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That Sucked: Houston 108 Boston 102 (Full Recap)

 

ESPN Box ScoreRed94The Dream Shake

“I told our guys I thought overall it was probably our worst defensive effort in three, four years as far as overall effort.” – Doc Rivers

After tonight’s Celtics loss, I took a quick jaunt into the future, courtesy my indispensable time-machine. I was able to track down a copy of Return Of The Green: A History Of The New Big Three (by Brian Robb and Brendan Jackson, CelticsHub Press, $89.95) a lavish and weighty tome that included the following passage on page 413:

“These proficient Celtics’ teams, filled with title-hungry, all-star veterans and talented youngsters who bought into a system that stressed team play and team achievement, were made for the playoffs. They were tough, focused, and played the kind of physical defense that could reduce elite offenses to pale, whimpering facsimiles of themselves.

However, as the era progressed, these Celtics teams proved more and more likely to sprint for the first two months of the season, and then treat the rest of it like an extended jog to keep warm for the playoffs. In October, these Celtics promised they wouldn’t let up off the regular-season gas pedal and by mid-season, they did exactly that. These Celtics were liars.”

Did the Celtics have you fooled with all that talk of a wire-to-wire effort back in training camp? All that jazz about game sevens on the TD Garden floor being crucial to their championship aspirations?

It’s very possible the C’s stated intention of playing hard the whole season was a genuine one. But of course, let’s not forget the injuries that forced starters and bench players alike out of rotation and into longer minutes, right from the opening tip. Let’s not forget the age of the team – are they even capable of 82-straight good efforts? Or 75? Or 60?

Most importantly, let’s not forget the lesson learned last spring – you don’t have to try too hard in the regular season if you bring it in the playoffs. To his terminal frustration, this team simply doesn’t share Doc Rivers’ sense of urgency about these regular season games, home-court advantage be damned.

Doc, post-game:

You know, a home game without one of their best scorers [Kevin Martin]; I don’t know if he’s their best player, but he’s their best scorer.  We’ve lost to Oklahoma City at home, without two of their best players.  So you look at some of our other losses, record-wise, you know it’s mental. That’s a mental mindset and it starts with me.

Credit to Doc for taking this one on himself and keeping the majority of his disgust in-house, but he’s not the problem.

Scola: Effort And Intensity Rarely A Problem

This one is on the starters.

When this Celtics team fails as a result of effort, you can almost always drop the check on the starters’ side of the table. The bench has proven more-than-capable of failure this year, but that’s largely been a result of guys playing out of position (Nate Robinson) or third string guys being pressed into service (Avery Bradley, Semih Erden, Luke Harangody).

It’s rarely about effort with this bench. In that category, they usually deliver.

But turn your eyes to Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis, the latter of whom wants to be paid and respected like a starter, and it’s a different story (Shaquille O’Neal only logged 21 minutes tonight and gets a pass).

At the half tonight, the starters were a collective -14 while the bench was a collective +16. By the end of the night, those figures were -31 for the starters and +1 for the bench. An imprecise metric, but instructive nonetheless.

The starting five’s slowdown offense and defensive indifference is your culprit du jour.

We could break it all down into the excruciating minutiae, but this was simply a case of a team not bringing it to the table energy-wise; energy being an asset closely tied to execution on the defensive end. The absence of those two things led to open shots for Houston (52.7% shooting on the night, and 10-20 from the arc despite Martin’s absence) and it led to the C’s being outrebounded 38-31 by a shrimpy Rockets team missing Yao Ming, Chuck Hayes, and Brad Miller. It also led to a scrappy David finding confidence in the first half against a passive, sleepy Goliath, and using it as a springboard to knock down some tough shots when the the big fellow woke up in the fourth quarter and tried to squash him.

Tortured metaphors aside, we know that some of the worst basketball in the NBA is played in January, when early-season vigor has given way to a seemingly interminable stretch of cold nights in northern cities, and a sense the real prize – the playoffs – is still a long, long ways off. Every team will have letdowns that prove little more than the fact that immediacy can be hard to find when the days are so short and one game spills on top of another in an indistinguishable pile.

There is cause for hope. Kevin Garnett’s imminent return, ostensibly on a fully healthy knee, unlike last year when his walk didn’t match his talk, will drive accountability on the defensive end. That alone might have made the difference tonight.

But does this Celtics team really have a different attitude than last year?

In one crucial way, yes.

Last year, the coach managed minutes and effort and sacrificed wins to prepare for April.

This year, he’s going full-bore.

Are his players willing to join him?

  • Tom W

    Two straight nights, Rondo's counterpart on the other team destroys Boston. Anybody else finding this disturbing?

    • zebulon

      No. Still the best defensive PG in the league. Brooks is not a good shooter off the dribble (30% threes) and just happened to be on fire, Rose is one of the worst in the league at getting to the foul line, and he somehow got there 19 times. These seem like anomalies, which is backed up by the eye test, which says Rondo is moving well and playing defense.

