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The One That Got Away: Celtics 87, Mavericks 89

 

ESPN Box Score •  The Two Man GameMavs Moneyball

The Celtics’ final prayer rested on a double-covered Kevin Garnett turnaround 18-footer.  Why Rajon Rondo did not go to Paul Pierce–who looked wide-open right in front of him–no one will ever know.  Rondo gets a pass for both the inbounds play and the missed wide-open three a play before that would have tied the game.

He gets a pass because the Celtics would not have had an opportunity to take the last shot had he not snagged an offensive rebound a few plays earlier.  In the end, Mavericks’ forward Dirk Notwitzki proved too much for the Celtics in the final frame.  After playing a dismal first half, the Celtics roared back and appeared to have the game in control.  That was before heavy legs prevailed.  Notwizki routinely found his way to the basket and hit the game winner after securing a favorable switch on to the smaller Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

The writing was on the wall with five minutes to go in the fourth.  The Celtics started having trouble scoring the ball and on the defensive end, they let the Mavericks’ guards Jason Terry and Jason Kidd turn the corner at will.  Any air the Celtics had in their chests after battling back in this game was quickly deflated when Terry hit a game-tying three as Ray Allen looked too tired to close-out properly.

No matter how you write it, the Celtics have suffered their second loss of the season, both losses coming on the second game of a back-to-back.   I am starting to think 19 back-to-backs could really spell out the regular season for the Celtics.

* * *

Let’s do some quick bullets and call it a night.  It’s too early in the season to dwell on two-point losses:

  • First thing is first.  Let’s talk about Tyson Chandler.  It’s annoying when Chandler has a good game.  He’s the perfect example of a player who should be disliked.  He is a one-trick pony that came into the NBA straight from high school and never tried to make himself into a basketball player.  A great ad campaign would be to take a Rajon Rondo highlight reel and affix an appropriate caption to it.  Something like “Rajon Rondo is faster than you” accompanied by the highlight of him chasing down Rodney Stuckey from behind and just taking the ball away.   Or “Rajon Rondo is smarter than you” and pairing it with anyone of his spectacular assists.  Or “Rajon Rondo is both smarter and faster than you” and putting it with his inbounds steal and near buzzer beater to end tonight’s first half.  The extent of an ad devoted to Tyson Chandler would be his highlight reel of overly dramatic put-back dunks with the caption “Tyson Chandler is taller than you”.  Lots of NBA players lack certain skills or do not develop into the stars they were projected to be, but not all of them do what they’re supposed to do with so much bravado.  Take his block on Glen Davis in the tail end of the second quarter.  Davis is forced to drive in and try and squeak a ball past Chandler and the uber-athletic Shawn Marion.  Chandler gets the block and then instead of joining his team on the fastbreak, he stands there and admires his work.  Congratulations Tyson, you just blocked a guy who got his shot blocked 25% of the time at the rim last season (82games.com)
  • Putting Marquis Daniels on Jason Terry in the first quarter was an underrated move by Doc Rivers.  Probably the best strategy the Thunder employed against the Celtics last night was utilizing their taller points guards in Eric Maynor and Russell Westbrook on the diminutive Robinson.  The Thunder’s advantage was on the offensive end.  For the Celtics, the opposite was true tonight.  Terry is an explosive offensive player and Daniels is a savvy defender.  It was pretty clear Terry did not welcome Daniels’ length.  In the fourth quarter, Rivers had to use Rajon Rondo on Terry so Allen could guard the bigger Jason Kidd.  I cannot say I disagreed with this move–the heights matchup a little too perfectly– but I can say that it wasn’t as effective as having Daniels’ length close out on Terry’s jumpshots.
  • If Nate Robinson isn’t scoring he can quickly become a liability.  After a poor showing defending JJ Barea to start the game, he recovered and played one-on-one defense pretty well.  The problem becomes very apparent when he has to help out on guys like Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki.  The sheer size difference make Robinson completely helpless.  His continued poor play will make for an interesting situation when Delonte West comes back from suspension.  In all likelihood, West will assume the point guard duties and Robinson will be free to allude defenders on his way to wide-open threes.
  • The Mavericks did a great job of not allowing Ray Allen to get open.  Usually, Allen is able to make his defenders pay no matter which way they play the screen.  The Maverick defenders, however, were too quick tonight and instead of Ray having the ability to lose his defender when they going over the pick, they were able to follow him and recover by the time he received the ball.  As a result, Allen only took two threes and one, if not both, was in transition.
  • It was encouraging to see Semih Erden play well on the pick-and-roll.  Kevin Garnett is not looking to roll to the basket and Jermaine O’Neal just isn’t involved in the pick-and-roll offense.  It’s nice to see opposing players disrespect Erden enough to give him wide-open layups.  I doubt he cares about the respect as long as he’s able to put up four shots a game.
  • Good things happen when you deflect errant passes.  One particular exchange in the third quarter had two Celtic deflections which led to a rushed/contested layup from Dirk Nowitzki.  Davis grabbed the  rebound, quickly got it to Ray Allen on the outlet and the Celtics were off to the races.  An Allen cross-court pass later and Paul Pierce had an easy layup.  A slew of active hands and lazy passes culminated in two points for Boston and a noticeable momentum shift.
  • The Celtics had a few plays in the second half that were enough for any fan to believe they would pull this one out.  One particularly exchange was Rondo’s big finish on a leak out.  The cherry picking led to a layup and a converted And1 after Jason Terry tapped Rondo on the head.  After a Nowitzki easy-drive and and layup, Rondo steps into his biggest shot of the season.  He knocks down the midrange jumper and the Celtics go up three with 2:30 left.  It was all for naught but again, another reason why Rondo gets a pass for his play with under a minute to go.
  • Another reason why Rondo gets a pass?  His fifteen assists.  Even in a bad game where the Celtics look like they are getting completely outplayed on the defensive end, Rondo drops 15 dimes.  Keep it up.
  • Twenty-four points and seven assists for Paul Pierce is a good game.  Unfortunately, the missed jumpers in the second half–the ones that would have really put this game on ice– will stick out more than his actual production.
  • The Celtics only had 11 turnovers and that’s after a bad first half.  Hopefully these low turnover totals will be trendsetting.
  • Kevin Garnett had a double double with 18 points and 15 rebounds.  In Boston’s two losses, Garnett has had 15 rebounds both times.  Ipso facto, KG needs to stop rebounding the ball…

