The Celtics had a tumultuous month of February. In the last 28 days, Boston:
- Had a 7-4 record that cost it 1.5 games of its lead over Miami (the C’s remain a game up on the Heat but only two ahead of the surging Bulls);
- Registered big wins over Orlando and Miami that marked it (again) the class of the Eastern Conference;
- Fell to Dallas (for the second time this season) and the Lakers (for the first);
- Weathered a month of wearying debate on Kevin Garnett’s allegedly dirty play;
- Saw Ray Allen set the all-time record for three-pointers made;
- Represented all-star weekend with four Celtics players, the entire Boston coaching staff and two CelticsHub writers (admittedly, that last one probably isn’t going to make the media guide next year);
- Grimaced as Allen and Paul Pierce both fell short in the three-point-shootout – to James Jones of Miami;
- Welcomed Delonte West back to the team;
- Held its breath when Marquis Daniels went down with a frightening spine injury;
- Remade its roster with a set of trades/signings that look like this, so far:
Daniels, Luke Harangody, Semih Erden, Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson
Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, Troy Murphy, Chris Johnson, Fan Angst
Other than all that, it’s been kind of dull lately.
Coming into March, the Celtics are:
13th in offensive efficiency (104.8 points scored/100 possessions). Last month – 10th/106.0.
2nd in defensive efficiency (97.5 points allowed/100 possessions). Last month – 2nd/97.9.
1st in eFG% at 52.6%. Last month – 1st/53.7%.
3rd in TS% at 56.5%. Last month – 2nd/57.3%.
1st in assist ratio at 17.3. Last month – 1st/17.5.
7th (tied) in defensive rebound rate at 75.0. Last month – 8th/74.9.
30th in offensive rebound rate at 21.4. Last month – 30th/21.4.
19th (tied) in total rebound rate at 49.7. Last month – 17th/49.8.
22nd in pace at 93.1. Last month – 22nd/92.8.
27th in turnover rate at 25.3. Last month – 27th/25.5.
The decline in offensive efficiency has been slow but inexorable this season, and it’s not a shock Danny Ainge finally acted on it, removing the offensive dead-weight of Perkins, Erden and Robinson. We’ll see whether the new guys make this Celtics team more effective at scoring the ball, but it was clear Boston was going to struggle on the offensive end come the playoffs. The surprise was that the Celtics weren’t content to live with that, given their success this season.
One lingering concern here – the rebounding. With Perk gone, Garnett’s importance is magnified, and someone else has to step up with consistent board work. As Hayes discussed this morning, that person is most likely Murphy or Shaquille O’Neal. Because if it’s not, the C’s are in trouble.
The C’s have sixteen games in March but only one against a title contender: San Antonio (the March 21st game against the contender-in-their-own-mind Knicks doesn’t count). Practice time looks at a premium with all the home-and-away-and-back travel this month so Doc Rivers is mostly going to have to work out his new lineups in live games. Still, the soft schedule portends a good record.
After last month’s prediction fail, I feel I’m due to get a few right.
Let’s try these:
Safe Prediction: By the time April rolls around, the Celtics will be almost as tightly knit a team as they were before Perk was dispatched to the dustbowl. Credit for this will to go to Rivers and his players (primarily Garnett, whose inclusive approach and team-first tenor will be something we will eventually look back on with awe). Green will exemplify this newfound togetherness when he announces he wants to be a Celtic for life.
Bold Prediction: The “competent-plus” play of Boston’s four-headed center (Krstic, Murphy, Glen Davis and a returning Shaq) will allow the Celtics fans to put the departure of Perkins in their emotional rear view mirrors. Catharsis will be achieved when it becomes clear this Boston defense can incorporate almost any variety of center and remain comfortably elite. The increased offensive potency out of the 5-spot will be the cherry on top of the 7-foot-tall sundae.
Ridiculous Prediction: Rasheed Wallace will return to the Celtics, looking like he’s eaten a 7-foot-tall sundae. At least half of this prediction isn’t ridiculous.
Predicted March Record: 12-4