      • CG12

        Rondo is playing Rondo defense, which means excessive gambling for steals, regularly losing track of his man, and letting the other team force mismatches on switches off of picks. He obviously brings a lot on the defensive end, but the impressive one-on-one plays he makes can overshadow his sometimes-spotty team defense. Baby can be the same way – everyone loves all the charges he takes, and he does play pretty good one-on-one D, but way too often he is in bad position on defense. Scola was super open on several of his patented 15-foot jumpers because Baby was out of position and couldn't get on him in time to challenge effectively.

  • Dawson

    Last year Boston went 23-4, only to go .500 the rest of the way (27-27).

    This year Boston started 23-4, and have been .500 since (5-5). (Is Rasheed Wallace back?) This is deja vu all over again, and it stinks.

    Rondo is getting absolutely blistered on defense. He needs to stop reading his press clippings and play some defense.

  • J Atlas

    is it just me or are we using the injury excuse a lot to differentiate this season from last season…this is the nba injuries are a part of the game…it's time for the rest of the team to just step up and win these games regardless of who is suited up on any given night. some of these losses are inexcusable…we should run away with the eastern conference

  • phreesh

    You need to climb into that time machine, grab Rondo's 2013 killer jumper and bring it back – toot sweet.

    I could also use a hover car and maybe the names of the NBA champs for the next three years for… research purposes.

  • http://twitter.com/BradChampagne @BradChampagne

    +1

  • hdavenport

    My only complaint about "Return of the Green" is that it takes them 413 pages to start talking about actual Celtics teams. Everything before that is Robb telling his Tony Allen story.

    • CG12

      "So I'm in the locker room, and TA comes up to me and looks very closely at my press pass…"

    • BrendanJackson

      to be fair, that story is brilliant and full of nuance that necessitates 413 pages. If you didn't like the first half of ROTG you'll hate our Tony Allen biography, "Beyond Boo-Ray: The Tony Allen Story"

      • Ryan DeGama

        But $90 a copy, Jackson? Come on!

        • I_Love_Green

          Does the CelticsHub Jinx come up in the book at all?

  • johnson

    fuck this, i want kg back now

  • DRJ1

    As compared to last season, this team had a different attitude right from the start. The problem is in the definition of "this team." It's gotta include KG, or it's not being defined correctly. The longer he's gone, the more his influence wanes and the more the team regresses.

    • zebulon

      I'm gonna agree that KG is the problem, but don't think it has anything to do with attitude. It's all about the defense –

      We've gone from having the best defensive 4 man in the league for 32 minutes a night, to playing an undersized 4 without great lateral movement and who is not a good rebounder for those minutes, and backing him up with a smaller and less athletic 4 man. Because of the role our bigs have in stopping penetration/protecting the rim, that change is hugely important – Baby might be able to draw a charge a game, but he isn't going to be challenging shots while rotating over from the weakside.

      Bring back KG. Even if he doesn't play as well as he did to start the year, he will never be half as bad as baby.

      Also, STOP TAKING SO MANY SHOTS GLEN DAVIS. You are the worst offensive option of the fire current starters, and you should realize this and defer to them. Catching the ball on the wing, facing up, and then staring at the basket for 4 seconds letting the defense set against your drive, then hoisting a contested jumper or running hook in the lane isn't efficient offense. You have become a ball stopper, and it's horrible to watch.

  • Zee

    I'm a hardcore Celtics fan, but one quality I must say I can appreciate about Kobe Bryant is that when his team is down he doesn't sit around and wait for someone else to do something about it. He knows what he's capable of doing, and if his team is down, he is gonna try to put them back in a competitive position. I've seen him do it day-in and day-out.

    My point? Paul Pierce is our "Kobe." He can go inside and he can shoot the "J" (like Kobe). He needs to learn when its time to take charge. He shouldn't have to wait for Doc to tell him (as he has said time and time again; "Doc told me to be more aggressive"). He needs to demand the ball and go at it! Same for Ray. He knows he has that lethal jumper, so why ain't he demanding the ball?

    I blame our All-Stars for these losses. In the last 7 days I've seen the Miami heat in clutch positions, going in OT twice. Who wanted the ball each game? D.Wade and LeBron! And THEY went on the offensive AGGRESSIVELY!

    I don't recommend this all of the time, just as Kobe doesn't do this all of the time. But when your team is down – even by 7/8 points – and you sense that your opponent is trying to pound you, let your leading scorer fight back! Set him up with some picks and get your tails back in the game!

    These last two nights the C's have been way too lackadaisical. What are we doing out there???

    If this is because KG is out, then we've gotta find another motivation!

  • Zee

    In 1995-96, Jordan led the Bulls to a 72-10 regular season, and then won the championship. Clearly he maintained the mentality that is needed to be a repeat champion. Maybe he or Bill Russell needs to give our team a good talking to. They seemed burned out right now. It's not their game. It's definitely something within taking place.