That’s what I saw.  What did you see?

  • Morpheus

    How bad is JO's injury?
    I hope it's not too bad that it keeps him out for more than a week.
    Fucking sucks this guy

  • I_Love_Green

    Ray Allen got that offensive rebound.

  • pam

    actually it is our current lack of depth that is killing this team on back to backs. once we have delonte back in, both rondo and ray should get a bunch of rest (look at their minutes in the last 2 games). plus kg played high minutes today on the back to back and seemed completely spent towards the end when he just let dirk blow by him. im not very disheartened by this loss because the team just seemed downright tired and the frontcourt was too thin. we couldnt play luke today because he would have been eaten alive by dirk. just need to get some healthy bodies back. mle on jo sure looks like a waste right now.

  • Jason

    That's two times in their last three games that Rondo has decided to take the last shot. If he already thinks that he's the best point guard in the league, he probably thinks as the Celtics best player that he should be taking the end of the game shots as well. It's incredibly dumb. No guarantee that Pierce would make those shots either but you have to play the percentages. He is much more likely to score creating out from the perimeter than Rondo. Just a terrible move. There's confidence in taking a game winning three and then there's staring down Pierce for three seconds and launching a shot with 6 seconds left. Just dumb. PIerce flashed in front of him during the last play too but Rondo decided to get the ball to Garnett who was wedged in the corner with two seven footers.

    While on the subject of last second shots, can the Celtics please not put the ball in Rondo's hands at the end of quarters. About half of the time he shoots a jumper or forces someone else to hoist a buzzer beater. When you have guys like Ray, Pierce or Nate, you don't give it to a guy who can't shoot against a sagged in defense. The ego.

    • willybeamin

      are we talking about the same guy who routinely gives up open looks for himself to get his temates involved.

      you know, the one LEADING THE NBA IN ASSISTS? just want to make sure we're talking about hte same guy.

  • Ted

    What's the deal with Boston only getting 2 free throws in the second half? The tech by Ray and the and-1 by Rondo. Were the refs looking the other way when the Maverettes fouled? I listened to the game on radio and I'm sure the Maverettes' radio guys are not going to complain about getting away with fouls.

    • Jay P

      I actually thought the game was pretty well officiated. They definitely let fouls get away, but they were consistent almost the entire game. They let them play, there's no question, but all I can ask for in officials is call it the same way for both teams and stay consistent. With the couple of exceptions (their human afterall) I thought they did that.

      I mean you look at the last shot that Dirk hit, and he clearly bumped Davis off to clear space, it's probably an offensive foul if you're strictly going by the book. But, they'd been letting them play all day, and not calling those fouls, so you can't be mad when they don't call it on Dirk either. Long as they consistent and players can adapt to the game I have no complaints.

    • Devin_in_Maine

      An even greater evidence of the way the refs can effect momentum was on back to back "off-arm push-offs". One that was called against Nate and then on the VERY NEXT POSSESSION Dirk extended his off arm to create space before hitting a jumper. That's a potential 4 point swing in under 20 seconds all decided by the refs.

