Pace: 87 possessions (very slow)
Offensive Efficiency: 119.5 points/100 possessions (off the charts)
Defensive Efficiency: 91.2 points allowed/100 possessions (off the charts)
Thumbnail: For a night, all was well. The C’s blew out Charlotte for the third time in three meetings this season behind red hot three-point shooting (10-of-16 overall, 10-of-12 before garbage time) and a sticky D that denied Charlotte its first option all night. Charlotte’s four main perimeter players shot 10-of-36, and without an outside threat to deal with, Boston swarmed the paint and held Charlotte to 36 percent shooting. The starters rested the entire 4th quarter.
The C’s have now outscored Charlotte 304-229 in three games for an average victory margin of 25 points per. The C’s will have to finish at least 3rd to get the Bobs in the first round.
Recap: On nights like tonight, when the Bobcats can’t muster any perimeter game, this team is just easy to guard. The Bobcats went 0-of-9 from three-point range tonight. That was just the 10th game this season leaguewide in which a team hasn’t hit a three-pointer, and, incredibly, two of those games are Charlotte 0-fers against Boston.
As I mentioned above, the Bobs four main perimeter threats—Stephen Jackson, Ray Felton, Stephen Graham (note: not an actual threat) and D.J. Augustin—hit just 10 of their 36 shots. Felton and Jackson between them made just three shots.
Look: Charlotte is a bad offensive team to begin with. They can’t shoot three-pointers (34 percent as a team), and they’re 24th in offensive efficiency. Take away two of their three “best” inside players (Tyson Chandler and Nazy Mohammed) and what passes for their perimeter game, and you’re suddenly playing the Nets. (Wait: Do I have to stop making fun of the Nets after Saturday?)
The Hornets scored 46 points in the paint, 26 on foul shots and…8 from elsewhere on the court. Nate Robinson outscored the Bobcats from outside the paint in 6:47 of play in the first half.
But wait: Let’s hit some positives, shall we?
Boston’s D had something to do with this. The C’s gave Felton and Augustin nothing to work with on screen/rolls. Rondo and Nate Robinson both did a nice job chasing over screens without giving up much ground, and as a result, the C’s big men guarding the screener rarely had to jump out to cut off penetration. Instead, the bigs were able to quickly return to the roll man after briefly sagging back to cut off Felton/Augustin.
For the most part, the bigs did not have to jump out and show, which meant there weren’t as many high-stress, long-distance rotations to worry about.
And Jackson just never got in the game. Ray Allen did hounded him around screens and got low, into Jackson’s chest when Jackson made the catch. Also: Stack Jack became unnerved after picking up his 2nd foul with 1:42 to go in the 1st quarter, and he never really got back into the game. He stopped attacking the hoop (just two shots at the rim), and without Jack’s creativity, this team is just lost.
But when the Bobs did attack the rim? The C’s were there all night—arms in passing lanes, 8 shot blocks (their 4th-highest total this season) and a willingness to be physical.
A very nice defensive performance. Those happen a bit more often against Charlotte, but we’ll take it.
• Ray Allen attempted two shots tonight. That’s just the 3rd time in Ray’s career he has finished a game with two or fewer attempts, according to Basketball Reference. His career low is one shot attempt, and that happened in a game against Utah in ’06. Foul trouble + blowout = Rest for Ray = Me Happy.
• Here’s an optimistic way to look at tonight’s game: You could take it as proof that the C’s problems stem from a lack of focus and motivation the playoffs will cure.
Evidence: The C’s were up 38-21 with 9:30 to go in the 2nd quarter when the team began making the kinds careless mistakes it must eliminate in the post-season—the kind of mistakes you can’t even imagine a good team making in the playoffs.
The C’s coughed the ball up five times in a 3:25 span. Here were those five turnovers:
(9:11) After a Gerald Wallace basket, Rasheed Wallace throws an inbounds pass to Boris Diaw. Boris Diaw plays for Charlotte.
(7:31) Marquis Daniels drives and loses the ball out of bounds. Hey, it happens.
(7:01) Glen Davis drives to the basket at a speed he can’t handle, gets caught under the rim and, as he falls out of bounds, throws a desperation pass out to the perimeter. D.J. Augustin steals it and misses a transition lay-up.
