Pace: 86 possessions (tortoise-like)
Offensive Efficiency: 124.4 points scored/100 possessions (beyond league best)
Defensive Efficiency: 118.6 points allowed/100 possessions (beyond league worst)
* The pace and efficiency numbers are skewed a bit by a longer-than-usual garbage time free throw exchange
Thumbnail: The C’s rode some hot shooting and a rare burst of (15) offensive rebounds to defeat a Miami team that became just the 8th team this season to shoot over 50 percent from the floor against Boston. Dwyane Wade is an elemental force of awesomeness that the C’s will not see again this season unless these two teams meet in the playoffs. For that, I am happy. I’m also happy to have Rajon Rondo, who put up a 21-14-6 with three steals in what feels more and more like a ho-hum Rondo game.
Bullets, because this game took forever:
• Let’s start at the end: For the 2nd straight game, the C’s cleaned up their offense in the 4th quarter to put away an inferior team. After turning the ball over 14 times in the the first three quarters, the C’s coughed it up only three times in the 4th and shot 9-of-17 in the quarter to outlast Miami. Three turnovers in a quarter is actually pretty good; that would average out to 12 per game, which happens to be the exact number of times the Hawks—who commit the least turnovers in the league—cough the ball up in an average game.
So for Boston, turning the ball over just three times in a quarter is like Rick Ankiel taking the mound and walking one guy over nine innings. Cause for celebration.
• And the C’s needed to be efficient with the ball, because they had no answer for Dwyane Wade. 30-13-5 for Wade on 11-of-16 shooting, and he just picked apart the Celtics defense like no individual player has in a game since KG arrived here. Hubie Brown pointed out that the C’s interior rotations were slow, and the classic knee-jerk thing for a blogger to do would be to blame the team’s defense for its total inability to contain Wade as a scorer and creator.
But you know what? Wade is just awesome.
The C’s mostly had Tony Allen guard Wade. When Wade isolated on the wing, the C’s brought a big man over to the foul line area to deter penetration into the middle. It didn’t work. When the Heat set ball screens for Wade, the C’s had their big men jump out to cut off penetration one way while Tony Allen stayed on the other side of Wade. That didn’t work; Wade just split the double team or found the screener rolling to the hoop.
Jermaine O’Neal and Udonis Haslem were 11-of-19 tonight, and, if we’re being honest with each other, that percentage should have been higher. Wade got them easy looks all night.
Just be happy Wade is gone. He is a freaking menace.
• Everyone made big plays down the stretch. Eddie House (a much-needed 14 points on 5-of-9) made a huge three with 4:41 left to stop an 8-0 Miami run and put Boston up 91-86; KG hit a gorgeous spinning baseline turnaround to stretch the C’s lead to 95-88 with 2:53 left (and then got a way with a travel on the next possession, drawing a foul instead); and Tony Allen disrupted a Wade screen/roll with 36 seconds left and Boston clinging to a 97-94 lead.
On that play, Haslem hit TA with a nasty screen at the top of the arc. Wade drove left around that screen but then veered slightly back to his right just above the foul line in an attempt to cross over KG, who had dropped off of Haslem to help. Wade was slowly prodding his way into the lane, and he paid for his (well-meaning) hesitation. TA recovered and poked the ball away from behind for a game-saving steal.
• One interesting thing: Doc Rivers used a small line-up for about 12 minutes of this game—first toward the end of the 2nd quarter and then again for the first 9:30 of the 4th quarter. House and Rondo formed the back court and Ray Allen moved over to the three. Overall, the line-up was +2 over those 12 minutes, but it was -3 when Wade was in the game and +5 when Wade was on the bench. Wade was +6 overall for the Heat, the best mark of anyone on the team.
It’s easy to see why that line-up worked with Wade sitting but not with him in. Ray Allen can’t guard Wade; he can’t really do a credible job at it, either. Tony Allen can’t guard Wade, but at least Wade can’t overpower Tony as he can Ray.
But when Wade is out, the Heat have a combination of guards and small forwards that don’t pose much of a threat on offense. You can hide Eddie House on Daequan Cook and Ray Allen on Quentin Richardson if you’re willing to sacrifice some size on the other end.