      As the C's tried to put the game away in the final minutes, the calls really started to rack up. A cheap moving screen call on Semih being one of them as the refs stalled drive after drive and kept Dallas close enough that Dirk was able to put it away.

      In the first half it seemed like they were letting them play, but then, as is so frustratingly typical, the refs decided to lock it down in the final minutes. That is completely unfair to the players who have operated under one set of guidelines for three and half quarters and then have to adjust to what contact is not allowed in the final minutes.

  • LStrike

    Jermaine really needs some hardcore rest, playing him half-injured is not only slowing down his recovery time but he is also a liability on both ends of the court. Hopefully things will reshape after Shaq and Delonte are available and we have that ability to give Jermaine the bench time he needs.

    By the way, Rondo hoisting the last shot will be address itself, either Doc is going to berate him or the other veterans on the team will make sure to enforce it. Everyone knows Rondo isn't the person to be taking the end-game JUMP shot.

    • willybeamin

      probably why pierce said this after the game:

      "He’s wide open,’’ forward Paul Pierce said. "He was open two or three seconds before he even took it. We were begging him to shoot it. Hey, we’ll take that, a wide open look. Rondo, he’s showed he can make those shots, especially under pressure situations. I take it. I told him after the game, I’ll take that shot.’’

      oops, so much for that "berating" he is going to get.

      • LStrike

        Oops indeed.

  • Patrick

    We need to open our eyes and realize that Rajon Rondo lost this game for us. First he refused to give the ball to Pierce who had his man sealed and then he failed to get the ball to either Pierce or Allen during the final possession. This is the second time this season that Rondo has failed to execute an end of game play, both times resulting in him shooting. There is no debate that Rondo does spectacular things, but the Celtics cannot hide his inability to shoot from deep during crunch time with the opposing defense is playing 5 vs. 4.

    • aaron

      oh yea, that's right. lets have PP dribble the ball all the way down the court, waste 15 seconds off the clock, not get fouled when he throws up some desperation shot and miss as he has how many times in the last two years.
      or maybe lets have Nate, the current back up point run the play. But right now he is playing like he is scared of the ball, so we can hope for a turnover at best.
      I had to listen to most of the game on the radio, and when Dallas was running a double digit lead early on, it was the TEAM that came back to regain the lead in the third quarter(reminiscent of the championship year when they ruled the third Q of every game).
      And it was the TEAM who didn't execute in the last two minutes of the game.
      If you need to blame just Rondo, then he should have been on the court alone.
      As I recall at the end he made a three point play by making a freaking free throw, a sure sign he would blow the game.
      He showed confidence that every player on the cs wants to see from him as the leader on the court.
      Yea he missed a wide open 3, who hasn't.
      But if he is the only one to blame for the loss, watch the game over. One shot doesn't decide the entire game.

    • Melissa

      This is just a silly analysis. Rondo, of ANYONE in the NBA, is stingy with the ball? No, man, he had 15 assists last night. He took that shot because he was the only guy who was open on the team, and you know what? Doc praised him for it.
      http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/a

      That's a game that we could have expected to see him playing at 50% or less because of his injury, and as usual be brought everything he had. YOU play PG for the Celtics.

  • JP-

    Rondo didn't lose the game for the Celts, the Mavs played good defense, held boston to a low shooting percentage in the first half. I thought the game was lost in the first half, I know they made the come back, but there wasn't enough gas left to put Dallas away because of the first half failings

  • Devin_in_Maine

    With all due deference to Semih and his breakout game against the Thunder, I think the euphoria over the Turkish import may be a bit premature. Against Dallas' playoff caliber – and extremely mobile and athletic bigs – he looked a little over his head. That's to be expected. I agree with everyone who is touting this guy's potential, and I love his composure from the FT line, but lets not get carried away with ourselves. Elite bigs are going to make him look bad – really bad.

    If Tyson Chandler, whose one-dimensional game of alley-oops while screaming ala-Shaq in Blue Chips causes the C's newest big this much trouble, imagine what elite big's like Howard and Gasol are gonna do?!?

    Don't get me wrong, Semih has potential and has had his moments. Lets just not get carried away with ourselves.

    • Rav

      We definitely shouldn't be too high on Semih, but he is performing miles better than most Celtics fans expected him too, I'm sure. He held his own, and contributed on offense. His only bad stretch was the beginning of the 4th quarter where he missed a couple and committed some fouls. Most of Chandler's alley-oops were when he was defended by Jermaine. Retrospectively I think we should have let Semih have O'Neal's playing time this game.

