Remember last year, when the C’s developed something of a reputation for blowing leads in the fourth quarter? And it even got to the point where some of the league’s most arrogant coaches were bringing it up in their huddles? Well, step aside, fourth quarter. There’s a new quarter in town, and its name is the second quarter.
The Celtics again got a dominant performance from their starters in the first, only to lose the huge lead in the second thanks mostly to sub-mediocre bench play. That’s the fifth game in a row they’ve been outscored in that quarter, and by an average of 6 points. This is a developing issue, and probably something they need to work out before this stretch of crappy teams is over. The starters are playing more minutes than they should be against bad teams because these huge leads aren’t being held.
But this game wasn’t all bad, or even half bad: the first quarter was a total blast. Rajon Rondo is not showing the effects of injury, people. He had eight assists in the frame, including seven in a row from 8:53 to 2:50, pretty much all of them beautiful in some distinct way. Every field goal in the quarter was assisted. He was moving around with no visible problems. Very nice to have that guy back and healthy-seeming.
Meanwhile, Shaq had the game he should have had last week against the frail, submissive Raptors frontcourt. A 5-5 perfect from the floor and a Shaq-perfect 75% from the line with 9 boards. If you’d like to watch his careening alley-oop now, scroll down to the notes and come back afterwards.
The C’s got plenty of help from the Raptor defenders in their high-scoring first quarter endeavors. The only guy who provided much help defense underneath was DeMar DeRozan, which would have been great except he was supposed to be guarding Ray Allen twenty feet away on the wing. The result of this was that Allen dropped three bombs in the first four minutes and no civilians survived. Everything combined to stake the C’s to a 31-20 lead at the quarter’s end.
Then the Raptors bench guys came in and started to regulate. Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa were way better than Calderon and DeRozan tonight (they might be any night) and Amir Johnson had another decent game. A bunch of dumb early fouls from the C’s bench guys helped them close the lead to 3 halfway through the quarter, and it was only 6 at the half.
In the second half, the first half essentially repeated itself. The Celtics starters opened things with a huge run with crisp ball movement and transition buckets (except Ray got the assists off the extra pass instead of Rondo). Then some bench guys came in, more dumb fouls, a few turnovers, no protection against the three, and the Raptors came within eight before the starters came back to close it out.
Let’s talk about this unfortunate trend for a minute. Over the past four games, the bench has been getting (if you’ll forgive the technical terminology here) dookied on.
Old Man Plus/Minus is here with the bad news:
Delonte: -30 (in 2.5 games)
Nate: +44 in 3 games as a starter, -12 in one game as a reserve
Marquis: a spit-take inducing -47
Something not great is obviously happening here. But thanks to Hoopdata, I think I might know who’s behind all this. It’s an old, familiar enemy, one we thought we’d seen the last of. But we were wrong: he’s back and more powerful than ever. Who, you ask?
Stretch Davis, of course, is a tiny evil spirit/bacterium who lives inside Glen Davis’s brain and forces him to take jumpers from 16-23 feet.
We first met Stretch back in 2009, when Glen started taking 2.6 long twos per game. Then Rasheed Wallace arrived and Doc banished Stretch to the Netherverse, causing Glen to attempt only one long two per game.
But this year Stretch has resumed eating away at Glen’s brain stem to the tune of 3.5 attempts from 16-23 per game. Oof. That’s the second most on the team behind KG. Glen has taken his extra minutes and used them almost exclusively to shoot more long twos.
Take tonight, for example: Glen took jumpers from 20, 19, 19, 19, 19, 17, and finally 21. He made two of them. His evening was only salvaged because he was 6-9 from inside 10 feet.
We all know the problems associated with this kind of shot. The long two generally gives you a lower percentage without the potential for an additional point that you get outside the arc. But if you look at Glen’s work in this medium, he’s actually shot pretty well: 41%, just above league average.
Be that as it may, there are a few reasons why this is probably not a positive trend:
-Glen’s long two percentage started the season really high, but has gradually lumbered back to the mean as opposing defenses have started looking for it. He was 15-31 from that area in his first eight games. His last eight? 8-31. His high-usage/low-return games against Atlanta and New Jersey played a big part in keeping those games competitive.
-Glen is way more efficient than ever at the rim right now. 69.7%, compared to a previous high of 59% in 2008-9. However, thanks to Stretch, his attempts per game at the rim have dropped a tiny bit from last year, even with his increased minutes.
-His offensive rebound rate, 5.5, is his lowest ever, down from 13.5 last year. (Yes, those were inflated by misses at the rim, I know that, but he’s definitely not rebounding his misses from 21 feet). His total rebound rate this year: also lowest ever.
-Glen’s not what you’d call a traditional jump-shooting big. He can’t shoot over anybody at his position like KG can. He’s not a great free-throw shooter. His form is kind of crazy. It would be awesome if he were an amazing jump shooter with that form, but instead it just helps explain why he’s not.
Over the last four games, Glen’s seen more usage than anyone else on the bench (last night he had the highest on the team), so his poor shooting is probably some part of the downward trend we’re seeing.
But let’s qualify our argument some. First, Glen’s jumpers are not fully or even mostly responsible for the bench’s failures. The defense has been sloppy and fouls and turnovers have both been problematic.
Second, they’re really only harmful in large doses. If he scales back on them a bit, his efficiency will probably go up along with his boards. Then he can always pull the long two out when he needs it: against Atlanta and OKC, for example, Glen realized Josh Smith and Ibaka were capable of force-feeding him his own shot under the basket, so he spaced the floor a bit. We should be fine with that. And we all still have fond memories of Glen hitting that buzzer-beater against Orlando and injuring that child.
So overall, there might be nothing to see here. Let’s assume that with his recent struggles Glen got 3.5 jumpers/game out of his (central nervous) system.
Look at Shaq chug! If he doesn’t jump up and grab the rim there, how does he stop his momentum? And what if he’d missed the rim and kept going through the air? How many cameramen would we be mourning today? Shaq should probably stick to vertical jumping just for safety purposes.
What the hell is that crazy word? Is that what DeGama and DeRozan put in DeYard to keep in DeDog?