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Inexcusable: Celtics 101, Knicks 104

 

ESPN RecapPosting and ToastingKnickerblogger

Last night, I could not being myself to talk about the many many things the Celtics did wrong, did poorly, or were just incapable of doing.  It was too painful.  I needed to “sleep on it” as the saying goes.  The only problem is that all my anger has been replaced by sadness and confusion.

I feel like the love of my life has just cheated on me and then asked, “what? what’s the big deal?”  Let me clarify: in the larger context, this game is entirely meaningless.  A first round match up against the Miami Heat or the Milwaukee Bucks is not exactly a do-or-die prospect.

In the pregame, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated was doing a little sideline reporting for CSN and he brought up an interesting point: without Bogut, the Bucks will undoubtedly go small.  This means Ersan Ilyasova at the five and John Salmons at the four.  Hmmm, where have we seen a 6’6″ swingman play power forward? Oh yeah, last night against the Knicks.  I do not have time or the mental fortitude to go back and watch how many times Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace had a height advantage in the post; however, it is safe to say that it was any possession Earl Barron was not on the floor and any possession where Earl Barron was matched up with Kendrick Perkins.  So essentially every possession.

So, why do I feel like a lover scorned? Because the Celtics actually tricked me into believing that they were going to win this game.  The Celtics closed the gap in the third quarter by virtue of the Knicks allowing Tony Allen to get to the basket at will.  Couple that with some timely cold shooting by Toney Douglas and Sergio Rodriguez, and there was no way the Celtics were not going to start pulling away.

They did not.  Rodriguez eventually started hitting the corner three, Earl Barron continued his inside-outside domination, and Danilo Gallinari hit that ugly bank shot.  Still, even after that prayer went in, the basketball Gods tried to intervene and bring the chaos to order: Gallinari saw the shot that would not have counted in a pickup game be knocked down a point.  This gave the Knicks a one point lead, 102-101 with 36 seconds left.  Again, the basketball Gods gave the C’s another gimmie: the perfect two-for-one situation.

The Celtics should had two chances to make one basket.  If they miss this shot, they just have to play solid defense for 24 seconds and then try to win the game once again.  So what happened?  Paul Pierce drives right and throws a wrap-around pass to no one as Chris Duhon secures the loose ball.  Terrible pass, but the Celtics are still okay…until David Lee reminds us that he is not just a great player on a bad team and makes a heavily contested layup on KG.  After this make, seven seconds remain.  Seven seconds is a long time for the Celtics, a team that is no stranger to late-game dramatics, to at least get off a good look.  This is why the last seven seconds are so confusing.

Doc Rivers is the master of drawing up specific plays for specific situations and the Celtics are masters at executing these plays.  Why would a team with seven seconds left inbound the ball, dribble in place, try and pass to a guy who is covered and then eventually skip pass the ball to the other wing as time expires?  They wouldn’t.  To make matters worse, none of what the Celtics did on the final play was part of their identity.  Ray Allen inexplicably about-faced while moving without the ball instead of using the Rasheed Wallace screen for an skip-pass open three — a play Celtics’ fans have seen a million times and have seen run successfully half a million times.  There was no reason for Ray to backtrack.  Duhon was attempting to go over the screen but was still going to get floored by Wallace, and Earl Barron was defending Pierce from the opposite block.  There was no way Barron was going to be able to recover to block/contest Ray’s three attempt.  Adding to the misery, Rajon Rondo skipped the ball to Rasheed Wallace as time expired instead of trying to shake his defender and get a shot up to the rim.  He was defended well by Lee but anything would have been better than a shot after the buzzer.

So Rondo and Ray both picked a bad time to have a brain fart.  If that were the only issue, I would be having a much easier time dealing with this loss.  I am going to break down a few more of my objections in bullet form.