  • SteveB

    I see too much of Rondo trying to set the offense from the outside. He seems to give guys the best looks when he is driving and getting in or through the lane. He is able to hit other guys cutting to the basket and find guys spotting up for open jumpers. Standing at the top of the 3 point line and hoping Ray gets open on a cut is not going to work most of the time.
    Also, I don't remember Shaq always being this bad of a rebounder. Given his size and space he does not get very many rebounds even when he appears to have position. I know his ability to leap hurts him but snag a few boards out there big fella.

  • keltic

    they played like they just found out KG was done for the season…hope that isn't the case

  • Jamie

    They need to get Shaq some more touches with KG out. 3 shots in 21 minutes? Houston had nobody capable of guarding him.

    Another poor game from Nate. Danny really needs to consider Nate as the moving part to get someone else in this roster to help. I could see where Wafer could take Nate's minutes at the 2 guard when West comes back.

  • torpid bunny

    I don't read too much into this game. The celtics didn't play well and looked flat. But it seemed like the calls weren't going their way (Ray Allen called for foul when the guy trying to screen him literally shoved him to the ground. Ray didn't even take a step). More importantly, the Rockets just had a ridiculous shooting night. They must have hit 15 straight shots in the fourth quarter, including several laughable shots from Brooks. You can say the celtics sucked defensively, but even with bad defense it is very hard to hit that many shots. If the Rockets had missed a couple of those the celtics could have won the game. Sometimes basketball games do come down to hitting shots.

    • torpid bunny

      Ok, from 9:23 to 3:13 of the fourth the Rockets made 9 of 10 shots. That won the game.

  • David

    One thing that needs to stop is Nate's abysmal shooting. Look, I love the little guy. That whole "Shrek and Donkey" thing was priceless and when we needed him in the postseason last year, he provided a lot of energy off the bench. This year, however, he just keeps jacking up unnecessary threes and kills our performance, kinda like Pinocchio in Shrek who utterly destroyed everything funny in those movies. He's won the dunk contest THREE TIMES. We know he can drive inside, I mean seriously, there are few players that can match his speed

    I hate to give Nate the proverbial shove here, but as soon as Delonte is back (and playing like he just told LeBron he was hooking up with his mom) Nate's role on the team needs to be reduced to far fewer minutes or at least far fewer shot attempts from that range. It's like Star Wars: we've got Luke, Han, Chewie, Leia and Lando. Nate needs to be Wedge Antilles.

  • ElRoz

    Why is home court still important for this tam in the playoffs?

    In the Pierce, KG, Allen period…in the 3 playoff runs Boston faced the clinching/elimination game (win or loss #4)

    2008-2010 playoffs Celtics record in elimination/clinching game (i.e. win-loss #4)

    Home Road
    W L W L
    7 2 1 9

    ok..if we eliminate the 2009 KG-less playoffs then we get…

    Home Road
    W L W L
    6 1 1 7

    that's with KG

    during last year's great playoff run Boston went 0-4 on the road in clinching/elimination games and was 3-1 at home
    …they ought to work for the home court advanatge…or somehow assure that, like with Cleveland and Orlando, they can steal several games on the road……maybe it would be easier just getting the home court?

  • Morpheus

    My head hurts

  • Legs-Diamond

    Unfortunately, injuries do determine seasons. Great teams pile up wins when healthy, but not while key players are injured. The Celtics have done remarkably while playing an amazing number of varying rotations. Four centers, all injured, team quarterback out significant time, defensive team quarterback out signicicant time, etc. …. Look at the championship teams over the past 20 years. One thing they have in common, health. …. The Mavs loose Dirk Nowitzki, they immediatlely look like a different team, the Spurs with Ginobli or Parker, forget it. If James goes down for ten games, I guarantee the Heat will be a .500 club. … Phil Jackson said it himself, when asked two years ago, what will it take for the Lakers to win the championship, and he said, "well, for one thing, luck." He was referring to injuries.

    • Zee

      I agree.

  • Idaho

    Calm down. Boston played out of their minds in December. It is all balancing itself out. I'm not overly worried. There record is probably where it should be considering the year thus far. Obviously Boston needs to start winning consistently but no call for alarm imo

  • Patrick

    I really don't understand how this losing streak isn't on Big Baby and Rondo. Rondo calls nearly every play down the court and he can't call pick and pops for the Big Not Quite There Yet But Thinks He's an All Star.

    Big Baby needs to take those shots when he's open and it's in the flow of the offense but shouldn't be taking ANY jumper outside of 18 feet (Many people don't know where 18 feet is but it would be about a foot inside a high school 3). Simply put good shooters get to there spots and Baby has no idea where he is on the court. A 16 foot jumper is money for him and he should take those at any time. If I were doc I would bench him and go with a small line up anytime he jacks a shot outside of this range. Rondo keeps running the KG pick and pop for Baby with a 21 foot jumper at the top of the key and that's not his shot. The D will come out at him if he starts attacking the rim sometimes too.

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