• Those of you who are eager to trade Ray Allen should watch the stretch in the 4th from the 8:38 mark until about the 7:00 mark, in which the C’s stretched the lead from 79-77 to 88-78. Here are the five Boston possessions in that span:
(8:33): Ray Allen hits a three-pointer in transition (Rondo assists);
(8:02): Rasheed Wallace hits a 10-footer from the right baseline. How’d Sheed get so open? Ray cut along the baseline from the left side of the floor to the right, curled out to the left elbow and received the pass that has so often led to a smooth 18-foot jumper. But Sheed’s man had lunged out to deter that shot, and Ray dished a simple pass to Sheed for an easy two.
(7:43): Eddie House turnover. One of 17 Boston turnovers. Sigh.
(7:09): Kendrick Perkins dunks. How’d he get that dunk? Off a pass from Ray Allen on a screen/roll. Ray can run the screen/roll better than most pure two guards.
(6:35): Kendrick Perkins dunks in transition. Q-Rich appeared to be back in position to deter the Perk dunk, but Rondo—leading the break in the middle of the court—froze Q by faking a shovel pass to Ray Allen behind the three-point line. Q moved toward Ray, and Rondo hit Perk for the slam.
• Ray also had two hockey assists on that baseline-to-foul line curl. Twice he received the pass, saw that KG’s man had snuck out to defend him and hit KG under neath. That forced Perk’s man to rotate across the paint toward KG, and Garnett dished twice to Perk for scores.
The lesson: Ray Allen brings a lot to the table that you don’t notice if you’re not watching carefully.
• Rondo was spectacular tonight, and he attacked the rim aggressively. At one point, I thought he was going to go for a monster dunk over O’Neal. But he pulled back and drew a foul instead. Or to put it more accurately, Rono warded off O’Neal with his left arm and the refs whistled O’Neal anyway. It was a bad call, and it resulted in technicals on O’Neal and then a talkative Rafer Alston. Hey, the C’s will take the free points.
• Credit Doc Rivers for introducing a new play tonight and running it relentlessly in the first half, with great results. The play was pretty simple: Rondo would dribble the ball at the top of the key and Sheed and KG would cut up from the baseline, converge together at the foul line and set a double screen on Rondo’s guy. Between KG, Sheed and their two defenders, it looked like a rugby scrum at the foul line. The Heat were confused, everyone got in each other’s way and suddenly Rajon Rondo was at the rim and the C’s big guys were rolling in different directions and bad stuff was happening to Miami.
The C’s ran this play five times in the first half and got the following results:
• A dunk for KG (assist Rondo)
• An And-1 for Rondo
• And And-1 for KG (assist Rondo)
• An open jumper for KG from the foul line (he made it, assist Rondo)
• A missed Rondo lay-up (and it was an easy one)
Great stuff. Look for this again soon.
• I know I harp on turnovers in every recap, but the Celtics are now the most turnover-prone team in the league, and you can’t routinely waste 20 percent of your possessions and expect to beat a good team four times in seven tries in May. You just can’t.
A certain number of turnovers are inevitable and even acceptable. You must take risks to score against good defensive teams. Mistakes happen. But the Celtics make too many unforced, silly mistakes, often in pursuit of the highlight play when the simple one will do.
Examples from this game:
-Rasheed Wallace trying a diagonal over-the-shoulder pass from the right block to Scal at the top of the three-point arc. No chance. Miami steals it and scores;
-Rondo throws a 60-foot outlet pass that hits a sprinting Kendrick Perkins, with Udonis Haslem about a half-step behind him at the foul line; Perk tries to finish the fast break, but Haslem swats his lay-in. This isn’t a turnover, I realize. But it’s a home run play that has about a 5 percent chance of success. Think of all the elements that have to go perfectly for this play to result in a score, and the consider that Rondo is throwing this pass not to Kevin Garnett (a great fast-break big man) but to Kendrick Perkins.
• Bill Walker played tonight.
• You know what I love? When the C’s (or any other team, really) run a pick-and-pop, and the ball-handler looks to make a pass to the screener for a jump shot—only a help defender has already begun rotating out of the paint to help on the short jumper that he thinks is about to happen. And the ball-handler sees this and, instead of passing to the screener, he rifles a pass underneath to a big man who has just come open near the rim.
It’s like skipping the middle man. The natural progression is ball-handler to screener to open big guy. I love it when it goes directly from ball-handler to screener. It’s the sign of a good passer, and Rondo hit Perk on that play twice tonight; Perk drew shooting fouls each time.
• Rondo also hit two three-pointers tonight. That’s just the 5th time in his career he’s made more than one three in a regular-season game.
That’s it for tonight. The C’s are off tomorrow before taking on the lowly Nets on Friday.