(6:37) Rajon Rondo, inbounding under Charlotte’s basket, throws an inbounds pass to D.J. Augustin. D.J. Augustin plays for the Bobcats. Augustin dribbles the length of the court and makes a lay-up.
(5:39) Kendrick Perkins fumbles the ball on the left block/lets Boris Diaw knock it away. Hey, it happens.
Look, I don’t want to be Debbie Downer here, but this is sort of pathetic, and Charlotte had cut the lead to 40-35 by the time the C’s got right. Throwing away two inbounds passes? Come on, guys. You have to believe greater care will be taken in April and May.
The Celtics should have won this game by 40.
• Stephen Graham is not the sort of person you want attempting 12 shots in a game.
• Nate Robinson hit his first four three-pointers, meaning he was on an 8-of-9 streak from deep before missing a couple in garbage time. His 1st-quarter buzzer-beater—a rainbow over Ty Thomas—was ridiculous.
• But here’s what Nate is going to have learn now that he’s playing games that matter: He can’t get carried away with himself. After that wonderful finish to the 1st quarter, he opened the 2nd with an ill-advised pull-up three in transition (he made it, but it was a terrible shot). On the ensuing defensive possession, Nate lunged out to pressure D.J. Augustin 28-feet from the hoop, and Augustin blew by him, got into the lane and missed an open runner.
Nate: You’re on a real team now. No need to gun for highlight plays. Just do your job.
• Welcome back, Truth. 27 points on 13 shots for Pierce, and the C’s turned to Pierce to right the ship when Charlotte got to within 42-41 in the 2nd quarter. Pierce hit a three and then a driving lay-up (sandwiched around a KG jumper) to restore some cushion.
• The C’s also ran a nice little play early in the game to get Pierce going (and they ran it again later). Check the 10:40 mark in the 1st: Rajon Rondo brings the ball up and passes to Ray Allen on the left wing. Rondo cuts down the middle of the court toward the foul line as if he’s heading to the baseline area. As Rajon starts that cut, Pierce curls around from the right wing toward the top of the key. Rondo suddenly stops at the left elbow and sets a surprise screen on Pierce’s guy (Gerald Wallace).
Pierce curls around it, takes a pass from Ray and drives toward the hoop. The Charlotte bigs collapse on Pierce, and he dishes to Perk for the jam.
You know I’m a sucker for a) creative off the ball movement; and b) the use of Rondo as a screener/decoy/something besides ball-handler. Good times.
• The C’s had one of their best three-point shooting games of the season. Sheed attempted zero three-pointers.
• Tyrus Thomas is one of the 10 most puzzling players in the league. I realize this is not news. What happens to Thomas (a restricted free agent) will be one of the most interesting things about this summer.
I mean, if you’re Ty Thomas, and you’re young and athletic and fast, and you see Rasheed Wallace guarding you…aren’t you salivating? Demanding the ball? Driving to the rim whenever you get it?
Instead, he was mostly a non-entity. He finished with a double-double (15-10), but that masks the fact that he did almost nothing of note while the game was (sort of) in the balance. Six of his 15 points and seven of his 10 boards came in the 4th quarter, which was all garbage time.
• Encouraging sign: The C’s hit KG three times with that semi-transition lob where he beats the opposing big guy down the floor, gets inside position near the hoop and calls for a lob over the fronting defender. The play produced a lay-in, a drawn foul and a Pierce three when Gerald Wallace collapsed down on KG after a Rondo lob entry and KG kicked to the Truth.
This has always been a go-to play for Healthy KG.
• Shelden Williams has improved his jumper out to about 15 feet. As I was perhaps too happy to point out, Shelden’s J was the among the weaker parts of his game before this season. The guy works hard.
• Bill Walker and Eddie House combined for 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting tonight, and yet there’s very little doubt in mind that—at least for this season—Danny Ainge made the right move by acquiring Nate Robinson.
• The KG/Pierce screen/roll was working well tonight, producing switches, driving lanes for Pierce and/or open Js for KG. Bread and butter, baby.
That’s it for now. More tomorrow, of course. Nice to have an easy one, wasn’t it?