This contest was the ultimate battle of statement games. The Celtics needed to come out with some urgency to back up their season-long claim of possessing the ability to “turn it on” for the playoffs while the Bulls needed to prove to everyone that they actually belong in the playoffs. I am never happy with any Celtics loss, but there are some definite silver linings to this storm cloud:
- A Bulls win means they are one step closer to getting the 8th Seed in the playoffs and a first round match up with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Celtics fans love to look ahead and if you are looking ahead to the second round, wouldn’t you rather have a Cleveland team that had to defeat a pesky Bulls team with a guy like Derrick Rose than sweeping a Raptors team all but ready to lay down? I know I would. That’s assuming the Celtics get out of the first round, of course.
- Rasheed Wallace actually does look like he’s turning it on in time. He was active on the glass tonight and took make-able shots. He was 1-6, but his patented turnarounds weren’t falling and the one shot he did make was an off-balance leaner that only a player with ‘Sheed’s veteran savvy and length could make. As for his now infamous “put-back” basket? It happens- especially if you are seven feet tall. The good thing is that the aggression was there, the lateral quickness was there on his help defense, and a big block on Deng was there. Shots will fall, but I can live the effort even if they don’t.
- Paul Pierce was in rare vintage form tonight and appeared to be in the playoff mind set, even if his counterparts did not follow suit. He made tough shot after tough shot and attacked the basket relentlessly in the third quarter. It was baffling that his first free throws came late in the fourth quarter, while Rose justifiably got the to line time after time. The best part about Pierce’s aggressiveness was the lack of the pouting, scowling, and unhappy “heys!” when he failed to get a call. He just continued to go to work on both the offense and defense end- a mindset a player has to possess for the playoffs.
- In fact, the “Big Three” all had solid games, save for Ray Allen’s defense on Kirk Hinrich. Still, Allen more than made up for it on the offensive end by being efficiently aggressive.
- Doc Rivers effectively limited Kevin Garnett’s minutes.
- The Celtics only committed nine turnovers with one being Marquis Daniels channeling his inner 2008 Tony Allen and just brain-farting a rebound out of bounds. Another turnover included the “Perkins Shuffle” downlow. It’s always pretty lame to play the “what if” game, but you have to admit that these turnovers are easily avoidable (Okay, so the Perkins’ one is going to continue to happen and is pretty much UNavoidable- but Daniels isn’t even going to be on the court for the playoffs. Sooo….consolation prize? No? Okay, moving on).
Okay so those silver linings have to be around something dark and stormy right?
- Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo could not defend any living thing tonight. That actually might be a bit unfair. Rondo could not do anything with Derrick Rose and as a result, Ray Allen could not catch up on his close outs; which allowed Kirk Hinrich continuously made the Celtics pay from deep. As much as I don’t want to, I like Kirk Hinrich. His shot is smooth, he’s got handles, and he wears Converse Weapon lows- seriously, what’s not to like?
- Derrick Rose dominated this game. The bad news is that Dwyane Wade is Derrick Rose only better. He is more polished, more seasoned, and probably more athletic. The only good news is that they don’t play the same position- so Wade won’t be feasting on size mismatches all game/ series.
- Michael Finley is going to be a defensive liability in the playoffs. Finley is just as much to blame as Nate Robinson for Hinrich’s (first) dagger. He was late getting out to Derrick Rose (you know, the guy who was killing the Celtics all game) and Nate had to wait too long to switch on Hinrich. Finley had another “break ya hip” moment when matched up with Rose in the first half. Instead of really getting broken down defensively, Finley elected to give Rose enough time and space for a set shot- which he made.
- While Pierce, Allen, Wallace, and Garnett might have put their mind in playoff mode, Glen Davis is still wasting his time lobbying the officials. I understand it is demoralizing to get a shot blocked every time you attempt a putback but Davis has to recognize his strengths and limitations. Being a big person, officials assume you can absorb more contact and any contact from you is devastating. It’s annoying, but it’s the life of a big basketball player.
I know everyone feels as if the Celtics loss tonight is directly indicative of how they will fare in the playoffs and the best I can ask of everyone is for their patience. Seriously, let us just wait and see what happens. Regardless of the outcome of tonight and tomorrow night’s games, the Celtics are in the playoffs- not barely, solidly in. Which means that whatever you think of their chances, they are still in contention.
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