  • I am not a psychologist but I play one at parties — especially if there is an armchair handy.  After witnessing almost every game this season, I cannot remember when I interpreted the collective mindset of this team as flat-out apathetic for 48 minutes.  Throughout the first half, Rondo attempted to impress the SportsCenter anchors with an array of zip passes no one could handle and some fancy dribbling that provided no advantage.  Trust me, I love the passes and the dribbling, but not in a close game.  I understand Rondo’s thinking: the Celtics are playing a team that doesn’t play defense and a win or loss doesn’t matter in the long or short run.  The “doesn’t matter” part reared it’s ugly head a lot last night.  The Celtics have been accused of being “bored with the regular season” and after last night, I finally buy it.  The Celtics played last night as if they knew that no matter the outcome, they would still be considered the better team.  No one in their right mind would suggest the Knicks are a better team than the Celtics.  In the Celtics’ eyes, and in their pride, this game did not matter.  The only issue I have with this sentiment, is that this game mattered me.  It mattered to you and the Celtics owed their fans something better than last night’s performance.
  • After the game I tried to take solace in a few things that normally bring me at least a modicum of joy.  I threw on last night’s episode of Lost I had to DVR because of the timing of the game.  Man, is that show terrible!  Remember when these cast-aways were walking around an island finding really cool stuff?  Yeah, I don’t blame you if you don’t because this show has needed to die for the past three seasons.  So after sitting through yet another Lost episode that unsurprisingly crammed in way too much information that did not build off a single thing that happened this season, I turned back to basketball.  I cracked open Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball I have been plodding through since I finished Jackie MacMullen’s When the Game was Ours (read it! read it! read it!), and read the following gem:

Ranking the 2008 MVP candidates only by [the hypothetical effect a decent player at his position would have on the team's record], [Chris] Paul ranks first, Kevin Garnett second, LeBron James third, Kobe Bryant fourth, and Earl Barron fifth. (224)

Oh man does that hurt.  The “Earl Barron” part being a clear joke.  Simmons needed to pick someone who would seem so outrageous that it would elicit laughter from even the biggest Earl Barron fans (who I assume are his parents).  I have chronicled before how the Celtics take ordinary players with mundane talents and make them superstars, and they continued this disturbing trend last night with Earl Barron.  This guy was not even in the league ten days ago and lit the Celtics up with elbow jumper after elbow jumper, finishing with 17 points and 18 rebounds.

  • Tony Allen and Michael Finley were the lone bright spots in the game with an honorable mention going to Glen Davis.  Finley did what he was supposed to do and hit open shots.  TA was aggressively attacking the basket and finishing, getting to the line, and did not make any bonehead plays (although he was close a few times).  Davis had a nice box score line but looked so gassed at times and really could not stay with any of the Knicks’ perimeter forwards.
  • Danilo Gallinari had a huge game.  From a talent standpoint, this is not all that surprising as this kid can really stroke it from the outside.  Still, he should not be able to do that against players that only one game before, limited LeBron James (I’ll just leave it at “limited”).  I get that James and Gallinari are different players in terms of strengths, thus defensive schemes are different.  That, however, works both ways.  James is a far better player than Gallinari so should the defensive let-down was all the more surprising.

That’s all I can muster right now.  There is plenty more but it doesn’t matter.  The Celtics take on Toronto tonight and I actually expect a win. Not because I am getting back with my cheating girlfriend, but because it is Toronto and Bosh is likely out.

I hate to say it, but ‘Sheeds’ blow up may have been a tipping point for this team.  That may have been the exact point where Doc River’s lost his influence on this team.  Say what you want about Doc, but without him, this team goes nowhere.

  • James Patrick

    AUGHHHHHHHH!!!!! I can’t deal with this anymore!

  • I love Green

    Heyy Brendan you sound like me!

  • I love Green

    Oh yeah I would also add embarrassing, and disgrace.

  • Mike

    Somewhere along the way here the C’s just completely lost their heart. Last season, without KG they were a MUCH better team than this one simply because they laid it all out on the court every night. How did they just completely lose that in one season?

  • mitch

    this game made me wanna chop off my fingers with a rusty butchers knife

  • legs-diamond

    Tony Allen is now the Celtics best rebounder.

    Sheed gets 2 boards in 20 minutes–are you kidding me?

    Rondo, Allen, Pierce, and Perkins all commit 3 turnovers!

    Celts shoot 55%! (and lose!!)

    Gallinari shoots 67% and gets 10 from the stripe! Did he have a press-pass or was he wearing a cloaking device?

    Reserves were better than the starters. Along with T Allen, Glen Davis put in a night’s work.

    Celts lose 4 our of 5 (winning only against Cavs ???). To get anywhere in the playoffs, C’s need something like an out-of-body experience. It’s later than we think.

