• 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.”
“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?
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.