Post-game Reactions

ESPN Recap3 S.O.B.  • Straight Outta Vancouver

Pace: 92 possessions (average)

Offensive Efficiency: 98.9 points/100 possessions (Nets-ian)

Defensive Efficiency: 120.6 points allowed/100 possessions (beyond league worst)

Thumbnail: The Grizzlies came into Boston and did everything but steal the C’s picnic basket. Memphis shredded the NBA’s best defense using mostly a simple high screen/roll, Boston got next to nothing from its front line and the C’s suffered just their second 20-point loss of the season.

Recap: Wow. I know, it’s the second night of a back-to-back in March, and the Grizzlies are a decent road team (now 15-17), and all the rest of it. But to lose to a .500 team at home by 20—with the 20-point margin actually under-stating how badly Memphis whipped Boston? I can’t just chalk that up to the vagaries of the schedule.

To my eyes, this was the single worst defensive performance of the KG/Ray/Pierce/Thibodeau era. This isn’t a black-or-white “Boston sucks and Memphis did nothing of note!” thing. Memphis has spent most of the season in the top 10 in offensive efficiency, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol can run a nice screen/roll, Rudy Gay can score and O.J. Mayo can go off. And there’s a reason every team in the NBA runs the screen/roll on half of its possessions—it works.

But the missed assignments, the inability to adjust, the communication breakdowns—this was not Celtic basketball as we’ve come to know it.

I said earlier that this might be the worst defensive performance in the post’-07 era, and the numbers show I’m not far off.

Let’s look at some numbers:

• Tonight marked the 13th game this season in which Boston allowed a team to shoot at least 50 percent, according to Basketball Reference. Perspective: Teams cracked 50 percent just 17 times combined in ’07-08 and ’08-09. Six teams have pulled it off since the start of calendar year 2010.

• This marks 7th time since the start of the ’08 season that a team has hit 55 percent of its shots in a game against the C’s. Three of those games have come in 2010.

So if this isn’t the worst defensive performance of the New Big Three era, it’s in the discussion. Marcus Williams and Mike Conley—hardly Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon—combined for 28 points and 11 assists on 11-of-19 shooting. They didn’t lead the Grizz in scoring, but they killed the C’s tonight—both through their own play and Boston’s mistakes.

Just look at the evidence:

(1:09, 1st Q): Rondo drifts off of Williams on the left side and has to run hard to Williams when Gay swings the ball there. Williams beats him cleanly and gets in the lane for a floater. He misses, but Hasheem Thabeet takes advantage of the C’s help rotation to get himself an uncontested tip-in.

(0:33, 1st Q): Rudy Gay (guarded by Daniels) sets a screen in delayed transition for Williams on the right wing. The screen catches Rajon Rondo, but Daniels does not switch onto Williams. Nobody does. He penetrates into the lane finds Gay on the roll for a dunk.

(8:51, 2nd Q): Williams blows by a reaching Nate Robinson at the top of the key. No screen needed. And-1

(5:55, 2nd Q): Rondo botches his job as a help defender on a Mayo/Gasol high screen/roll Memphis runs in an emergency with the shot clock running down. The C’s trap Mayo, and he dishes to Gasol at the foul line on the roll. KG reacts correctly by leaving Randolph on the right wing and moving over to take Gasol. That leaves Rondo as the lone defender on the right side of the floor, and he’s responsible for two guys: Randolph and Conley, who is standing in the right corner.

Randolph, for whatever reason, drifts out 20 feet from the hoop instead of cutting to the rim for a pass from Gasol. Rondo decides to chase Randolph there and leave Conley alone. Conley is shooting 42 percent from three-point range. Swish. And this one hurt, because the C’s had just “cut” the Grizz lead to 16, and that passed for a run in this game.

(0:50, 3rd): Williams and Gay run a little side screen/roll on the right wing near the corner, with Gay setting the screen and rolling into the post. Rondo switches onto Gay and gets into standard post defense position—on Gay’s back. Pierce appears to think he should try and switch back onto Gay, so he leaves Williams—who still has the ball—and moves back toward Rudy. Williams, who hadn’t been planning things this way, realizes no one is guarding him and hits a three.

