It took 14 games for this team’s injury situation to fully rear its ugly head, but things finally came to fruition Saturday afternoon. Down your two best (and only true) point guards, your strongest defensive center, with two of your other big men laboring mightily, that’s a recipe for disaster against a top-10 NBA team on the road.
So with all of this considered, Celtics fans shouldn’t take much out of this loss in the long term. Boston will look a lot different when these teams face off five months from now. Orlando, who has only played four games together with their new-look squad will be a much improved team then as well. Today though was an sloppy offensive clunker between two teams struggling with two different but difficult situations.
With all that said, this one is still worth dissecting a lot from a Boston side of things. Why? Well this is the roster this team will be dealing with for at least the next two weeks, probably longer if Doc Rivers actually decides to let Rajon Rondo heal up for good. Reinforcements will arrive eventually, but for now this roster you saw today has to find a way to stay afloat offensively in the interim. And if things go anyway like they did today, it won’t be easy.
We’ll start from the top with the offense, which put up a goose egg during the first five minutes, as Orlando jumped out to a 13-point lead. Why? The offense rushed earlier, turning the ball over three times in that time span. Luckily the turnovers got under control (only 11 for the game) but the lack of ball movement plagued the C’s for the majority of the first half.
Paul Pierce was on a mission, isolating himself early in the first half, and carried this team once he got going but there was no real flow established early on within the offense. Between the Pierce iso’s, and attempting to establish the post with Shaq down low against D12 (never a good idea), it was an epic fail for the C’s early on, for these unsurprising reasons.
How did things change? Enter Glen Davis with six minutes in the 1st. Down 13-2 at this point, Boston cruised to a 15-0 run to take the lead. Quick aside, but when’s the last time dueling teams had double-digit runs to start a game? Not since I can remember.
In any case, Davis was an incredible difference maker on both sides of the floor when he was in there. In fact, although his numbers may not show it, he played some of the best ball of his season until the final six minutes of the night. Davis bottled Howard up defensively, made steals, hit tough shots both inside and outside, making smart passes, hustling for loose balls, the guy was a ball of energy. And the C’s needed him in the worst way.
With Davis in the fold, the C’s D really clamped down after Orlando cooled off from the outside in the early going. Overall, the Magic missed some open outside looks, but were really limited in their opportunities on the inside as they shot just 27 percent (8/31) in the final 20 minutes of the 1st half, scoring only 23 points over that stretch. Just textbook Boston D with tough rotations and contests, helped by the fact Howard sat out for a large portion of the half with foul trouble.
Offensively, things didn’t really turn pretty for Boston as they jumped out to a ten-point halftime lead, but they finally got the ball in the bucket with some regularity. At some point in the second quarter, someone must have yelled in the C’s huddle about maybe trying to get the ball to your power forward with a three-inch height advantage of his opposing defender. One quarter too late perhaps, but once KG got rolling, he never slowed down hitting four of his five shots in the quarter, for 8 points.
With KG, there were really only two real options on the offense for the entire day (Baby and Pierce) and Paul was only effective in the first half.
That’s not meant as a knock on Pierce however. The guy had a hell of first half (16-7-4) doing it all. He took over point forward duties from nearly the opening tip and stayed in that role for much of the afternoon. Here’s the problem though, that’s a lot to ask from the guy. You can’t ask him to bring the ball up, setup the offense and get his. It tired him out, (just 2 second half points, missed all five second half FG’s).
So where did the C’s turn for offense? Enter Nate Robinson and Ray Allen, a collective 5-of-28 for the afternoon. I’m not going to pin the L on both these guys. It’s tough to get these guys rolling without a real point guard, especially Ray. With the ball not moving well, (season low 15 assists) it’s challenging to find good looks.
Still, Nate’s afternoon was painful to watch. He was one of the few guys to get consistent good looks all afternoon, and he was just having a flat out bad shooting game. Not a lot of “bad” shots for Nate, just plenty of misses.
The worst part? He had to play 42 minutes. I’m not mad at his shot attempts since it’s essentially what he averages for that time span. Don’t want him taking that many? Don’t have him out there that long. That’s who he is, and that’s what your going to get with him out there.
