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Celtics Win? Celtics 86, Wizards 83

 

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Earlier today, I was playing some pick up basketball with a Celtics team employee and he lamented that when the season started, this matchup tonight was supposed to be a marquee worthy enough for the eight o’clock ESPN time slot.  Unfortunately, due to some poor choices and lopsided trades, the Celtics were set to take on a new look Wizards teams that didn’t pose much of a threat at all.  To this employee, all I can say is, “all’s well that ends well.” Right?

For three and a half quarters the Celtics seemed set on laying one of the biggest eggs of the season.  They shot terribly, got out hustled, and flat out talented by guys with less talent.  Al Thornton played like a man on a mission tonight.  Flip Saunders is known for being an offensive minded coach, and he seems to be getting every last bit of offensive capability out of the cards he’s been dealt.

In the preview, Brian wrote about how Andray Blatche was a man with which to be reckoned.  Well surprise! 23 points and nine rebounds!  Blatche showed off his considerable skill in various areas of the game and even displayed a consistent midrange jumper I had yet to see.

The Wizards were aggressive on defense, frustrating the Celtics on drives, contesting shots, playing passing lanes, and Javale McGee was an absolute shot blocking machine tonight.  By taking away the passing lanes, this Wizards team took away one of the main things that makes Rondo so great.  Rondo only mustered 7 assists in 37 minutes, a pretty pedestrian number for Rondo.

Doc Rivers deserves a lot of credit for this one, although it may not have felt that way during the game.  When I reviewed the box score after the game, I was absolutely shocked that no starter played over forty minutes.  This almost asssuedly accounts for the energy the Celtics used to climb out of the 13 point hole with a little more than six minutes to go.

So, how did the Celtics come back in this game with no offensive game to speak of?  I don’t need an auto-tune (or do I?) to impart to you how important the Celtics defense was and how well they stepped up when it was time to decided to make a run for it or mail it in.

  • The Celtics began double teaming at the exact right times.  Blatche and Thornton are really nice young players.  Each showed a lot of people something tonight.  However, a metamorphosis into a star NBA player does not happen in one game.  Both Thornton and Blatche may have had it going offensively, but it was pretty clear that Thornton was not prepared for the Ray Allen/ Kevin Garnett sandwich he found himself in.
  • While stepping up the on ball defense, they also limited Washington to very few second chance points over the last six minutes of the game.  By securing almost every defensive rebound, the Celtics were able to step up their transition game, which had almost been nonexistent until that point.
  • The transition game really got Rondo going and got the Celtics wide open looks that they were only too happy to knock down.  None of these looks was more important than KG’s offensive rebound on the Rondo missed free throw, leading to the wide open three Ray Allen made to put the C’s up for good.
  • Kevin Garnett really didn’t have his offensive tonight, but it didn’t matter.  He contributed in so many different ways that, without him in the game, the Celtics wouldn’t have had a chance.  I think it’s safe to say that the Kevin Garnett that throws down alley oops in transition is gone for good, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a huge part of the Celtics’ success.

The bottom line for tonight’s win:  The Celtics banded together for a solid six minutes, and destroyed a team that has mopped the floor with them all night.  This win gives the Celtics something to hang their “mental toughness” (thinking?) hats on.

This win also shows that the Celtics aren’t bored anymore. Kendrick Perkins admitted that this Celtics team had their heads in April instead of in the here and now. This game shows that the Celtics are here right now.  They could have mailed it in, hit the showers, and started a new week of basketball fresh.

Now they just get to start it fresher.

  • adam

    Go celtics!

  • DRJ1

    Disagree on only one point: “…the Kevin Garnett that throws down alley oops in transition is gone for good” — No, that KG is alive and well and will be playing soon at an arena near you.

  • Colin

    It was a Perkins offensive rebound on the Ray Allen three, not KG. And it didn’t put them up for good – Foye hit a jumper right after.

  • Jason

    This seems to be a running theme, but teams are just making so many shots, so many tough shots and the Cs are missing their wide open shots as well as a number of close in ones. I mean if Rondo’s going to miss a bunch of runners and KG miss a bunch of paint opps and BBD, too, and BOTH Blatche and Thornton play like Durant, what are you going to do? Getting the win is pretty nice when you think that way.

    The problem is it seems every game has been this way for months. The Cs aren’t making shots (or turning it over) and everyone else is having their best games against them. You’d like to think it’s just bad luck, but the track record is getting pretty long, so it’s hard to make that assertion. It seems even when the Cs tip a ball, it’s bouncing perfectly to the other team. It’s just been a really weird stretch.

    When you only play a good 6 minutes out of 48 and still win against a team making everything, sure you wonder why they didn’t play well the other 42 minutes, but you have to also acknowledge they still must be pretty good to pull that off. So the ability is there, it’s just the “full 48 minutes” thing that needs fixing. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

  • Ray Leighton

    This was not a pretty win. Still, it was good to see the Cs come back and win when down by double-digits, instead of losing when up by more than 10. But I also think that things are looking up — we are 8 and 3 since the All-Star Break. There was a lot of panic after the awful loss to the Nets, but for the most part, the Cs are taking better care of business. Aside from the Nets horror, the other two losses were to two very good teams (including losing to Denver on the 3rd game in four nights at the end of a road trip). Of course, the wins have been against league doormats, but by the same argument, the Celtics losses during January and February were during a long stretch against quality teams, often on the road.