(9:21, 4thQ): Sam Young outruns the entire C’s defense and gets a transition dunk off a nice Williams outlet. Yes, the guy Young had been guarding (Daniels) went for an offensive rebound, but Robinson and Wallace were both back in plenty of time and either didn’t see Young or decided not to guard him.

There are more. I don’t have the energy. Bottom line: The Grizz ran their offense well, but the Celtics helped by making the kind of mistakes the worst defensive teams in the league make every night. We’ve been privileged for the last 2 1/2 seasons to watch a team play great defense damn near every game. Tonight we got to see how the other half lives.


• In the 1st quarter, when the C’s shot 5-of-20, I actually thought their offense was (mostly) functioning well. They were just missing good shots. KG was 0-of-3, all on open jumpers from 20 feet and out, and Rondo was 1-of-6, with four of the misses coming from 10 feet and in. These were good shots. They just didn’t fall.

• After that? Things got worse, and they got worse mostly because the C’s turned into a team that—save for a few decent Sheed possessions—had no inside offensive presence. It will be hard for Boston to win when Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Paul Pierce take just 21 shots between them, and when Perk and KG combined hit just five field goals and zero free throws.

The C’s offense for the last 36 minutes devolved for long stretches into Rajon Rondo driving into the teeth of the defense and trying a tough lay-up. Rajon led the team with 15 field-goal attempts, and I wonder what the C’s record is when he takes the most shots.

Hoopdata doesn’t have its box score up yet, but I’m betting this was one of the C’s worst games this season in terms of shooting percentage at the rim. Lots of missed shots from inside four feet, with Rondo and Daniels (1-of-6) leading the way.

• Michael Finley is getting run in the 1st half. Tony Allen is not.

• Nate Robinson has 19 more games to get acclimated to Boston’s system and get his game in gear. Tommy Heinsohn can go on and on about how Nate wasn’t brought here to create for other people, but he was brought here to do things Eddie House can’t do—mainly, get to the rim. Nate took two shots tonight, and they were both three-pointers, and the first one was a classic Nate Robinson “I’m just gonna pull up in transition with no one under the rim and jack this baby.” Eddie House can do that, and he can do it better than Nate Robinson.

I’ve written it before: Over 2008 and 2009, Nate was one of the most effective guards in the league at getting to the rim. That’s the player Danny Ainge wanted. That player has yet to make an appearance in Boston.

• Speaking of Heinsohn, I think he briefly lost his mind at the end of the game during his attempt at an explanation for Boston’s struggles. He said that teams play hard against the C’s because the team is “still kinda defending” the 2008 title. I see his point, but….

• I actually thought Marquis Daniels was a positive tonight despite 1-of-6 shooting and a -13 line. He brought energy on both ends, and he got to the rim.

• Rasheed Wallace was credited with six steals tonight. That ties his regular season career high, according to BR. The good news: Rasheed Wallace recorded six steals. The bad news: This may encourage his habit of reaching around and trying to poke the ball away on every entry pass. This is a high-risk move, though it may be Sheed’s best defensive strategy at this point in his career.

• An observation about Glen Davis: He moves laterally better than he moves vertically, and he needs to become an on-the-ground mover if he wants to be an effective offense player. Example: Robinson and Davis run a nice screen/roll on the right side with about 10:45 left in the 2nd quarter. Nate dishes to Baby on the baseline, and Thabeet is back-pedaling to stop Baby from driving. Thabeet appears to be in good position, but Davis slides by him on the baseline and draws a shooting foul.

Watch the tape—it’s almost startling how quickly Baby darts through the small space Thabeet has left him along the baseline, and he does it without getting much lift off the ground.

This is the kind of offensive player Baby needs to be. He’s effective when he makes larger guys move side-to-side or foul line-to-baseline with him, but not when it becomes a jumping contest. Another example: That little over-the-shoulder pseudo-hook shot he tosses up when dribbling right-to-left through the lane. It’s unblockable.