      • Devin_in_Maine

        Good call about Jermaine taking the brunt of Chandler's abuse. Also agreed that Semih is giving the C's more than they expected. I had been hearing calls for Semih to start in place of O'Neal. Which I think you would agree is just too much too soon. Maybe after he gets some run with the starting unit in practice – but not a starter yet in this league. I was actually really surprised at how good his hands were. His body control and footwork is better than you might expect from looking at him as well.

      • marko

        amen. give semih all of JOs playing time, hurt or not, the man needs a bit more fire in his belly.

  • Idaho

    Jason….WORD! Although I have been tough on Rondo over the last few years this does not fall on him alone. We need to start something to get the attention of the front office to deal with this issue bc Doc refuses to (I say that half-jokingly). I cannot watch another season of end of games/quarters waiting until 2 seconds from 35 feet out before we try to score. End of quarters are always expletive-laden and one of these days I will break a tv which I can't afford to replace! I almost can't help myself. The shot by Rondo was a breathe of fresh air to tell you the truth because at LEAST HE WAS OPEN FOR ONCE and there was time to get a put-back.

    I tell you what would be worse than watching all of the turnovers in transition is watching end of games/quarters of this team. Yuck!

    • zebulon

      Also glad he shot the three, instead of taking one dribble and shooting a long two. The three is the better percentage play, because if he hits it the C's win the game, whereas the two only results in overtime (which both teams have about a 50% chance of winning). Also, I disagree with the assessment of Rondo's shot as "flatfooted" – it was much more "feet set", which is a great improvement over so many of Rondo's jumpers, which come with him off balance or without jumping completely vertically.

  • KBA

    Rondo did the right thing by taking the shot… more blame on KG for missing the layup prior to that. Rondo's shooting is much improved and I think with a wide open look like that, you're better off taking it rather than trying to drive in for a floater or something.
    Also, somebody suggested giving the ball to PP or Allen… .from what I have noticed, if they handle the ball for too long (more than say 5 seconds), a turnover is the more likely outcome. Also, Shawn Marion is a really good defender, something that needs to be taken into consideration.

    • Jay P

      Absolutely, I'll take a WIDE open Rondo 3 for the win rather than forcing the ball inside, risking a turnover, and maybe not even getting off a good shot, just to go for a tie anyway.

      It was the right play, we've all seen the improvement in Rondo's jumper, we all have seen him hit shots, the team keeps talking about how he hits them in practice all the time. We know he was the stroke, we know he has the ability, he's just gotta get the in games reps, build the confidence. Taking that shot last night was a great stride in that direction, I have no issue with it, and hope it continues. He's going to hit those shots and make teams pay, it's only a matter of time.

      • Perry

        … let's get Rondo off the hook although I maintain he should have drove the ball instead of settling for a low percentage shot. But settling for jumpers was a huge factor as to why they couldn't put the Mavs away. Check out the numbers…

        16-23: under 39% on 31 shot attempts
        Inside 10: under 28%

        They attempted 25 more shots than Dallas — 91 in 91 possessions. Translation: they didn't have their legs and are a liability on a back-to-backs.

  • Chris O

    Shoddy work here really

    "The writing was on the wall with five minutes to go in the fourth." – Including when the Celts went up 5 points with 1:58 remaining and it looked like they were dominating the game?????

    "Any air the Celtics had in their cheats after battling back in this game was quickly deflated when Terry hit a game-tying three as Ray Allen looked too tired to close-out properly." – You mean when Ray was down helping on a big in the paint….no way anyone closes that out 'properly'.

    Sorry I love reading you guys but those comments in specific are just wrong.

    • http://CelticsHub.com Brendan Jackson

      The following are the Celtics' offensive possessions from 5:56 to 3:26 to go in the fourth:

      Rajon Rondo misses 17-foot two point shot
      Paul Pierce misses 19-foot two point shot
      Paul Pierce misses 13-foot jumper
      Ray Allen misses 18-foot jumper
      Glen Davis misses 21-foot jumper
      Rajon Rondo bad pass (Tyson Chandler steals)

      The Celtics were settling for jumpers and were in no way dominating.

      Meanwhile Nowitzki and Terry were heating up. The Rondo And1 was nice and inspiring, his pull up off the dribble that rattled in was not. The Celtics may have been up by five with 1:58 to go but the second of Nowitzki's two consecutive hardly contested layups cut that led to three and then Ray Allen got caught too far out of position and failed to run hard on the close out. If you don't believe me, ask Rondo: http://twitter.com/kevinarnovitz/status/184352175

      Terry, as you well know, knocked down the open three and the game was tied.

      I promise you, I'm not making this stuff up. The Celtics settled for jumpers instead of driving to the basket. They were tired and understandably so. The only regrettable thing about those comments is the typo: "cheats" should have been "chests". This has since been corrected and for that, I thank you.

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