“We were pretty awful. Let’s give them credit, but we were bad. That’s the worst ball movement that we’ve had this year.” – Doc Rivers
Any loss, particularly in the battle for playoff seeding with Miami, is inconvenient. But the C’s had played five games in seven nights and played them very well at that. Without Kevin Garnett, who may rejoin the team as early as Monday night when Boston hosts the Rockets, the C’s had gone 4-1, falling only to New Orleans during that stretch.
So, now they’re 4-2.
That’s a far cry from the collapse we all feared when Garnett pulled up lame ten days ago.
If anything, the weekend, with its dismantling of the hapless Raptors on Friday night and the news about KG, Delonte West, and Kendrick Perkins, has been encouraging. So, let’s consider this loss in that context. With KG back, and Perk on the horizon, this team could be on the verge of a strong stretch of play.
Of course, tonight, they played poorly.
As the game wore on, the Bulls did an increasingly good job denying the Celtics’ first or second pass on the perimeter, burning clock, and chasing Boston off what they wanted to do. But the Celtics were all-too-willing to be dissuaded from their offensive game-plan, settling for a batch of early and late-clock jumpers, going one-and-out and allowing the Bulls to push tempo. When Boston did take the ball into the paint, the Bulls contested the shots (or rejected them outright; the Bulls had 9 blocks on the night) and then gobbled up the rebounds.
Check out the C’s shot charts from the third and fourth quarters:
The C’s rarely miss that many good looks in the paint and rarely shoot as poorly as the 37.8% they threw up from the field tonight. That percentage is attributable to the Bulls defense, yes, but also to the fact Boston simply didn’t bring sufficient patience (only 12 assists) and took a bunch of sub-optimal shots, particularly in the fourth quarter when Paul Pierce and Ray Allen had a total of one attempt and the entire team only scored 15 points. With KG out, the Celtics cannot win tight games when Paul and Ray don’t produce down the stretch. And they cannot produce down the stretch unless they shoot the ball.
“WAAAAAAAAH,” CRIED THE BABY
Glen Davis must be reading his press clippings. As praise has mounted for the Celtics’ power forward, he seems more and more convinced he’s the man. Or he can be the man. Or he needs to be the man if he’s going to get paid. Via our friend Chris Forsberg at ESPN Boston:
“It’s a learning experience for me,” said Davis, who drew the tough assignment with Kevin Garnett still sidelined with a strained right calf. “Especially if I want to be at the same level as the KGs and Carlos Boozers. You guys have seen me grow a lot, but now, it’s time to hit a different level. That’s what I’m experiencing right now.
“Carlos Boozer got the best of me today. At the same time, I want that. I want all that — being that guy. That’s the way it is. I take it in stride. I try to get better each day. I know I have the potential to be a player in this league; A player like the Carlos Boozers or the Kevin Loves of this league.”
Those comments are admirable in the context of a player who wants to better himself but deeply worrying when you consider Davis’ role in the Boston offense. Big Baby will never be Carlos
Boozer or Kevin Love and when he tries, by taking early shot clock 20-foot jumpers, or leading the fast break, or forcing up shots against defenders he can’t overmatch, it clogs up ball movement in the C’s offense and keeps the ball out of the hands of the C’s optimal offensive players: Pierce, Allen and Garnett.
We can debate (and probably will) what kind of upside Davis might realize over the next few years, but it’s safe to say that anytime he leads the team in shot attempts, it’s problematic. And when he takes the most shots and shoots 23.5%, the C’s are gonna come away with a loss.
And yeah, Boozer just ate him alive tonight.
Derrick Rose is an absolute monster. He has to be in the top-5 toughest guys in the league to stop off the dribble, and then contain with interior help once he’s past the first line of defense. As often as he was able to get by Rajon Rondo, he was able to follow that up with a finish in traffic or a trip to the line (he took 19 free throws on the evening). Which leads me into a recurring thought that I’m sure most of you will disagree with:
When we think ahead to the playoffs, everyone is rightly worried about the Miami Heat and the new-look Orlando Magic. And while both of those teams present (big) problems for any opponent, both teams also have holes/inefficiencies when matched up against the loaded Celtics. I don’t want to get into too much detail here but while Miami has the two requisite superstars necessary to win a title, and likely will do just that in the next couple of years, the Celtics are well-positioned to exploit the holes they have at the 1 and the 5 this year, plus KG more than neutralizes Chris Bosh (not to mention their current hot streak is predicated on playing at a pace they simply won’t be able to maintain in the playoffs). And Orlando for all its current potency, still doesn’t have a legit #2 guy behind Dwight Howard, who the Celtics can single-cover, or enough backup size should Howard get into foul trouble. Neither team is a paper tiger, but is either team more fearsome than the Cavaliers team the C’s dispatched in the second round last season?
But not by as much as common wisdom suggests.
The Bulls though, while an unfinished product, are well-positioned to give the Celtics major trouble should the two teams meet in the playoffs. Tom Thibodeau has them playing elite defense (particularly against Doc Rivers’ offense, which he knows inside-out) and they’ve spent the entire season without their second best player, assuming you believe that to be one of Boozer or Joakim Noah. Their big-man rotation of Noah, Boozer, Taj Gibson and Kurt Thomas is flexible, tough, athletic and matches up well with Boston. Rose is a great late-game offensive option and, at worst, an overall draw with Rondo. Luol Deng’s length can bother Pierce. Should the Bulls pull off an upgrade at the shooting guard position (mainly for offensive reasons), they would have more than a decent chance of pushing Boston to the limit.
Anyway, that’s just something to consider as we push past the halfway point of the season.
Watch this Chicago team round into form. They’re gonna be tough.
So, that’s it for this one. Three more home games for the C’s this week, all of them winnable. And by the last of the three, KG should be back and Perkins on the verge. Good times.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.