  • Allen

    Why does the ball stop circulating to Ray Allen past third quarter? Like, he’s the only one shooting consistently right now, and he’s just not shooting.

  • DRJ1

    Doc said after the Cavs game that winning these games is not important to this team. He was clearly being truthful. There’s no point watching any of the remaining regular season games and getting all upset…. they don’t amount to a hill of beans.

  • yordgreat

    the starting 5 sucks, and did you see that last play? maybe rondo was thinking they still have like 60 secs left in the game. what a dumb play, just plain dumbness to the core.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    Purposely didn’t watch this game. Glad i didn’t.

    Only two questions: who the eff is earl barron, and how did the celtics turn him into moses malone?

  • Cptn Bubbles

    Koolaid, You’re gonna love this. Earl is a 10 day contract player trying to make the Knicks. He probably doesn’t have millions of dollars or maybe he just REALLY loves the game, but Earl was giving it his all & out hustled multiple Cs way too many times.

  • legs-diamond

    Let’s get this Earl Barron (for Sheed even up?).

  • yordgreat

    and why do kendrick perkins always waits for defenders to smother him before he decides to put the ball up and almost always travel in the process… mind bottling…….

  • Dan

    Defining moment of the season:

    When on a defensive rebound opportunity, KG and a Knick (only saw it once, couldn’t tell who) look at each other, the Knick dives down for the rolling ball as KG stands there staring at him.

    Yes, you’re like 12 feet tall, but at least pretend you care.

  • Dawson in California

    I know Paul Pierce is a great player, and he helped win the Celtics another banner. But can anyone remember him coming up big at the end of ANY game this year? Seriously.

  • Dawson in California

    One more thing. My favorite C — yes KG — played like a whiner tonite. He stood around waiting for rebounds (see Dan’s comment above), and has moved out to 20 feet on his jumper which is totally out of his range. Kevin — stop bitching about being hand checked and just get a (*&(&+#$+! rebound.

  • http://celticshub.com Stephen

    This is as low as it gets–The C’s get outrebounded again—by 10–and 15-count em–15 offensive rebounds by the Knicks–Oh and Rasheed Wallace taking the last shot—Good call Doc!!!! –Don’t for a second buy in to this crap that has been posted on this board for a while that none of these games matter–It totally matters how your playing going in to the playoffs. Right now the Celtics couldn’t beat the Sisters Of Mercy. This team has no heart–no balls–pure and simple. Don’t believe this crap that some of the players are saying that they will be able to turn it on for the playoffs. Don’t get your hopes up people. It ain’t happening.

  • Micah

    at this point in time i think i could put together a rec league team and get out there and out hustle the celtics right now…who is with me?
    they definitely need to find that spark they had when they raised banner 17…i just don’t see that hunger anymore in anyone on the team not even the towel boy cares about winning banner 18

  • RBD

    @Stephen

    You think Doc called a play for Sheed to take that last shot?

    BZZZZT.

    Try again.

    Maybe watch the play this time.

  • RBD

    They don’t care anymore. After they beat Cleveland and Bogut went out, the last half-dozen games became meaningless.

    We know everything we’re going to know about this team until the playoffs start.

    The ONLY consideration now, IMO, is to keep the team healthy. We cannot afford a Bosh/Bogut situation.

  • Carolina-Celtic

    It is difficult to believe that an athlete would play a game without caring about the outcome. What has happened to Celtic pride? The pride that always made it tough to beat the Celts in The Garden. The pride that made every game important to the 07-08 team. The pride that carried the 08-09 team through the year after the loss of KG. The 08 team knew they were going to win the Championship and backed it up every time they stepped on the court. The biggest difference between the 09-10 team and the 08 Championship team is not talent — it is determination. The current team is just lazy. This year’s team reminds me of stories like the Tortoise and the Hare or the Ant and the Grasshopper; they think that they can win the Championship without doing the work. There is a reason these fables have survived through the centuries — they tend to be accurate. I agree that the remaining games are more or less meaningless. The Celts are in the playoffs and there is little to be gained regarding home court advantage. The only thing winning the last few games would do is indicate that the team actually has a winning attitude. I keep hearing Doc and the players talk about gearing up for the playoffs, but the only difference I see is that the Celts have learned to lose while shooting 60% from the floor. I don’t believe that a winning attitude is something that you can switch on at will. So, unless something happens to shock the Celtics into winners again, I believe the next thing we will be hearing is that the first 3 games in a best of 7 don’t mean anything.

