PACE: 92 possessions (just below average)
OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY: 119 points/100 possessions (extremely high)
DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY: 93.5 points allowed/100 possessions (way above league best)
It’s sad, but I imagine the people of Salt Lake City were really looking forward to this game. After a long day at work and Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsal, they probably hoped to see their favorite team rebound from two very embarrassing losses to New Jersey and Washington against a Boston team with which they match up quite well. As Jazz fans cleared a path through the snow in their living rooms to their TV sets, they probably hoped for Deron Williams to assert himself against Rajon Rondo as the league’s most dominant point guard.
What they got instead was tough to watch: personal-worst-of-the-season performances from both Deron Williams and Al Jefferson.
The C’s performed very well in pretty much all facets of the game tonight. They picked up 31 assists on the night, moving the ball around like the Celtics of the old days (November 2010). They also took smart shots, focusing primarily on the rim and the three and converting at a high percentage from both, totaling 55% for the game led by KG’s 7-10. But they also got a lot of help towards this win from Utah’s ostensible two best players.
Before tonight, Williams hadn’t taken fewer than 10 shots in a game, and he hadn’t scored fewer than 10 points. Tonight he took four shots, made one of them, and scored five points with zero rebounds in 23 minutes (also a season low).
Jefferson, meanwhile, has had two games when he scored fewer points than the seven he got tonight: in the season opener he had six on 2-6 shooting, and in the overtime win against Miami he had two on 1-7 shooting. Tonight, however, his seven points came on a cataclysmic 1-11 shooting night. I’m going to go ahead and call that his worst night of the year, especially considering he only got 5 rebounds compared to 9 against Miami.
What got into these guys tonight? Well, for starters, Williams got whistled for two clumsy fouls on Rondo in the first four minutes. That kept him out of the game for the rest of the first quarter, and when he reentered he mostly relegated his offense to the perimeter. Three of his four shots were hasty threes, all misses. Marquis Daniels got Williams on D instead of Rondo, and his size made things difficult, but with Daniels out in the second half, Williams still avoided going to the basket: heady help defense from Semih and KG forced him to kick out virtually all of his drives.
Then at some point Williams quit on the game and stopped shooting. Like when you’re getting beaten at online Scrabble so badly you just resign. We’ve all been there.
As for Big Al…who knows. Maybe it was an overwhelming nostalgia for the days he played in the Garden with the likes of Orien Greene and Justin Reed. Whatever it was, it was strong medicine, because he missed in pretty much every way possible: layups, tips, and jumpers from all distances, many of them open. The only shot he put down was a dunk, the first Utah basket of the night. Again, kind of tough to watch at times. He’s a great guy and you want him to do well.
But you don’t want to hear about another team’s best players playing badly. You want to hear about the Celtics’ worst players playing really goodly. You want to hear about…
When Shaq left with a sore right hip (which apparently is going to sideline him for the next couple of games), Semih ran on to the court, started flailing his arms around crazily, and never stopped. His strategy earned him three steals, seven boards, and a career-high 14 points on 5-5 shooting. “Attaboy, Semih!” said the insane man at the broadcasting table, and he was right.
Semih’s performance was not (entirely) accidental; he is seriously learning how to play NBA basketball. His rotations on defense were sound, he missed no assignments that I noticed, and read the opposing defense well enough to get himself open for high-percentage shots, specifically three dunks. Here’s the best of those dunks:
Love it. You can kind of see his hair fluttering in the breeze as he goes up, and he gets in a nice Statue of Liberty pose just before he throws it down, in tribute to his immigrant heritage. I’m not too nervous having Semih play extended minutes at center over the next couple outings, especially against the Wiz tomorrow night.
Two more highlights and then we’re out of here: first, the kooky one-handed accidental three from Ray to set up a four-point play. Kind of reminiscent of the Bird three I posted about a little while ago, except Ray got the call:
And finally, the dunk many viewers probably missed after they shut off this largely boring game to go to some party or something. The highlight of the night: Von Wafer’s putback slam.
This little guy can do a lot of things. Kind of hoping he sticks around to keep doing them.
-Not sure if this has been mentioned before here, but Davis is getting star calls for his charges lately. In the one he got against Williams (his 41st of the season, according to Mike Gorman) his feet were more than halfway in the circle. Note that I’m not complaining about this. Also he shot very intelligently tonight, appreciated how much he got to the rim.
-Sterling effort from Tommy Heinsohn this evening. Some broadcasters panic as the second half of a blowout game stretches before them, but Tommy only sees opportunities to make things extremely weird.
First Tommy revealed in two separate moments that he doesn’t approve of “the bird thing” Nate Robinson does when he hits a three or of behind-the-back-dribbling. Then he had these two memorable exchanges:
(Referring to Kyrylo Fesenko, who Tommy had never seen before and inexplicably fell in love with)
Gorman: He’s from the Ukraine.
Heinsohn: He looks like the entire Ukraine!
(Deron Williams bricks a technical free throw)
Gorman: As Donny Marshall would say, “ball don’t lie.”
Heinsohn: Whoa! Are you telling me Donny’s talking to balls now? Oh, Donny, don’t talk to balls!
That last one obviously deserves a little more time. It seems like Tommy somehow heard “ball don’t lie” as “ball, don’t lie”, like a direct request made by a person to a ball. Why this happened I have no idea. Has Tommy somehow never realized what that phrase meant, even after Sheed said it five times a game last year? Was he making some totally bizarre joke? I’m not sure which explanation I love more.