I rewatched the first quarter of the Celtics loss to the Grizzlies from last week. Not only did I rewatch the first quarter, but I dissected every play- but before we launch into that, let me explain a little bit about why I would impose such a terrible thing onto myself.
I knew the Grizzlies game was bad, so naturally it took me a whole week to actually look at the box score and quarter-by-quarter breakdown. After seeing that the Grizzlies outscored the Celtics 27-12 in the first, I thought for sure that this was the lowest and most lopsided quarter the Celtics had allowed this season. The scary part? I was wrong.
Here are a few notable lopsided/ quarters the Celtics stunk it up offensively:
11/13, 4th quarter against Hawks, 25-16
11/20, 1st quarter against the Magic, 29-13
11/29, 3rd quarter against the Heat, 17-12
1/8, 3rd quarter against the Hawks, 29-15
1/20, 3rd quarter against the Pistons, 21-13
1/31, 4th quarter against the Lakers, 24-16
2/7, 3rd quarter against the Magic, 36-11
2/10, 3rd quarter against the Hornets, 29-12
2/18, 4th quarter against the Lakers, 17-11
2/27, 2nd quarter against the Nets, 20-15
Those numbers are not pretty. After tabulating this, I drew a few conclusions.
1) Half of these lopsided affairs happened in the 3rd quarter, enough evidence to gice credence to the theory that the Celtics have a third quarter problem (at least offensively).
2) Some of these are especially bad. Most notably, the two games against the Magic. November 20th and February seventh.
3) Twelve points in a quarter was not the Celtics lowest output this season. They only scored 11 twice and 12 three times (including the game against the Grizz).
4) While the majority of these “eggs” were laid against the NBA’s elite (Magic, Lakers, Hawks), the Celtics seem to be pretty egalatarian with whom they do not score against.
I should have stopped this project right there, but I didn’t. I actually went to the tape. The following is a breakdown, play-by-play of the first quarter from the Celtics v Grizzlies game on March 10th, 2010. Feel free to skip to the end for my analysis. It might be less painful that way:
Celtics: Perk gets the opening tip and Ray Allen secures. 0-0, 12:00
Celtics: Rondo to KG at the high post/wing, Ray comes off a screen for w wide open look. Brick. Gay rebound. 0-0, 11:45
Grizzlies:Conley to Gasol on the wing. Paul Pierce gets picked off by Rondolph feigning a cut while Rudy Gay cuts into the paint, gets the pass from Gasol and hits an easy fade-away in the lane after a fully- recovered Pierce waves his arms at him, ass out like he’s at a middle school dance. Bad D Paul, bad D. 0-2, 11:22
C: Perk and Pierce double-screen down on Randolph, Rondo passes to KG. Kevin Garnett gets the ball in one of his sweet spots at the top of the key, Gasol switches to contest the shot. KG makes a great up-fake sending Gasol flying over him. KG takes one-dribble drawing no one (Randolph must have regressed for a play into that other blue jersey he used to wear) and instead of going up for an easy two, he kicks it out to Rondo on the wing. By the time Rondo does his up-fake and drive to the basket, it’s a three second count on the Celtics. It’s any one’s guess who it was called on as both Pierce and Perkins didn’t move after their down-screen and KG remained ready for the rebound after he passed. 0-2, 11:03
G: O.J. Mayo drives baseline with Ray fighting through screens, Perk helps out by riding Mayo along the baseline through the lane. Mayo kicks it out to Gay, who misses a three. Ray collects to board. Crisis adverted. 0-2, 10:50
C: Ray drives up the left side of the court drawing Mayo and Randolph. Allen smartly kicks the ball out to a wide open KG with Conley helping out, KG smartly passes to a cutting Rondo for an open layup. Nice stuff. 2-2, 10:38
G: Entry pass into Gasol is tipped by Kevin Garnett, who gains control and throws it off Marc Gasol to gain possession. 2-2, 10:25
C:Ray Allen gets fouled, except the local broadcast was too busy putting up the obligatory “tonight’s key matchup” while I tried to decipher whose shoes were squeaking on the parquet. It’s okay though, I thought I heard Jordan’s anyway. 2-2, 10:11
C: Pierce inbounds the ball to Rondo, who hands it back off to Pierce. Pierce curls into the lane drawing Randolph who (again) leaves KG wide open. Pierce swings to Garnett who front rims badly. Gay rebounds. 2-2, 10:00