  • Michael

    Yeah the Celtics are done! I personally think they could get beat by a Bogut-less Bucks team. I don’t think there is a team in the League that has been more disappointing than the C’s. I think Ainge has to start getting creative again in getting rid of some of these guys, even Pierce if he isn’t going to show up and play ball. I think Ainge is a guy who could definitely rebuild the C’s if he had to dump everybody!!

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    82 games, guys. It happens. Crappy performances happen. Did you watch CLE-TOR last night? The Cavs were blatantly and obviously cruising.

    Of course, they won.

    As for the playoffs, the Bucks can go small or play Gadzuric 40 minutes per game. It’s not going to matter. They can’t beat Boston without Bogut.

  • Perry

    @Zach

    I agree with your assessment, but the Celts didn’t take advantage of their size last night. They’re not playing smart, and they are not playing with purpose. Those factors are a toxic combination.

    Are you planning to upload the defensive breakdowns? Celts were in disarray guarding the three point line all night long. If NY shoots a slightly higher percentage (6-25 – 24%) the margin of victory would have been wider — if that even matters at this point.

  • Tom

    I don’ know about Doc, I am really questioning his plays and his selection. Maybe it’s time for Simmons to blast him again (see 07 article around the beginning of playoffs)

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @Perry: You mean the efficiency/pace stats? I only do that for games I recap. But if I get a sec later today I’ll calculate.

  • KOD

    @Mike – I agree with you wholeheartedly. How could they lose that edge that made this team so tough and so enjoyable to follow night in and night out – in the span of one season? Every game, every possession mattered to them the last 2 years. This year has been the polar opposite, and as much as it pains me to admit it -this particular team has actually been painful to watch for most of the season.

    No excuse for not showing up last night -absolutely none. When are these guys going to collectively get sick of talking about what they didn’t do after these all of these poor showings? You would think at some point, the veterans would wake up and realize that they’re the Celtics, and need to go out on the court and act like it: put the hammer down, and start putting their foot on these weak teams throats and displaying the intensity that made them one of the best in the league the last 2 years.

    I know we’re all wondering whether or not they are still capable of doing that any longer, though. While they have shown flashes of that at times recently, they have given us very little evidence of being able to sustain it for even 1 full game, let alone a stretch like what lies ahead in the playoffs.

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  • Perry

    @Zach

    No I meant those videos where you breakdown the ‘breakdown’s…as only you can.

    Maybe it’s better we just forget last night rather than torturing ourselves again.

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  • disappointed

    blowout loss to SA at home, blown 22 point lead against a CLE team missing varejao (a notorious celtic-killer), and now this. with each passing game it’s becoming clear that this team is not a title contender. the last two seasons the celts played every game like its game 7 of the finals. this year they don’t. they foolishly think that they can turn “it” on in the playoffs. Name me one team that has successfully done that. It’s already difficult as it is to win a title goin all out every game. Why make it harder on yourself?

  • http://celticshub.com Stephen

    Let’s face it. The players don’t care. They won the title 2 years ago and they are satisfied with that. I personally believe that Doc has totally lost the pulse of this team,and it is to the degree that the players are simply tuneing him out.Rivers pampers these guys way too much–they don’t respect him. The C’s need an in your face guy running the show–Paul Pierce needs a boot inserted into his ass. Down the stretch of these games he hasn’t done a damn thing except turn the ball over.His talk is getting old and so is Kg’s—Cleveland fans are laughing at us right now. All the talk going on back and forth after blowing a 22 point lead—only to go out and get outhustled by the F….ng Knicks. The final shot of the game I think proves that the basketball gods are punishing us. On a broken play the ball winds up in the hands of the very last guy we want taking that shot—–F….ing Rasheed—–Perfect!!!!

  • http://celticshub.com Stephen

    Zach— In regard to your earlier post the Cavs have earned the right to cruise. The C’s have earned nothing unless we are living in the past.

  • B Fish

    Last night was the final straw. I am no longer emotionally invested in this team. Championship caliber teams don’t get bored, don’t say these games don’t matter, and clearly don’t let sub .300 teams out hustle and beat them consistently. What a disappointment!

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