Post-game Reactions

I’m a pessimist. If you read this site, you know this by now.

So when this sequence happened at around the 3:50 mark of the 2nd quarter in Game 2, I felt certain the C’s would lose, even though they were ahead.

It started with this:

And, after a non-shooting foul on the other end, this happened:

The first play is a great play by LeBron James. It has become his play. But it’s also a poor job by Tony Allen of recognizing the situation. A headier player knows LeBron is trailing him and adjusts the way he takes the shot accordingly.

The cough up on the defensive glass? A classic turnover from one of the most turnover-prone teams in the league. The C’s had reached double-digits in turnovers by this point in the game, and you can only give away so many possessions on the road against a 60-win team, right?

And besides, the sloppiness had started earlier. Watch the three Boston possessions immediately after Rasheed Wallace, now unbenchable, apparently, hit  a three to put Boston up 35-22:

1) The C’s go to Sheed on the left block, and the Cavs double him. Sheed kicks to Michael Finley behind the three-point line. Finley passes up a deep open three and takes one dribble to his left—giving Jamario Moon the second he needs to recover and find Finley. Finley than inexplicably jacks a three with Moon contesting. It misses;

2) Rondo and Davis run a screen/roll at the three-point line, and Mo Williams goes under the Big Baby screen. Rondo pulls up and takes a 20-footer with his body leaning forward and his feet kicking out behind him. It misses;

3) The C’s pull off one of the worst 3-on-2 fast breaks of the season. Rondo streaks down the court and approaches the rim at the right edge of the paint, with Jamario Moon just behind his left shoulder. Moon is clearly primed for an LBJ chase-down block. TA is a few feet behind Rondo in the middle of the paint, and Ray Allen is sprinting on TA’s left side—so close to TA, in fact, that TA could have reached back and touched Ray. Delonte West is running in between the Allens.

The right play is for Rondo to use his body as a shield and go up for a lay-up, probably drawing a foul. But as we’ve seen Rajon do 100 times, he passes up the shot and tries to thread an impossible pass to TA, who fumbles it out of bounds.

I freeze-framed this play. When Rondo’s pass reaches TA, there are four guys (Moon, West and the Allens) crammed into a space about as big as the block/charge circle would be if you drew the back half of the semi-circle painted on the floor. The play has no chance.

The Cavs, of course, went on a 6-0 run while Boston was blowing these three possessions.

There are two ways to look at Game 2:

1) Boston was sort of fortunate to win; they turned the ball over 17 times, Cleveland, the 2nd-best three-point shooting team in the NBA, missed 17 of 21 three-pointers, and the C’s hit 9-of-19 from deep. You can’t reasonably expect that kind of three-point disparity again;

2) Boston turned the ball over 17 times and still won by 18 points on the road. And, sure, they were hot from three-point range and Cleveland was cold, but what are the chances Cleveland attempts 20 more foul shots than the C’s once the series moves to the Garden?

Also: The C’s can get away with turning the ball over 17 times if they shoot well and force 15 turnovers on the other end, as they did in Game 2. And the C’s are very, very good at forcing turnovers; only Golden State forced more, per possession, than the C’s did this season.

You know what feels strange?

The truth is infinitely more complex than either of those two narratives, but gun to my head, I think #2 hits closer to the truth.

And I’m supposed to be a pessimist.

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Zach Lowe

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  • legs-diamond

    Zach, check the Celtics playoffs record. It’s not the turnovers, which I think is less important than is given credit. The Celts have lost games when they have had lower than 14 turnovers and won when over 16–it’s just not a great talking point for this team. … Rondo makes passes 95% of NBA guards cannot make, his assist rate is through the roof, so naturally his turnovers per game are higher. …. When the Celts have low turnovers, it usually (usually) indicates they are not moving the ball, and settling for one-on-ones, which is not a good sign.