G: Gay dribbles up the court, passes to Conley, who, after an assortment of stutter-step dribbles that get him nowhere, front rims a contested floater. Garnett aggressively secures the rebound. 2-2, 9:48
C. KG outlets to Rondo, who dribbles up the court and does the same exact thing Conley tried to do. Surprise! Bad shots beget bad results. Rondo back rims, Perk gets a hand on the rebound but misses the tip in, and Gasol eventually cleans up the board. 2-2 9:37
G. Conley gets the outlet from Gasol, dribbles up the court and kicks it to Gay who is beyond the arc. Gay up-fakes, drives in and draws KG. Gay kicks it to a wide open Randolph underneath for a quick release layup. A quick release will beat Kendrick Perkins every time, especially a recovering Kendrick Perkins. Just ask Andrew Bogut. 4-2, 9:28
C. Ray makes a good pass into a cutting Perkins who is pushed by Gasol. Foul on Gasol. 4-2, 9:09
C. Mayo tries to run-through a KG screen and gets called for a foul. Mayo complains to the official and has a compelling argument. Garnett was all too welcoming when it came to trapping Mayo’s arm. I doubt KG was willing to let after getting Mayo caught in his Venus flytrap. 4-2, 9:00
C. Sam Young enters the game for Mayo, tries to go over a screen on Ray Allen, who swings back around to have Young picked off again. Ray Allen gets the pass from Rondo, takes a couple dribbles and makes an easy running half hook in the lane for two. 4-4, 8:47
G. Gasol and Conley run a textbook pick and roll. Conley delivers the ball and Gasol uses his athleticism (say what?) to get past Perk for an easy drop-step, layup. 6-4, 8:26
C. After a failed pick and roll from Ray and Perk (thwarted by Gasol, interestingly enough), Garnett rims out another jumper from his “sweet spot.” 6-4, 8:04
G. Garnett fails miserably trying to hedge Conley on a faux-screen Randolph set (I call it a faux-screen because it looked as if Rondo had plenty of room to stick with Conley- especially after Randolph left early to get the good position downlow). Randolph rolls to the basket and gets deep inside position before Perk could help out. Randolph gets an easy two from two feet. 8-4, 7:52
C. Pierce gets the ball, dribbles out some clock, tries to pass to Garnett but Gay’s Go Go Gadget arms slap the ball out of bounds. Pierce gets the ball again, dibbles out some clock, tries to pass but it’s deflected to Garnett. KG swings it to Rondo, who dribbles into the lane and air-balls a fade-away from five feet resulting in a shot clock violation. 8-4, 7:24
G. Celtics play some good D as Randolph tries to force a pass through KG and Rondo, who promptly kicks the ball out of bounds. Gasol gets the inbounds, hands the ball off of a curling Sam Young who hits a top of the key jumper in Ray Allen’s face. 10-4, 6:48
C. Perk gets an Iso on Randolph on the block, makes a few good fakes and gets a good look at a baby hook but it’s too strong. Randolph secures the rebound. 10-4, 6:34
G. Randolph dribbles up the court (so you know something bad for the Griz is going to happen) passes it off, only to get it back. Makes two dribbles the the basket and misses a heavily contested layup. C’s rebound. 10-4, 6:19
C. Rondo drives in and gets his layup attempt swatted emphatically by Marc Gasol, but the ball is sent right to Ray Allen. Allen proceeds to miss the wide open three. Gasol rebounds. 10-4, 6:05
G. Five seconds later, Gay is stepping to the foul line after a full court, two pass, fast break leads to KG having to swat at Gay’s arm. Gay nearly throws down the jam in the process. Gay hits one out of two free throws. 11-4, 6:00
C. Hasheem Thabeet comes in for Marc Gasol and Pierce gets hit on the arm by Gay while going up for a midrange jump shot. Pierce hits the first one, backrims the second. Perk gets the rebound from Thabeet and embarrasses the kid by just powering it up through him for an easy two. 11-7, 5:50
G. Sam Young makes a good move to get by Ray Allen and makes a better floater over Perkins’ out-stretched arm. 13-7, 5:28
C. Conley gets picked off and on his recovery, hammers Rondo attempting a floater. Rondo makes one of two from the line. 13-8, 5:12
G. Randolph brings the ball up the court (bad news bears) and quickly gets doubled by Perk and KG when he crosses halfcourt. Randolph is forced to burn a 20 second timeout. 13-8, 5:06
G. Sam Young gets the ball, takes one dribble and banks in a heavily contested jumper from the top of the key. Ugly…but in. 15-8, 4:44
C. Ray gets a great pick and recovers from a stumble to knock down an elbow jumper. 15-10, 4:26
