PACE: 98 possessions (Now-You-See-Me-Now-You-Don’t- Fast)
OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY: 96.9 points/100 possessions (Not Good)
DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY: 91.8 points allowed/100 possessions (Great)
Last night’s game had some ugly sandwiched in between two big pieces of beautiful. The Celtics owned the first quarter by playing the way they normally do: fast, loose, and efficient. Then that pesky second quarter kicked in and reminded NBA fans of the Celtics’ recently discovered Achilles Heel. The Celtics’ bench let a comfortable seven point lead disappear and by the end of the second quarter the Kings had a 54-45 halftime lead.
Apparently, the Celtics’ poor play in the second quarter did not sit well with Ray Allen (Gary Washburm, The Boston Globe):
Boston played a pathetic defensive second quarter, allowing the upstart Kings to shoot 66 percent and Donte Greene, who averaged 5.3 points per game, to drop 13 in the quarter. The Kings strutted into the ARCO Arena locker room with their chests bulging, and Allen was furious.
He challenged his teammates, especially the reserves who lost the lead, to respond in the second half. The usually reserved 3-point specialist exerted his locker room power and the Celtics came back with a sparkling 24 minutes.
“From one season to the next, it’s always interesting how where we end up, who we play on the road,’’ said Allen, who fully recalled last year’s turmoil in Sacramento. “There’s always something swirling around the team so I think it’s a testimony for every game for each guy to do their job. You put whatever agendas aside and make sure you come out and play your game.’’
Sometimes it takes unusual occurrences to spark a team that can sometimes get bored. The Celtics were bored in the second quarter, believing they had knocked out the Kings by taking a 7-point lead in the first period. The Celtics came out with the same energy they ended with in the Lakers win, but coach Doc Rivers decided to give the starters a breather and the bench’s apathy led to a 34-point Sacramento quarter.
To be fair (sorta) Donte Greene uncharacteristically went off in the second quarter hitting a mixture of threes and turn-around jumpers and finishing with 13 points all by himself. That, ladies and gentlemen, does not happen everyday.
Luckily, the Celtics came out in the third like kids who have just been scolded by their highly respected father (with great calfs) and outscored the Kings 29-17 in the third. The Kings did not do anything to help themselves by playing non-existent team defense. Tyreke Evans let Rajon Rondo get by him so many times it prompted me to say a puzzled-look, “really?” way too many times (and now my brow is stuck furrowed. Thanks a lot ‘Reke).
Here’s an example of the Kings’ awesomely bad defense with a video I like to call, “Kings and Awesomely Bad Defense”:
Look at Beno Udrih, Tyreke Evans, and DeMarcus Cousins all stand around and go, “Not mine” as Glen Davis drains a jumper. What’s worse is that Ray Allen could have easily nailed a wide-open three had Davis decided to give the ball up. It’s this kind of play that forces me to not take for granted watching the Celtics play defense for 82 games. Being a Kings’ fan must be so frustrating.
It was this kind of defense and the Celtics’ reassertion of their offense that allowed them to narrowly edge this game out. It should not have been this close but I’ll chalk it up to a potential trap game/post LA win hangover and move on. No use crying over a lost opportunity to lose.
There is still one more thing left to discuss when it comes to the Celtics and last night’s game was overly indicative of this “one thing”. What the hell is going on with the Celtics’ bench, specifically Nate Robinson? The Celtics real bench (swapping Shaquille O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins for this one) were a collective -17. That would certainly put them on the wrong side of Hayes’ +/- Salvation Scale.
It seemed as though Robinson was, at times, especially bad. He was 2-for-7 from the field. He missed all three of his threes. And he did this:
This last bit is especially inexcusable. I suppose Robinson’s shot selection is always accompanied by somewhat of an eye-roll but usually Nate makes this pass to Marquis Daniels and both a trotting up the floor high-fiving and happy. I especially like the look on Daniels’ face and the position of his hands when he sees that Nate is not going to give the ball back to him. It kind of reminds me of this.
I may be alone in this, but I am glad Nate Robinson is on the Celtics. This terrible charge aside, it’s plays like this next one that totally make him worth it:
Just look at Nate dive after that loose ball. It’s this kind of hustle, grit, and blatant disregard for his own personal safety that makes me love this little atom bomb. I mean, think about it. Nate could just as easily hustle like Tyreke Evans:
Man, nobody wants that. “It’s okay Rondo. I’ll wait for you to secure the ball and then we’ll start,” said Evans as Rondo shot him this look and carried on. While on the DDL chat last night, I asked Zach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom and Daily Dime LIVE fame why Evans did not go for the steal and the best explanation he could offer is that ‘Reke was focusing on Nate Robinson and potentially having to help out on D. That would, of course, have to mean that Evans and the Kings actually play defense, which they do not.
So Nate ain’t perfect and his performance along with the rest of the bench will be scrutinized from here on out. The hope is that the Celtics continue to win but also that these wins are not masking a serious problem. I ultimately think they’ll be fine but since you can really never tell, I will leave you with this little game. The following is a picture of Nate Robinson followed by a multiple choice question. Answer in the comments:
Can you tell me what happens next? Is it:
A) Nate dunks on Samuel Dalembert and DeMarcus Cousins forcing the Kings to call up Hassan Whiteside from the D-League.
B) Nate misses a four-footer off a Ray Allen miss and Doc Rivers immediately calls timeout and takes him out of the game.
C) Nate inexplicably starts dribbling before he lands and passes the ball up top to restart the offense.
The answer might surprise you (but probably won’t).