About 22 percent of Baby’s shots have been blocked this year, according to Hoopdata, and that’s an astronomical number for a player of any size. Davis can get that number down if he stops trying to go straight up over and through bigger guys and sticks to his best offensive moves. And those involve him staying close to the ground.

That’s it for tonight. More tomorrow.

The following two tabs change content below.

Zach Lowe

Latest posts by Zach Lowe (see all)

Share →
  • I have a few ideas.
    whomever wants to captain this team:
    isn’t about time to hold a meeting? a State of the Union?
    talk about what you want and where you want to go with this season?
    That’s for the players.
    For Doc:
    Start the frickin’ bench.
    they’ve been playing with more heart, by far, than the starters.
    make ’em want it.
    Remember, guys? Remember what it was like? Get there again.

  • GranTur

    Celtics are trying they just aren’t that good.

    The big 3 = the big 1.5

  • Cptn Bubbles

    I can understand the Cs shooting the ball poorly. You can always miss shots, but Defensive


    should not fluctuate.

    Dear Doc, when you are down by 20, it’s time to play defense FULL COURT. Why are you so proud, so arrogant, so lazy to continue to just “play” half court ?

    The Cs should be well rested for the next game with such little effort given in this one.

  • CF

    …and only 9 TOs by the C’s. What does that indicate…

  • I love Green

    I’m takin a break from the C’s for a few weeks. Sucks for you guys, you gotta write about them. Must be tough knowing that a 4th grade team plays with more heart and intensity than these douche bags do.

  • Jim MacIndoe

    I can only hope this team exits the playoffs quickly so we can all stop the pain of watching a team on a steep and quick decline. They play like nobody cares. I think Doc has lost control .Lets face it. We are not that good and a lot of teams have gotten better.

  • Idaho


  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    went to the game. paid well below face for great seats close enough to talk mess at the grizz….such a beatdown from the start that i didn’t even get a chance to throw in a ‘hey rudy, clippers or knicks?’ or ‘pau is prettier’……i feel abused.

    – sheed was the Cs best player despite missing a boatload of 3s and playing feet in quicksand defense (he was absolutely amazing at swatting balls away tonight…but i also fear this will only encourage his habit)
    – everyone else sucked
    – sam young looked like freakin MJ

  • Cptn Bubbles

    @Koolaid Did you notice any attitude problems with the Cs on the floor? Personality conflicts? Did you think this was more mental than physical ?

  • DRJ1

    Q1 ~3:00 Young gets the ball in the right corner behind the 3 line. Perk’s the only Celtic there, and he runs to close the gap. Just when he should jump to put his arm up and try to either block the shot or harass the shooter, he stops cold, and stands still, watching Young swish it in for 3 points.

    Perk needs to sit now. That play was inexcusable. It was the same kind of thing that JR Giddens did that convinced me he was worthless.

    Q2 ~9:00 After scoring, the Cs are getting back on D. Davis is backpedaling to inside the Cs’ 3-pt line, tracking Williams bringing the ball up. Gasol sets a pick for Williams, who drives left, as Gasol hangs back. Inexplicably, Baby, having lost his mind, follows WILLIAMS on the right, despite the fact that there were already TWO other Celtics on Williams. Williams finds Gasol on the left, who promptly saunters in for an easy, uncontested dunk.

    There were many, many bad moments in this game. This one was evidence of Baby’s anencephaly.

  • You Know Who

    @DRJ1: Seriously…word’s like “anencephaly” are just what me and my friends call straight up douchebag words. SAT words. Not even SAT words…just what the f…words. I understand if you look of the definition, oh, it makes such great sense–but, seriously, if you don’t believe me, say that same sentence tomorrow at work to your friends and look at the blank stares and looks at one another. Unless of course your friends happen to be neurosurgeons.

