Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm, 1/30/10:
“There will not be a Big Ol’ Honkin’ LA-Boston post when LA creams them tomorrow…I doubt it will be competitive.”
Well, Matt was wrong. I don’t mean to pick on Matt; he’s one of the best hoops bloggers writers alive, and he knows the game as well as anyone writing about it. And this game doesn’t necessarily disprove his central contention—that the Celtics are too old to be competitive this season, and that they are not a championship-caliber team. After all, the Lakers beat the Celtics on what was, for LA, the 7th game of an eight-game road trip.
But this game, this crushing Sunday afternoon loss, proved two (positive) things. (Brian Robb will have more in a full post-game bullets post):
1) The Celtic defense from 2008 still exists. Whether it will exist often enough or long enough for the team to win a title remains unknown or perhaps even unlikely. But in this loss, the defense was absolutely spectacular. The fact that the Lakers shot 48 percent is a tribute to how freaking good that team is, as epitomized by Kobe’s game-winner. The C’s decision to overplay on Bryant and sometimes double him forced Boston’s defenders to cover even more of the court than usual on rotations, and they were up to it. Really, really up to it.
The evidence: 16 LA turnovers for a team that takes care of the ball almost as well as any team in the league. Many came on tough cross-court or interior passes as the Lakers tried and failed to beat Boston’s rotations with quick passes.
Again: The defense was spectacular. Do not lose sight of this when you see that LA shot 48 percent.
2) This team, right now, is fatally flawed, and if it doesn’t correct this one flaw or at least mitigate it, they will not win the championship or the Eastern Conference. The flaw: Turnovers. They committed 18 more tonight, many of them inexcusably sloppy. The Lakers are a great defensive team, and they forced a few of those 18 turnovers. But too many came on careless passes.
You could correctly point out that the Celtics won the championship ranking next-to-last in turnover rate in 2008, and they have the same ranking right now.
But this Celtic team isn’t quite as good, athletic, healthy or consistent as that team.
They need to clean this problem up if they want to win against the elite.
Lots more tonight and tomorrow.