Johnson, which allows him to go to work without a screener (and the big guy guarding the screener) clogging things up—and the C’s big guys were jumping out on Johnson all night on screen/rolls. 

In the 4th, the C’s opted (a few times) to slide a second defender over to the middle of the court to deter penetration. They were willing to let Johnson go baseline or isolate for pull-up jumpers. 

And he made them pay. 

Was it the right call? Should the coaches have doubled more aggressively? I’m not sure. 

CelticsBlog’s Greg Payne breaks down the four-game sweep by the numbers and finds some things that won’t surprise anyone who has watched these games: The Celtics have turned the ball over too often, given up too many offensive boards and failed to contain Crawford and Johnson. No big news. 

These two things did jump out at me, though:

While the Celtics managed to average just 18.75 points in fourth quarters against the Hawks this season, Atlanta exploded in the final frames, posting a 25.25 points per fourth quarter average, outscoring Boston by 6.5 points.

The offensive number is troubling, no? 

And: 

You’re right, Rasheed. The ball doesn’t lie. It’s awfully sore from the number of times it clanged off the rim after you shot it. Wallace shot just 10-30 from the field in the series (33.3 percent) and a truly abysmal 3-18 from three-point nation (16.6 percent).

It’s hard to exaggerate how awful Sheed was last night. I’ve never seen him play a worse game at any point in his career. He just can’t stay with any of Atlanta’s big guys (other than Pachulia) defensively. 

• Doc Rivers and Ray Allen both point out in the Globe that the bench didn’t do the job last night. Ray’s quote is more telling, because he chooses his words very carefully:

“The bench has to be more focused,’’ said Allen. “We gave up two leads. To have leads like that, you have to sustain that lead or build off it. I would have to say we need to be better. That’s all. We need to be better.’’

The problem with the bench last night: T.M.T. Again. Every damn game. 

• Ah, but a win against the Lakers would provide salve for our wounds. The beat guys from ESPNBoston and ESPNLA bat around some e-mails to preview the showdown

We’ll have our own preview features coming soon. Enjoy.

  • r2

    Isn’t that little dig by the PA announcer in response to the Celtics’ continuous disrespect of the Hawks? I seem to recall that the Celtics wouldn’t deign to consider the Hawks a serious rival, but man, the Hawks have made the Celtics look old and silly

  • Mitch

    the celtics need to make a trade before the deadline

  • Sam

    That last quote is Tony Allen’s not Ray’s.

    Who would have guessed that our best or at least most consistent bench player for the season thus far would be Tony Allen?

    That’s not really praise for TA, just condemnation for the rest. Right now Glen Davis is leading the non-TA bench regulars (Davis, Sheed, House, Scal) with .426% shooting (as a power forward!). Way to earn that combined $15 mil guys!

  • rondoislove

    The Celtics! Ah, these guys have been breaking my heart since after Christmas day. A win over the Lakers tomorrow that jump starts another long, much-needed winning streak would certainly mend it.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    I wonder how much they turn the ball over in practice?

    Should they practice more when there is such poor execution with all these turnovers (sit KG for the extra practice time if necessary) ?

    Wouldn’t it be nice to see Doc get really mad after one of these losses? Why is he so nonchalant & aloof ? The attitude seems to be, ‘this is ***JUST*** a 4 game sweep. it is only the regular season. what’s getting beat by the same team 4 times in a row really mean, anyway??? Wonder what’s in the fridge? Should I stop & get a frosty? Where are my car keys?’

    TA is the most improved player off the bench. His FG% is up from 47 to 53%, he has virtually given up on taking 3s (career 29%)–has only taken three 3 pointers this year, his rebounding,steals, & assists are trending up. His free throw % is down. He is probably the best defender coming off the bench, but he can’t get over 18 minutes on the floor. He actually is getting less minutes than his career avg. this year even with all the injuries. Sheed gets the most minutes at 24. The numbers for the guys coming off the bench are all trending down (except TA). Everyone has worse numbers than their career avgs. I can understand someone or 2 someones having bad years, but everybody???? How can so many be playing worse at the same time?

    I know Docs idea is to sacrifice offensive rebounding in order to get back on defense. This leads to fewer shots so now each shot means more. Also, with all these turnovers, the other team is getting more shots & conversely we are getting fewer shots. Basically, each shot equals a possession since offensive rebounding is being conceded. There are only so many possessions per game. Guys who are having off nights shooting continuing to shoot instead of getting the ball to whoever is hot or getting someone a higher percentage shot in the paint (Perk is 63%) have a MUCH more lethal effect. At what point does the 3-13 or 4-13 (actual stats from Hawks game) guys say, man, Perk has only taken 4 shots & he is 50% tonight ( & he is 4-4 from the line). I should be a TEAM player & pound that ball down to Perk ????? There is no accountability.

  • dslack

    Zach: I think you misunderstood the announcer. He was suggesting that it IS a rivalry now (in contrast to what Celtics have said for years), not that it isn’t anymore.

  • DRJ1

    “Chinks in the armor” is a huge euphemism coming from KG. Forget cockiness. The Cs are now playing with fear, and the acceptance of losing.

    Beating ATL is not hard. Once the Cs get their game back. Put TA on Jamal, Paul on Joe, let Sheed stay home, and everybody stop giving the rock away. Poof… we win.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    Zach, Please tell us how JR hurting his knee & requiring surgery is going to affect trades. I’ve not heard how bad his injury was. I hope it was something minor. Since he is hurt he is out of any trade talks, right?

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

    @bubbs: I don’t think it will—I believe you can trade injured players, but I have to check Salary Cap FAQ and don’t have time at this second.

  • http://deleted Boston Harbor

    Great analysis of the games we lost on the 29th, of January.

    I don’t know why we don’t see more of Shelden Williams in these games, and less of Brian Scalabrine ?

    I think in many of these loses the Celtics are just being out coached, plain and simple.

    We can win this game on the 31st of January, but Kevin G. and Paul P. have got to be feeling one hundred percent healthy, which I doubt they have been of late.

  • http://deleted Boston Harbor

    As far as trading players, it’s one thing to make trades, but for whom and what ?

    Scals needs to be traded, House needs to be traded, R. Allen needs to be traded, Glen Davis might find his talents more useful elsewhere.

    If Monta Ellis wants to come to Boston, Ainge should really consider pulling the deal.

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