  • DeVelaine

    That’s odd, crazy logic… But it actually makes sense to a point. Though it would still be interesting to see a game with 6 turnovers and, like, 40 assists or so. Neither number is out of the realm of possibility, and doesn’t seem impossible or even really that improbable. Will we see it in this post season? Since they didn’t hit either of those numbers separately during the season (low TOs: 8, twice; high assists: 34, three times), probably not. But it’s possible

    On the season, the C’s averaged 14.9 TOs per game, and the league average was 14.2. They had 49 games where they were at or below the league average. Record? 30-19, or 0.612 winning percentage. For games over the league average, it’s 20-13 with is a 0.606 winning percentage. Not exactly an even split of the games, but the marginal difference between the two really says: stop worrying about the turnovers themselves. If there’s anything that’s going to stop this team, it’s not coughing up the ball. But since turnovers aren’t split into forced (like steals and most offensive fouls) and unforced (traveling, anything out of bounds, bad passes), there’s really no point to focusing on the number of turnovers.

    I remember in the post game interview before he left the floor that Rondo talked about “playing the clock instead of the game” when asked what allowed Cleveland to go on the 15-0 run. If the C’s were focused on playing the game for 42 (I think it was a 6-minute stretch) of the 48 minutes of the game, maybe they should get fined by the team for looking at the scoreboard? I know I tend to do better when I’m not looking at the score and just focusing on whatever it is I’m doing.

  • Ray Leighton

    legs’ logic is not crazy at all. Look, the Cs have some awful turnovers that should never happen, like Perk shuffling his feet etc. But the Celtics were second in the league in assists per game, and ninth (worst) in turnovers. Their A to TO ratio is around 23 to 15, which is still really, really good when you recognize that is for the entire team — there are teams in the league that don’t even have ratios above 1. With the exception of Perk, all of the Celtics’ starters have A/TO ratios higher than 1 and those same four guys also are all among the leaders at their respective positions in Hollinger Passing Ratings. Not only is Rondo great and the wings are good, but KG is one of the best interior passers in the league, which is something that we tend not to focus on.

    Celtics’ fans are all used to a team that routinely makes the extra pass and a team that gets a high % of points from great passes and teamwork. But most teams aren’t even close to being that good at passing.

    And just to make this point further — the only team in the league with more assists per game is Utah. And they were fifth-worst in turnovers with more TOs than the Celtics. You don’t hear anyone talking about how badly Deron Williams is passing the ball.

    So I would love to see them cut out some of the dumber turnovers, but a lot of those turnovers are just going to be a function of a team that knows how to move the ball.

  • DeVelaine

    @Ray: I may have called it “odd, crazy logic,” and I may have started to ramble half-way through my comment, but I think I added some basis for accepting the “stop focusing so much on turnovers” idea. I’ll read my comment again in the morning when I’m less mentally char-broiled.

  • Rav

    Ray, I know you didn’t intend to sell KG short. But he is one of the best interior passers EVER

  • @Legs: The C’s win despite turnovers because a) they shoot well; and b) they force a lot of TOS, evening out the disparity. When one of those things doesn’t happen, they are very, very vulnerable against good teams–see Game 1, 17 Tos to 9.

  • w2

    I would say that the C’s success depends largely on moving/sharing the ball, getting the ball into the painted area, and playing great defense.

    When they do these things well, they win (more often than not).

  • And, yes, w2, the defense, of course. I sort of take that as a given — they can’t really beat anyone good without it.

  • Paolo

    what can you guys say about this very interesting article from Red’s Army regarding the foul disparity:


  • NV

    I still say bench ‘Sheed if he doesn’t produce night in and night out.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    I’m on the ‘it’s all about the defense bandwagon.’ We are 30-3 in the regular season & 4-0 in the post season when we hold teams to 90 or less points. Our 2 post season losses are when we allow more than 100 points.

    If you focus on turnovers post season…with Miami we had 16 turnovers in our 1 loss, but we had 14,13,14, &16 turnovers in our 4 wins. 3 of those 4 wins, we held Miami below 90 pts. The other win was the way too close for comfort win with Paul’s last second shot.

    Looking at Clev. post season, we had 16 turnovers in the loss, but 18 in the win. We seem to be geared around 14 turnovers per game. If we play our best D & force the other team into turnovers, get ez transition offense off our D, make them use clock & work extremely hard on offense, MOST importantly defensive rebound & hold them to ONE shot, we can hold teams below 90 & continue our winning ways.

    If we play strangling defense then our offense can sputter & we can afford some turnovers as long as our defense likewise makes them struggle. We get in trouble when we allow our dry spells or anything else to affect our defensive effort.

  • Perry

    Celts offensive rating for game two was nearly double that of Cleveland. In most cases, the fortunes of their offense stem from defense. So as long as they keep LBJ busy dribbling east to west and limit his teammates from catching fire they’ll be fine.