    One more thing, for the stats-heads. Prior to the All-Star Break, KG’s PER Differential for the season — essentially his own PER production vs. that of his opponent on the floor at the same time — was +7.1. Since then his average PER Differential for the season is now up to +8.9. That may not seem like much, until you stop to realize that this is his -average for the season-. In other words, in just eleven games, KG has elevated his game so much that his season averages relative to his opponents have gone up significantly (outside of Bosh, KG now has the highest PER Diff of any power-forward in the East). I checked through the post-all-star games and KG’s scoring (despite tonight’s 0-for), and perhaps more importantly, his rebound, steal, and blocked shot averages have all been significantly higher during that stretch, without any loss in FG% or assists. I was particularly happy watching KG a few games ago when he elevated to swat away a Gerald Wallace drive to the basket. I think the opposition is starting to have to adjust their shots again.

    It’s not clear if KG is just getting a bit healthier (it still does not seem to me like he is 100%) or if KG is making up for losing a step by learning to play smarter (as he actually suggested a while back). In any event, if KG can stay healthy, I think that he is going to keep getting better. And this has to be good news for a championship run.

  • Joel W

    Ray Allen has also been so so much better since the trade deadline. He’s had one game, one!, since the trade deadline where he shot under 50% from the field, and is 41% from 3.

    The team will get infinitely better in the playoffs if KG can go 36 and Perk can go 32-35 and they can keep Sheed of the court as much as possible. If they were doing that now, I think it would be worth over 1.5 points in win differential per game.

  • DRJ1

    @Joel– I’m not writing Sheed off yet. I believe he will flip his switch BIG time when the playoffs start. I think he’s that kinda guy. His pride will take over, and you’ll see a whole new Sheed out there.

    Can’t be sure, of course… but based on what he has said, and the way the team is moving now… I think that’s what’s coming. And wouldn’t it be cool? Yes… and that would cement their run for #18. With Sheed at the top of his game and everybody else healthy…. this team will be very, very hard to beat.

  • Tebucky

    Scary to see what athletic big men can do to the Celtics front line. Bring on Dwight Howard-esque guys, I don’t wanna see the frickin Hawks.

    To that point, why wouldn’t Doc attack those same matchups down the other end of the floor? Would be nice to see Doc call some plays to use our size (Perkins on McGee, especially) against them.

  • Urbeltic

    I think it’s telling that flip and the bullets went at KG in an isolation play when they needed to get the win on the last play. In other words, if you allow KG to play team D he is all the things we love, but if you go at him one on one he is the broken down super star we all fear.

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  • DRJ1

    I put KG at ~90% of his pre-injury self, on a +slope curve heading toward 100%. It appears that the last part of his game to come back will be his confidence in guarding guys one on one, and especially in his lateral movements doing so. Last night, he did both quite well, actually… so even that last ~10% looks like it’s already on its way back.

    Come the playoffs – when the rest of this team flips all its switches (and keeps them flipped) – there’s going to be no stopping these guys.

  • hallik

    You see what happens when Perk, doesnt think and just plays! He’s a beast!

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  • Sweeney

    Where was the bench? I mean that was a horrible performance on all levels. Perhaps part of the team still has their head in “April” as Perk put it. We won’t survive too many games like that with an output like that.

  • Jeezy da Juice Man

    Small note, but I think we can all agree that the addition of auto-tune would make these recaps much more enjoyable.

  • http://celticshub.com Dee

    Did anyone see Pierce and Garnett going at in the huddle at the 17.1 timeout? Pierce kept trying to get his attention and KG turned and snarled right in his grill and they started barking at each other. It continued as they walked on the floor. If the intensity is positive and they’re pumping each other up I love it. I hope it wasn’t something else… I have to say we need to go easy on the optimisam as we are beating the least of the east at the moment. We are not exactly blowing them out. We are fortunate Jesus Shuttlesworth found his stroke at the right time and the “D” picked up. I venture to guess they would’ve lost to any team that qualifies for the playoffs last night. Still a lot a work and a long way to go before this team be taken seriously for chaqmpionship considration.

  • http://celticshub.com Brendan Jackson

    @Dee
    I saw that as well. I initially thought of the worst but then I realized that no one was breaking them up or seemed concerned. This led me to conclude that this was totally a pump up situation. Garnett had some great defensive plays last night and I imagine Pierce was saying something to the effect of, “No one scores on you, no one.” Of course, this is all specualtion, but I think it was just pumping each other up. They are too old and too vet-savvy to get in each others grills in the midst of a do or die situation, unless it was positive.

  • Floyd

    @DRJ1: did you notice how Sheed completely checked out in the playoffs last season? It was one of the most disgraceful, dignity-free performances I’ve ever seen in a professional sport. I wouldn’t bet my life that he’ll “flip his switch” if I were you. Unless by “flip his switch” you mean “never stray more than five feet from the half-court line in either direction ever again.”

  • DRJ1

    @Floyd– Yeah, I thought about last year too. But as you know, he was clearly unhappy with Detroit at that time, already checked out. This time, he came to Boston talking about winning the championship. And he has the pride/obligation thing with KG, Paul and the other guys.

    But… I ain’t bettin’ anything actually valuable on Mr. Sheed. No way, no how. I’m hopeful, expectant. That’s it. Thing is… if he doesn’t flip the switch, it’s going to be a lot harder for this team to go all the way. Also…. I’m gonna hate his damn guts forever.

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