Feel free to look ahead to when the eventualities that lost the Celtics this game won’t matter anymore. Kevin Garnett isn’t going to go all Bosh on us and shoot 5-19 every night, and the bench is someday going to manage a decent point total, because again, this isn’t Miami.
But until the O’Neal brothers return from injury, we have to prepare for a world where Nenad Krstic is the team’s only center. And tonight gave us a look at what it might be like to live in such a world.
Starting with the positive, the Celtics got 20 points from Special K, all but two of them at the rim. And that’s great. Before he got to Boston, Krstic hadn’t demonstrated himself to be much of a finisher under the basket, but he seems to be working extremely hard, and that part of his game is showing results.
His defense, however, needs more than just work. No, he’s not going to be forced to contend with leviathans like DeAndre Jordan every night. But when he does, it’s probably going to keep looking like this:
Because it’s more fun this way, here’s a dunk-for-dunk analysis of those defensive possessions, emphasizing how Krstic has trouble defending the post, and the problems with KG filling in at center.
DUNK ONE: KG just gets completely forklifted off his block here. He knows if he stays in position, Jordan will lay him out and he’ll catch a foul, so he basically concedes the points here. Keep in mind that, while KG knows what to do in the post and defends it well, he’s not built with a low center of gravity. You can push him around, especially if you have dining room tables for shoulders like DeAndre Jordan. Which is why KG is not a center, and shouldn’t be. More on that in a second.
DUNK TWO: I wish we could build to Nenad’s worst defensive play, but here it is a little early. Nenad completely loses Jordan on an inbounds pass, displaying the same lack of defensive awareness he brought out multiple times in this game by drifting away from his assignment and forgetting to BOX OUT FERPETESAKES (false teeth fall out and start chattering on the floor).
DUNK THREE: Hard to tell who’s supposed to take Jordan here, but Krstic and Garnett both converge on Griffin, leaving Jordan to pick up the scraps like a honey badger. In any case, I doubt this scenario transpires if Garnett has the confidence to let Krstic take Griffin alone. If Perkins is under there, you know Garnett’s ducking away to take care of the other big guy on the boards. Admit that you know this.
DUNK FOUR: Krstic was not in the game on this dunk. Instead, we got one of those lineups that Doc is so pumped for where Jeff Green plays the four and Garnett moves over to center. Doc loves these lineups because they were so effective with Posey at power forward in 2008, but when he says this, it’s like he doesn’t hear the 2008 part. Kevin Garnett is much less capable/willing to play center for long stretches. He’s drifted away from the basket steadily since the championship season. He’s more likely to get injured playing center at both ends.
Add to that the fact that Green doesn’t defend the power forward position well AT ALL, and you get a 13-0 run from which the C’s never recovered. I’m telling you, these Garnett-at-center lineups are not the best use of the Perkins trade. Jeff Green is a scorer off the bench at small forward.
DUNK FIVE: Here’s a nice one that shows off Krstic’s failings both as a post defender and as a rebounder. See how he has zero effect on Jordan’s positioning under the basket as he halfheartedly tries to nudge him out of the way? He gets caught between going up for the ball and clearing his man out of the way, so in the end he does neither.
Krstic is tall, but he isn’t that strong, his instincts are shaky, and his butt is not much to speak of. Nobody’s moving out of the way for Nenad Krstic’s butt. So this makes Krstic A) easily disposed of by his man and B) ineffective at making room underneath. Chris Kaman had a couple of plays tonight where he decided to make a move toward the basket and just brought Krstic with him.
Manipulating space is the most important skill for a center: both making it and maintaining it. Glen Davis does it reasonably well on defense because he’s harder to knock over than Ann Veal. Perkins did it extremely well because he had a low center of gravity and GI Joe arms. Krstic has none of these physical assets.
But he does have a decent jump shot, and you can see how that could help on offense. Bigs tend to assume they’re headed for the basket, so Krstic is often alone to nail jumpers at the elbow, especially in transition. Those are some bonus points that the Celtics will probably need on a lot of nights, and they’ll be hugely helpful when Krstic is a reserve center again.
Which is why, Shaq, though we respect your fake injury and your reasons for faking it, we hope you come back soon.
A CRAZY THING
This post is almost exclusively about dunks and Blake Griffin gets nary a mention. He only had one dunk with about 90 seconds to go in the game. KG was super-effective on him tonight. Bill Simmons tweeted earlier today that tonight’s game was the “second hottest” of the season, after the opener against the Heat. Not sure how box offices measure ticket hotness, but I guess some people were disappointed tonight.
ONE NOTE ON FANDOM
How weird did it feel tonight to watch Carlos Arroyo lift up a shot, experience a reflexive sense of disgust, then realize you’re supposed to hope it goes in?
I had a similar sensation watching Sasha Pavlovic run the floor. The possibility that we really are rooting for laundry is always sitting uncomfortably somewhere in the back of our minds, but Danny Ainge really wants us to confront it, apparently. Maybe to get us all prepared for the exodus to come after the 2012 season, when the Celtics only have two players (Rondo and Pierce) under contract. Might be easier to swallow if Rondo were playing a little better.
In any case, Arroyo looked good. He played a few minutes alongside Rondo and showed some shooting touch and an ability to find players in good position. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all.