After watching the game last night, I was ready to accept the idea of blowing this team up. Whether it was the 22 turnovers, the majority of which were flat out careless mistakes, or the 11 missed free throws or another 3rd quarter collapse, I couldn’t tell you exactly what pushed me over the edge, but I had had enough of this team.
Right then, I would have told Danny to make the deal, any deal to break up this crew. We needed new blood in here, younger blood, more motivated blood. There is a thing called Celtic pride and at first glance last night, this team didn’t seem to have any of it.
Then I woke up today, and decide to torture myself by re-watching the 2nd half of the Hornets game again. Was I overreacting to this one game? Possible, but not probable. Was this team’s inconsistency turning me into a fan who always went with a knee jerk reaction afterwards? Perhaps. Was it fair to give up on this squad? I couldn’t tell you. I went to the tape to find out and try to gain a bit more perspective on this one.
I am gladly say after watching those 24 minutes again, I felt better about last night’s performance and this team. You may laugh after reading that statement, but it is true. Am I excusing a pathetic effort? Absolutely not. However, am I willing to reconsider taking one regular season game before the All-Star break to be the final straw in blowing up this team after a dismal injury ridden 2 month stretch? Yes, I can gladly say I am.
This team right now may very well be fatally flawed. We won’t know that for sure until playoff time. For now though, this team’s main problems are mental and health related, not talent related, after last night’s game that much is clear to me. There are some choppy waters out there, but as ominous as the waves are right now, I’m not quite ready to jump overboard just yet. And I don’t think Danny Ainge is ready to either. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the main reason not to overreact about last night’s collapse, based on one big idea.
Paul Pierce may have played the worst 2nd half of his professional career last night
That’s a lofty statement given how long his career has been. Pierce has incredibly hit 8 turnovers or more in his career 12 times. Amazingly, the C’s are 6-6 in those games. His all-time high is 12 turnovers against Charlotte a couple years back. Naturally, the C’s found a way to win that game. They key thing with Pierce though, having watched him my entire life, is that if he is struggling with taking care of the ball, he usually is doing enough good on other parts of the floor to help balance out the damage caused by the turnovers.
So what happened last night? The guy had 8 turnovers, and after re-watching last night’s game one thing was painfully evident; Paul Pierce killed this team’s chances on both sides of the floor, even more than the final box score indicated.
Here was Paul’s 2nd half line for the night:
2 points on 1/6 shooting, 1 rebound, 0 free throw attempts, 0 steals, and 5 turnovers in 19 minutes.
If that is how your best offensive option is playing, you aren’t going to win many games. Pierce appeared to be running in concrete at times, as the injury limited his movement and clearly kept him from filling up the box score in other ways as we’ve seen so many other times through his career.
And the thing is, Paul Pierce was just as bad, if not worse on the defensive end. He, along with his other walking wounded teammate in Kevin Garnett, failed several times in the final 24 minutes to rotate and recover efficiently on defense, which provided countless 3 point opportunities and fast break chances for Morris Peterson. Mo Pete converted plenty of these to help get the Hornets back in the game.
Now I don’t mean to beat up on Paul Pierce here. The guy clearly still isn’t anything close to 100 percent. He isn’t a speedster even when healthy, but between his foot and any lingering effects from his knee injury, the guy has no lateral quickness at this point. He looks okay early in games but the injury has appeared to stiffen up on him in the 2nd halves of games recently. (Only 2/6 shooting for 4 points in 2nd half vs. Orlando)
I guess my point is a couple things. First, Paul Pierce isn’t this bad of a player and the team will be a lot better when he is back to his healthy self. This much I’m not worried about. The bigger issue for me is how much Paul Pierce was hurting this team while he was in there, especially when there are finally some viable replacements on the bench (Marquis Daniels anyone?)
I don’t put any of the blame on Paul for playing through this. The guy, as we all well know, is a trooper and doesn’t like to sit out games. This one, as far as I’m concerned, is on Doc. You have your best player, clearly hobbled, slowing his team down on both ends of the floor in the 3rd quarter. Then you have his replacement Marquis Daniels, who comes in during the 4th quarter and is keeping the Celtics in the game, shooting 4 of 4 from the field and providing the only real semblance of offense on a night where the rest of the team, especially the starters have come out flat offensively in the 2nd half.
Doc has to be able to see this. Now that he has options on his bench, he can’t be afraid to ride the hot hand, especially when the team is going through chemistry and health problems. Doc did this nicely in the 2nd quarter with the bench unit, but still fails to trust them outside of Rasheed Wallace in crunch time.
So what happens down the stretch when the starters get reinserted? They score 7 points in the final 6 minutes with Tony Allen providing 5 of those points. Everyone else in the starting lineup chipped in with a missed shot or turnover in that closing moments while Marquis Daniels rotted away on the bench with his 14 points.
Now Daniels is only in his 2nd game back from injury, and played 24 minutes in this one, so maybe Doc is trying to play it cautious with him. It’s clear though he was the best player on the floor last night for the C’s, yet didn’t see the floor down the stretch. That’s on Doc in my book.
A couple other semi “positive” bullets from this one
With numbers like those, it’s easier to see how there is no easy solution for this team right now. It’s not just The Big Three who are struggling, it’s all the starters right now that are out of whack. The good news is the bench is running on all cylinders and ready to help in the short term. Doc needs to be willing to rely on them more as the team heads out West.
A healthy, rested Ray Allen would help too along with a natural backup point guard. Make it happen Danny. For now though, relax Celtics fans. Despite a pitiful stretch, this team is still only 2 games out of 2nd place in the East. For as bad as it is, the team could be in a far worse spot right now. And though they haven’t shown the ability to put it all together, I’m not ready to give up completely just yet.