    In other news–it’s over. I don’t care about the Celts being 3rd in the East, having a .635 win%. They’re flat out terrible because they hardly do anything that well and every aspect of their game can and will be exploited. They look like they’re going through the motions. It’s obvious they won’t get their act together for the playoffs and I’m sure they’ll bow out before the second round gets tight. As Jim MacIndoe said, they’re just about average now while other teams have gotten much better like Atlanta, Milwaukee, OKC and even perennials like Dallas, Utah, Denver, Cleveland, and Orlando have managed to find far more energy and motivation in their ball club than Boston can hope to these days.

  • DRJ1

    @You– As it happens, my friends at work use that word a lot. Different strokes and all. I’ll use “brainlessness” next time, but that’s such an…. awkward word.

  • clasher

    man this was a bad game for us, this team is old. maybe similar to the 1996-1997 rockets. three hall of famers (olajuwon 33 drexler 34 and barkey 33 respectively) they ended up with 57 wins, which might be even better than the celts would end up with. the only x factor is rondo, if he can step up his game to a superstar status (even though its clear he’s done it already) he might be the key to advancing to the playoffs. however you look at it, the big three is no more, garnett will never be back to his old self, pierce has lost his step and allen sad to say can be left open nowadays. : (

  • JP

    Pierce brought up the boos in the post game, and I’m glad he did. I’m glad the players can hear the boos and hopefully it wakes them up into actually giving effort and playing defense. They deserved the boos against the Grizz

  • matthew

    @ clasher: i agree with you – in a way. this crap of a celts team reminds me of that over-the-hill Rockets team in ’97. But then again, that (houston) team played with WAY more heart and intensity than this sorry bunch of stiffs.

    i hate them! Boo! BOO!!!!!

  • Tom

    What a terrible game. Rasheed was the only person that played well. Missing FT, missing shots, lack of rotation. Man I don’t even want to count. It was just brainless, effortless beat down. I actually wanted them to lose by more so they can get some senses knocked back into them.

    Thib had never used full court press in the 2.5 years that he was here, not his thing I guess.

  • Ross in Maine

    Ouch. that was just too painful to watch, and in fact, for the first time this year, I walked away. My only hope at this point is that Paula, KG and Perk all have the flue or nagging injuries we don’t really know about. (I did watch some post game interviews, and KG had ice strapped to both knees) We need drastic measures. Something like sitting those three for 2 weeks (to heal) and build some chemistry and energy for the remaining guys. Good luck, boyz!

  • Pingback: Today’s Celtics Links 3/11 « Flceltsfan’s Weblog()

  • mitch

    the c’s are scared of playing good basketball, their suckness is contagious now…itll take a miacle for them to win another game

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    @bubbles: this team seems to go from just coasting….to deciding ‘we’re the f-ing celtics, now lets turn this game around with some big D stops’….but then when the opposition still manages to score on a few of those possessions….they just fold. i think confidence is definitely an issue now.

    my biggest fear for this team is they all start approaching the game like sheed. the reason he shoots 3s instead of going in the paint and the reason he reaches on defense instead of going strong is not simply a lack of effort, he is a victim of his own pride and a lack of confidence in his diminishing game. he wants to avoid getting posterized, stuffed or generally shown up by younger player. the best way to avoid the whole ‘hes getting old and is not as good as he used to be’ is to not give 100% and avoid the situations entirely.

    if that approach spreads in these tough times…its over. (what is baby thinking after being totally embarrassed by bogut due to sheed’s defense….is he going to step in and help next time?)

  • DRJ1

    @koolaid– Well, that approach, the Sheed view, CANNOT survive into the playoffs. At that point, all excuses, all arguments for not doing their very best, disappear. So… I guess we’ll see. Until then, we can’t be sure of how bad, or good, this team is or can be.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    @DRJ1 fully agree. i must say i’m oddly more optimistic about this team now than i have been since november. we’re going to finally get some answers soon. they’ve been coasting without consequences for the last 40 games (doc doesn’t say boo, danny doesn’t make any major moves)……now you can feel it is all at the breaking point. something is going to snap soon…….and they will either turn it on, or roll over and die. either way, we’ll finally see what kind of team we have…and be able to sleep better at night 🙂

  • Pingback: Heels in the League (NBA) 03/10/10 | The 5th Corner()