    No doubt ball maintenance has to improve, but there’s no denying their ball movement has been stellar for most of the series. They’ve been extremely efficient shooting off screens, and Rondo especially is finding his way into the paint. I suspect Pierce will follow that script and have a breakout game on his court where fouls will be called with more frequency for the home team.

    I’d much rather see them stay aggressive and over pass at times rather than run those spot up plays or isolations. Let’s not forget the 08′ Celtics was a high turnover team as well, but it didn’t stop them from winning a title.

  • Jason

    There’s a train of thought that says ball movement (a very good thing) naturally leads to more turnovers. So, turnovers are more of a necessary evil or merely an annoying by-product of something positive. I’m on the fence on that one because while it makes sense, many of the Cs TOs seem self-inflicted and still avoidable in the ball moving offense. Sure, a guy cuts or doesn’t and a miscommunication results in a TO. Rondo drives to the basket hard then kicks out a crazy pass. Yeah, that leads to an occasional TO. The occasional illegal screen. I understand that one, too. But, the Perk Shuffle? How does that fit this theory? Or Pierce iso’s, drives and gets stripped. That’s not a movement-based TO. And there are just some plain old dumb passes and ill-advised drives that just happen. Rondo, for all his virtues, seems to do this a tad bit more than is reasonable.

    Point is, I see the argument, but I also see the counterargument, too. What I’d like to see is a study of the Cs season(s) correlating assists and TOs to see to what degree more TOs necessarily follow more assists or if there is no relationship at all.

    Lastly, another reason why I’m skeptical of this theory follows from DeVelaine’s comment. Not only would I love to see a 40/6 night, but I don’t see it as particularly unreasonable for this team. I could definitely see them moving the ball all game without stupid, careless, lazy TOs and hitting that milestone.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    I agree with Perry. No to the iso, forshizzle. Pass the ball & move bodies from side to side. Make their defense work & respond. MOST of all DON’T let the ball STICK.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    defense doesn’t slump. the Cs are locking it down consistently now.

  • DeVelaine

    I could probably pull all of those numbers and try to sort out a pattern. I just don’t know if Zach or one of the other guys would end up beating me to it. I’ll see what I can find.

  • JayJayinMI

    Don’t be fooled by Sheed’s brief burst of life: we Pistons fans have seen this crap for 5-6 seasons now. We call it “Sheed’s Game of the Week” (because it used to happen about once a week; now it probably could be called “game of the month.”)

    Sheed plays like a dead dog game after game after game. Finally the coaching staff starts to catch some heat and pressure to sit his slacking carcass on the bench.

    Shazam, like a miracle, Sheed suddenly plays good for a game and the groundswell to bench him dies down. Afterward he goes back to his normal stupor.

    You can count on Sheed’s next good game in about Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Better hope you get that far.

  • Jay Cutler

    JayJayinMI, I find no reason to doubt you. Ugh.

  • Ryan

    As long as LeBron has it in his own mind to not attack (probably blaming the elbow as an excuse to be lazy and avoid contact inside), the Celtics have a very legit chance to win the series. But the second LeBron decides that he should attack the basket all game, the Celtic’s lack of depth will kill them.

    The 4th quarters of both games were great examples of what happens when LeBron feels like driving. The tone of game 2 was set on one of the first possessions when LeBron had the ball isolated on the right wing with Pierce guarding him. No big was slanting (or cheating, whatever your preference) to the right side of the lane, LeBron gets by Pierce, it’s a layup/dunk/foul drawn, instead LeBron holds the ball for 15 seconds only to shoot a horrible fade-away 22 footer. It missed and the rest of the Cavs followed his lead.

    I doubt LeBron flips a switch starting Friday, but I imagine the effort he gives the rest of the series will be noticeably better than the effort he has given thus far. It should be a fun series, and as a Cavs fan, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Celtics take it.

  • Boston has a legit chance of winning this series. Remember, they didn’t have KG. KG and Perkins are banged up this series but I think they can beat the Cavs

    I like Lebron. Once he start posting up player and stop dribbling they will start blowing by team. He can’t be compared to Magic. Magic would get down in the post and back you down. Once LB develop his post game they will start blowing past team.

  • Rob

    In regards to FTs, try last night, and luckily we hit 31-34 ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha