It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure. It generally hasn’t been this year anyway. When your top interior rebounder and defender is out of action however against a team full of scrappy rebounders and slashers, you’ll take a win anyway you can get it. We’ve used that line far too often this year at CelticsHub, but when you are coming off a loss against one of the worst teams in NBA history, we actually do mean it.
The starters were uninspiring, Paul looked understandably rusty, Rondo was sloppy and Sheed was well….Sheed, a slighty better version than we’ve seen lately. Building blocks from this one though came via the bench, and the energy they provided to take and build a sizable lead late to hand off to the starters.
Nate Robinson provided the instant offense that Danny brought him into town for, Big Baby was active down low and Shelden Williams, last spotted on a milk carton even provided some toughness, rebounding and timely scoring down low in 15 minutes of action. Shelden lovers rejoice!
Naturally, the starters made things interesting late, and the defense was pretty ugly for the much of this one, but the Celtics made their free throws (Rondo 4/4 in final minute) when they needed to and held on for the win. To repeat, nothing too impressive tonight, but this team will take the baby steps at this point, to go along with a W.
Before we get to the bullets, let’s hand out some additional love for the bench here. What exactly went right for them in the 4th quarter? Energy for one thing, as well as nice ball movement all over the floor. The offense came from the inside out, with Glen Davis and Shelden Williams chipping in from the paint, before Nate Robinson caught fire from behind the arc, hitting a couple treys, followed up with one by Sheed to cap a 13-4 run. That offensive output broke up a tied game, giving the C’s their biggest lead of the night at 93-84 at the 4 and a half minute mark of the 4th.
Perhaps, just as important as the bench’s offense effort was their work on the defensive end. In the 4th quarter, the C’s bench unit put down the clamps on the Detroit offense, holding them to just 8 points in the first 7:30 of the final 12 minutes. How did they do it? They forced the Pistons to their weakness: Outside shooting. Missed jumper after jumper (6 in total) during that time span kept the Pistons offense at bay.
Say what you want about how bad Detroit’s offense has been this year, but the fact of the matter is, the Celtics starters had shown no real ability to put the clamps down on these guys and keep them from getting to the hoop. There was one point, midway through the 2nd quarter when the Pistons, as a team were shooting about 75 percent from inside the arc. How? They kept getting to the hoop against an senior citizen starting lineup that was missing their best interior defender. Give credit to the bench for tightening up when it needed to down the stretch.
Also, some kudos for Doc giving extended run to the bench down the stretch, sticking with Robinson and Daniels until the 3 minute mark. This kind of rotation has to be repeated by Doc in regular seasons lulls like this. Doc needs to look down his bench, find energy from wherever he can can get it, and not be afraid to ride the hot hand, especially against inferior competition like the Pistons.
Starters playing uninspired? Fine, find someone else on your bench who is, whether it be Marquis all the way down to Shelden Williams. Leave no stone unturned. When the starting lineup is healthy, the 2nd unit is talented enough to hold their own much of the time. Nights like tonight should give Doc more trust in them, late in games when they are playing well collectively.
Naturally, when the starters came back in late, they made it interesting, turning into a sieve defensively, and making a few foolish plays. Well actually TA made one of them with a terrible foul on Rip Hamilton coming out of timeout to give Rip 3 free throws. Ugh. But the Ray Allen turnover, slipping out of bounds? The kick to Sheed for the corner 3 with a couple minutes left? Not pretty crunch time offense, and a failure to put this Piston team away without drama. Thankfully, the free throws were going down (10/10 in final 2 minutes) kept Detroit at bay. A few bullets to wrap up things.
* Rajon Rondo with another seemingly pretty line of 15 points and 11 assists but all around a fairly ugly game in my estimation. 6 bad, lazy turnovers. Just one shot attempt in the 2nd half. If he keeps this up later in games, he will be finding himself on the bench more in favor of Nate. Mark my words on that.
* Not all bad news on Rondo though. Made 4 pretty free throws in the closing minutes, not shying away from the pressure there. Very good to see. Only played 3 minutes in 4th though.
* Paul Pierce looked rusty as I mentioned earlier. Liked Doc keeping his minutes down his return especially with a potential toughie coming up tonight against the Bobcats.
* 26 assists and 12 turnovers tonight. Two stats that I can get behind. Also don’t underestimate how much C’s took advantage of their free throw attempts tonight. 26/31 from the stripe. They needed every last one too.
* Owned on boards tonight, that was going to happen with Perk out against this team. Moving on….
* KG seemed to be laboring a bit more than usual tonight.
* Stat of the night: Big Baby leads team in shot attempts with 14 in just 18 minutes. Naturally, he only hits 5. Still, his energy was contagious tonight it seemed for 2nd unit.
* With Perk likely back tomorrow night, does Shelden see the floor? I say yes, he’s earned another 10 minutes. I hope they come at the expense of Sheed against Bobcats’ active young frontcourt. Fingers crossed that Nazr Mohammed will still be out again with back spasms.
*Model of efficiency tonight with Nate Robinson scoring 14 in 15 minutes. All Doc could talk about after game is how he put in Knicks set for him. Sounded extremely proud of himself for it. Whatever makes you feel good at this point coach.
* Charlotte back home tomorrow. Remember when we held them to 59 points opening night? Don’t worry, I barely do either. I’d take them reversing those digits tonight.