Pace: 86 possessions (excruciatingly slow)
Offensive Efficiency: 115.1 points/100 possessions (league-best)*
Defensive Efficiency: 100 points allowed/100 possessions (league-best)*
*The efficiency numbers are a little skewed by garbage time on both sides.
Thumbnail: The Celtics overcame a sadly typical batch of 17 turnovers and held the Wizards to 34 second-half points on 10-of-38 shooting to eke out a much-needed road win. Paul Pierce suffered an ankle injury late in the 1st quarter, returned for some of the next two quarters but sat out the entire 4th quarter. His status at this moment is unclear, but the injury does not appear serious.
Bullets, with further analysis coming from either Brian or Brendan later:
• When you’re turning the ball over for no reason, when your legs are tired on the second end of a back-to-back, sometimes it’s best to keep things very simple. That’s especially true against a defensive team like the Wizards, who switch on a large number of screen/rolls and as a result give you opportunities to scrap the playbook and just exploit mismatches.
And that’s exactly what the C’s did on offense in the 4th quarter to stabilize themselves, take the lead and hold off Washington. The 4th-quarter stats aren’t spectacular; the C’s scored 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the floor, the point total inflated by a garbage time dunk and some last-minute free throws. But they turned the ball over just once after coughing it up 16 times (or 15, depending on which box score you look at right now) over the first three quarters.
The C’s in the 4th quarter decided, for instance, that it might be a good idea to post up Glen Davis on the left block when Nick Young switched onto him on back-to-back screen/rolls.
Freaking rocket science, I know. And Davis, instead of trying to thread a highlight reel pass, patiently backed Young down, waited for a double team, turned to face the basket with the ball over his head and rifled a pass to TA for a dunk. That pulled the C’s to within 78-76.
After Sheed (who played the full 4th quarter while Perk sat) hit an easy jumper over Haywood in the post, the C’s again found Davis posting up Young on the left block. This time, Andray Blatche (caught guarding Ray on the same switch) made the inexcusable mistake of doubling off of Ray Allen, and Davis found Ray at the top of the key for a wide-open three that gave Boston the lead.
• The box score says Big Baby played a ho-hum eight minutes, scoring one point on 0-of-1 shooting from the floor and 1-of-4 at the line. But his two assists and calm, focused play provided a crucial change-of-pace spark off the bench. As for why he didn’t enter the game until the 1:36 mark of the 3rd quarter, I’m as confused right now as you are. (I have a feeling this question will be addressed in the post-game).
• The C’s defense recovered in the 2nd half after the Wiz shredded them for 18-of-34 shooting and 54 points in the 1st half. The C’s aided in that shredding by turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, which allowed the Wiz to get out in transition and either make easy baskets or draw shooting fouls. The Wiz shot 22 free throws in the 1st half and “just” 14 in the 2nd, when the C’s cut the turnovers down to a more manageable six.
• That said, the screen/roll defense was far from its peak level, which is perhaps to be expected on the fourth game in five nights. The C’s generally did a nice of preventing Li’l Earl Boykins (getting most of the minutes from Randy Foye, who is not a point guard) from turning the corner on screen/rolls by having the screener’s guy jump out very aggressively and force Boykins to dribble away from the basket.
But when Boykins (or, at times, Mike Miller) did turn the corner on screen/rolls? The back-line help defense too often wasn’t there. I counted four lay-ups and one wide-open runner for Boykins and Miller when they turned the corner and found no resistance.
Also: Credit the Wiz for moving the ball well in the first half and getting the C’s defense moving east-west.
• But the C’s played much better in the 2nd half, and Tony Allen played wonderful man defense on both Boykins and—for a couple of possessions—Caron Butler. Nice work, TA.
• I am really, truly sick of writing about turnovers, but Boston isn’t making it easy for me. They’ve committed fewer than 14 turnovers just twice in their last 12 games and 15 more more in half of those games.
And it’s time to call out Rajon Rondo, at least gently. The guy is a star. He’s the best player on the team. I love him. This is well-established. But he goes through games when he is just far too careless with the ball. He and the team have both talked about his past issues with focus—how he couldn’t get up for games against mediocre point guards (something the Wiz have in spades), how he would quiet down during some games instead of talking on defense.
I don’t know if this explains his high-turnover games. But there’s no reason for Rondo to commit six turnovers against Earl Boykins, Randy Foye and a generally bad Wizards defense (currently ranked 23rd in points allowed per possession). I mean, he threw two interior passes that ended up out of bounds and had about a 1-in-20 chance of reaching their target and producing a good shot.
Sometimes it’s best to just do the simple stuff.
• KG: 19-6-3 on 8-of-9 shooting. During KG Aborted Recovery Phase I of this season, the sudden health of his jumper was among the first indicators that his legs were feeling better. Let’s hope that’s the case today. It was smooth from 20 feet and in.
• Eddie House was a total non-factor tonight, scoring zero points in 12 minutes and taking just one shot. That shot? A contested transition lay-in with about 17 seconds left in the 1st quarter that Eddie House is really not qualified to be taking. It missed badly, and House fouled Earl Boykins on the rebound, giving the Wiz a free two points with 14.8 seconds left in the quarter. Inexcusable, and, to his credit, Eddie knew it right away.
• Worth repeating: Perk sat the entire 4th quarter. Sheed played the entire 4th quarter.
• Paul Pierce had nine rebounds tonight, including eight defensive rebounds. I thought he made a major effort to protect the glass after Mike Miller (not his man, but still) grabbed two quick offensive rebounds in the 1st quarter. Good on the captain.
• Ray Allen used the dribble tonight to create shots for himself at the rim and from mid-range. Of his first 11 attempts from the floor, eight came from two-point range. (His final two came from deep). I’m not sure if this was a conscience move to try and get himself going with higher-percentage shots, but it served the team well. Ray got himself good looks tonight.
• Antawn Jamison: 2-of-17. Yikes. Some of that was the usual good Celtic interior defense and rotations, but a lot of that—maybe half the misses?—was Jamison just missing makeable looks.
• Here are two examples of what I’m talking about when I say that sometimes the C’s should just do the simple things. Both involve Perk on the right block.
Example #1: With about 5:00 to go in the 2nd quarter, Perk gets the ball in the right block with Blatche on him. He sees KG wide-open to his right for what should be an easy dunk or a lay-in. Instead of taking an extra split second to turn his body halfway toward KG and make the pass, Perk tries a fancy no-look sideways dish. Blatche anticipates it, slides over and steals it.
Perk is not Kevin Garnett. He is an improved passer, but the C’s don’t need him making semi-no-look interior passes.
Example #2: With about 2:30 left, Rajon Rondo penetrates and has the Wiz defense scrambling. He finds Perk open about eight feet from the rim on the right side, with Jamison sprinting at him to contest. Perk isn’t facing the basket when he receives the pass; he’s sort of sideways. He could have rushed up a one-handed shot with his body moving left-to-right and Jamison in his face. It probably would have missed, or perhaps Perk might have traveled; he’s committed a lot of walks in the last two weeks.
Instead, Perk realized that he could hold the ball and back down the much smaller Jamison. That’s what he did. The Wiz came down for a soft double-team and Perk kicked the ball out to KG, who swung it around to Ray Allen for an open three-pointer.
Simple stuff. No turnovers, just easy, basic passes leading to easy, basic shots. There’s a reason the C’s shot 55 percent in this game: They’re good at creating good looks and making shots.
And with that, I’m out. Check back for further analysis. A win’s a win.