G. Young gets the ball again, takes one dribble and puts up another contested lay up. He misses and KG tips the ball to Ray Allen who starts the fast break. 15-10, 4:09
C. Ray gives it up to Rondo, who gives it back to Ray on a curl to basket. Ray throws it up between three Grizzlies and catches nothing (iron or body). Thabeet collects the rebound. 15-10, 3:59
G. Randolph ends up matched up with Pierce, takes a few dribbles into the lane and fades away a la Gay’s first play. Pierce is now 0-2 using the ass out defense. 17-10, 3:39
C. Rondo makes a great move right down the lane past everyone and misses a tough lay up. Still, it probably should have fallen. Conley rebounds. 17-10, 3:23
G. The Celtics recover nicely and stymie the Grizzlies fastbreak. Sam Young ultimately winds up with it matched up with Perk. Young pulls up for a corner three and makes it. 20-10, 3:05
C. Pierce drives to the cup, drawing everyone and kicks it out to an open Garnett. Garnett tee’s up a brick from his sweet spot and Randolph controls the rebound. 20-10, 2:46
G. Gay slashes into the paint and puts up a layup. KG gets is in good position and responds with his patented “get that [stuff] out of here.” Randolph collects the loose ball, KG recovers to alter Randolph’s putback attempt. Garnett then tips the ball to himself and rifles an outlet past to Ray Allen sprinting up the sideline. 20-10, 2:35
C. Allen goes one on one against Sam Young. Ray drives right, spins left and put the ball in right over Young. Nice (vintage) move. 20-12, 2:21
G. Ray gets caught in a screen and roll switch and fouls Randolph going up for a shot. Randolph makes one of two. Marquis Daniels comes on for Pierce, ‘Sheed comes in for Perk, Baby comes in for KG, and Marcus Williams comes in for Conley. 21-12, 2:10
C. Daniels steps out of bounds while accepting a pass from Rondo. 21-12, 2:02
G. Gay bricks a jumper, Ray Allen gets called for a phantom (no homer) push on Thabeet. Finley comes in for Ray. Marcus Williams drives in, dishes to Thabeet, ‘Sheed knocks the shot attempt away and Finley comes up with the loose ball. 21-12, 1:38
C. Sheed misses an open jumper from the top of the key. Young rebounds. 21-12, 1:32
G. Marcus Williams drives in the lane, bricks a floater, and due to a screen switch Finley winds up trying to box out Thabeet. He fails and Thabeet gets an easy putback. 23-12, 1:11
C. Celtics waste the shot clock and Rondo is forced to take an off the dribble, step back three (which actually comes pretty close). Thabeet collects the miss. 23-12, 0:44
G. Gay dribbles the ball up the court and hands the ball off to Marcus Williams, which causes confusion. Rondo doesn’t move while Daniels picks up Williams and leads him into ‘Sheed. Williams dishes off to wide open Gay for a dunk while Rondo watches. Really astoundingly terrible defense by Rondo. Fans start booing. 25-12, 0:34
C. Glen Davis gets a good look at a jumper from the top of the key, but back-rims it. Gasol collects the rebound. 25-12, 0:19
G: Rondo and Daniels get caught in a switch. Rudy Gay drives into the lane and pulls up on Rondo for an easy jumper. 27-12, 0:01
C:Inbounds pass goes to Daniels at halfcourt who gets off a shot before time expires. Ball clangs off the side of the rim. 27-12, 0:00
So there you have it. The anatomy of an offensive stinker. The play by play illustrates just how doing a lot of things correctly isn’t enough. Players must knock down open shots. It’s never good to playout hypotheticals, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s just break some things down.
*KG misses three wide open jumpers from his “sweet spot” at the top of the key.
*Ray misses two wide open three’s.
*Paul Pierce gets one shot attempt.
*Paul Pierce plays horrible defense on two possessions.
*Daniels steps out of bounds needlessly.
*The Celtics poorly manage the shot clock twice leading to bad misses.
Those highlights lowlights alone show a potential 12 point swing. The bad shots at the end of the clock and the Daniels’ turnover gave possessions away and the missed shots lead to unknowns. By unknowns I mean potential fast breaks and defensive mismatches.
It’s hard to admit, but after all of this digging, it boils down to making open shots and taking care of the ball. The Celtics must be better at doing those two things if they want to avoid another blowout like this one. While it’s true that Sam Young had an unreal first quarter, on the flipside Mayo was sidled with foul trouble. Pick your poison.
Anyway you slice it, the Celtics just stunk.