Celtics 105, Nuggets 114
The Celtics essentially dug themselves a first quarter hole of which they could not dig themselves out. The Nuggets saw a road weary team and eagerly pounced, starting out aggressive and hot. They enjoyed a 37-19 lead by the end of the first quarter and left the Celtics searching for answers. Much like any other defensive minded team, the C’s found it on the defensive end.
The C’s played inspired basketball for the next two quarters but, as usual, offensive ineptitude and careless turnovers prohibited the Celtics from sustaining the efficient play. Despite the box score reading minuses across the board leading to a near double-digit loss, there were quite a few positive take-aways from today’s game. However, like with any up-and-down game, the C’s had their fair share of negatives as well.
Let’s discuss them, in bullet form:
- Paul Pierce should win an Oscar today for his portrayal of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It was clear from the get-go that Pierce really understood the nuances of the characters and really made Robert Louis Stevenson’s vision come to life. It’s not easy to grasp all the minutiae when it comes to fleshing out such dynamic characters, but Pierce is a professional. The normally steadfast offensive threat relegated himself to a pedestrian 5 points on 2-10 shooting on the offensive side of the floor, but then followed up each missed jump shot with a spectacular defensive play. Pierce’s defensive prowess is illustrated best in his having a season high in blocked shots (4). These weren’t resounding blocks that sent fans to their feet and caused commentators to make frivolous Lebron, Howard, and Mutombo comparisons. These were blocks made by possible by years of study and a true mastering of the art of anticipation. Pierce’s play was so wondrous on the defensive end it was really perplexing to witness such a %$#*& terrible display on offense….but I digress.
- Free throws proved costly today. The normally reliable free throw shooting team shot 13 of 24 from the charity strip which calls into question the generosity of the line’s namesake. Conversely, the Celtics also played “hack-a-Nugget” all game, committing eight more fouls than Denver (29-21). The officiating was actually pretty solid all night despite Joey Crawford leading the three blind mice around the court. The bottom line is that the Celtics can’t shoot a shade over 50% from the line and expect to win against a top team.
- Did someone ask for positivity? Only 13 turnovers today- two committed by Rondo were also easily avoidable. One in particular was especially troubling because it came as a result of a no-look pass that went right to Kenyon Martin. To make matters worse, this no-look came on a 3-1 fast break which could have ended in an easy lay up or opportunity to make amends at that devilish free throw line. The other easily avoidable miscue came in the fourth quarter when Rondo tried to out-dribble Ty Lawson at the top of the arc and just miss-dribbled leading to a Lawson steal and lay up. Rondo shouldn’t be trying to out-dribble anyone- unless it’s a big man that can’t recover in time to hinder a Rondo blow-by and squeaker off the glass (notably Chris Anderson today). On the theme of positivity, the Celtics also shot 2 for 13 from deep- but three of those came on Rondo desperation heaves. Two for ten isn’t great, but take away the three bricks from Rasheed and we’re talkin’ a passable 2 for 7. What’s that? You’re not buying it? Aw Shucks!
- Too much J.R. Smith. Down the stretch J.R. (my name is Earl) Smith made four threes that really put the freeze on any hope of a Celtic rally. When this guy is on, his stroke is a thing of beauty. He’s like a 6’5″ Eddie House; rest in (Green) peace. On the other hand, when he’s off, it’s not news to any body but him. He will shoot his team right out of the game. He’ll lay bricks until the buzzer sounds and look up at a ten point deficit and ask, “what happened?” He’ll keep shooting until every fan has left the building and the whole team has showered before he realizes the game is over and the Nuggets have lost. Unfortunately, that did not happen this afternoon.
- Glen Davis’ offensive rebounding is deceptive. Watching the rebounding numbers between these two teams end in a stalemate was a great sight to see. It’s also nice to see Glen Davis grab four offensive rebounds, something he’s clearly being more aggressive in pursuing. The unfortunate thing is that more often than not, the net gain from these big boards is nil. Davis needs to either learn how to draw contact or pass out of the post after an offensive board. Davis continues to try and power a put-back up but his lack of lift really handicaps his effectiveness. He is either not getting calls or clearly getting blocked, but either way, it’s hurting the team. Personally, I don’t care if it’s either one. I just don’t like seeing hard work go to waste- or perhaps more appropriately, get blocked back in the Celtics faces. I don’t have the raw numbers right now, but I’m going to go back and check on the last four games and really see how many times Davis’ fails to get a successful put-back after an offensive rebound.
- Nate Robinson was drastically needed in this game. Say what you want about the Nate Robinson trade, but his game was sorely needed in the third and fourth quarters. He could have easily guarded Ty Lawson and ran the break with Rondo late in the game. The Celtics could have the most athletic bench in the NBA if there was a way they could have pried Tyrus Thomas from Chicago for Brian Scalabrine and Sheldon Williams and paired him with Nate Robinson. Ohhhh the possibilities.
All in all, I’ll take 3-1 on this road trip. Pierce is still injured and they won three games without the full compliment of their banch. Ray Allen also appears back and renewed, as I noted in Thursday’s Daily Dime, and provided Celtics fans today with another solid shooting night and a fearless dunk down the lane. Speaking of dunks, Garnett’s alley oop in the lane among four white jerseys? Anyone? Anyone?
Signs of good things to come people. I’ll take the loss, if it means Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are back.
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