He shouldn’t be playing that many minutes for a good team on any night, much less during his worst shooting night in a C’s uniform. Doc’s options though are so limited, it’s an impossible situation.
The sad thing is I was pleading with Rivers to give Von Wafer some run, but the reality is the guy hasn’t given us any indications he’d knock down those looks either. And with Avery Bradley not ready for primetime, it’s either run down Pierce/Allen even more or live or die with Nate taking open looks. And this afternoon this team died with it.
It’s not worth dwelling on too much. It was one awful game for Robinson. The problem with Nate though is that it’s not just the offense. His defense down the stretch killed the C’s. And it’s not his fault.
He’s not going to get around a moving screen from Dwight Howard. The refs aren’t going to call on Howard though with against a scrawny 5-8 guard. That’s how Jameer got those two open looks when both offenses were stalling in the fourth and that was the difference which allowed the floodgates to open for Orlando.
So where lies the solution for Doc? There’s not an easy one. He’s not rushing anyone back. So he’s going to have to give someone, either Von Wafer or Avery Bradley some extended leash if he’s planning on keeping Paul at point forward. Because Nate can’t play 42 minutes. And Paul and Ray can’t play anymore as it is. So someone has to step up.
Maybe they can go offense/defense every possession with Von and Avery, who knows. I’m kidding….kind of. But somehow this team has to tread water the next few weeks and they have to do it without going just one deep with Marquis at the one/two/three spot.
The good news? This problem only lasts for about a month or two, tops. Afterwards? Doc is dealing with the luxuries of the deepest bench in the league.
We’re up to about 1200 words already so we’re going bullets the rest of the way. Let’s break it up into GOOD/BAD categories for both sides.
Hedo – Don’t think this guy is more comfortable in Orlando? Take a look at the +/- today. This guy was a freaking plus 30, making 6 of 10 shots for a quietly efficient 16-4-4 line. Dumping this guy for Vince blew this team’s chances last year and now he makes me somewhat afraid of this team in a series.
J.J. Redick - As much as it pains me to say it, this guy is scrappy as hell and made a tough jumper down the stretch. Him and Bass who had a solid 21-9 line (but was burned by KG on D all day) kept pushing to keep things close with nothing falling for the Magic most of the day. Give them credit.
KG- His best offensive outing of the year. Didn’t matter if it was inside or outside, he had everything going, and was the team’s only source of offense in the fourth. The bad news is he still can’t carry a squad entirely down the stretch at this age. Still incredibly encouraging.
10 second violations- That was fun to watch. I loved the counting by Paul and Ray. Let’s just hope they aren’t counting next time Jermaine is at the line.
Jermaine- There was a lot of rust here folks. Missed alley-oops, airball jumpers, fumbled passes. As easy as would be to rip on him, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Let’s see where he was at in a few weeks. I’m not confident in what we are going to get, but I’ll wait to see to be sure. For Saturday though, Semih would have been a major upgrade over what Jermaine was able to contribute (1/4, 4 fouls in 10 minutes). I’m also probably being far too kind here.
Shaq- Couldn’t stay on the floor. Fouled out in 12 minutes. Also note to Doc, please don’t fall into the Cavs trap and try to post him up against an elite defensive center. 13-0 deficits happen when you try.
Refs- Pretty awful for both sides. Let a ton go for both sides, which generally favors the C’s but you can’t miss complete muggings which is what happened quite a few occasions. Went both ways though so you can’t complain if you’re a C’s fan.
Jameer- for 45 minutes- Six turnovers and 3 points. Magic needed him to wake up in worst way, but he made Gilbert Arenas (2/9) look like a better option for much of game. And he was flat out awful. The problem was he woke up with 3 minutes left.
Marquis- With the team this shorthanded, you have to get more out of him, especially on the offensive end right now. Baby can’t be the only factor off the bench if this team wants to win.
Fourth Quarter offense minus KG and Baby – 6/21 overall……take away those guys just 1/12…..woof.
Two much needed days of rest for Boston now, (extra family time for Doc in Orlando) before C’s head to Indiana for the first of a back-to-back. In the meantime, the coaching staff has to find a way to right the offensive ship.