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Celtics-Bucks: Attitude Adjustment

 

“That’s about as humiliating a defeat as you’ll ever see.  Right at the jump ball Rondo got right up into Brandon, they got right up into our guards, and they got us on our heels and took our competitive fight away from us.  We pretty much just gave into it.” — Scott Skiles

Even though this one was beyond reach by halftime, the Celtics’ bench showed no mercy in the fourth quarter, shredding the Bucks 27-18. The final viscera, and Skiles’ resignation in its aftermath, was a vivid reminder of the 07-08 Celtics, a group that routinely obliterated teams on its way to the best record in the league and a brilliant 10.3 points-per-game average margin of victory.

Of course, this was no heavyweight clash. The badly-constructed Bucks, on a back-to-back, with a simpering offensive that ranks last in the league, was the basketball equivalent of a wounded animal thrown to a starving lion. What’s so encouraging is the Celtics didn’t play with its prey, but quickly cornered it, and tore it apart. From the outset, Boston’s defense challenged Milwaukee to earn its points. The Celtics jumped passing lanes for steals and deflections. They forced late-shot-clock jumpers. They swept in and cleaned up the boards.

Nenad Krstic was probably the best player on the floor with 11 points and 14 rebounds. He continues to cast Kendrick Perkins’ flaws on the offensive end into stark relief. He’s also making progress as a team defender (see his work on pick and rolls tonight) even if he’ll never be a beastly force defending the post.  But the trade-off may be worth it. Krstic seems a fine fit for this team, unless this early burst of feisty play is a mirage and he shrinks against the rougher on-court climate of the playoffs.

Importantly, I think, the Celtics played this game with a swagger that’s been elusive since the trade deadline. It was apparent from the outset. Boston clearly expected to win this game, and perhaps as a result, played well enough to do just that, confidence being a powerful, intangible thing.

And beyond the question of five-man lineups and rotation patterns, these in-transition Celtics could probably use a dose of arrogance and obnoxiousness.  In its optimal state, this team has spent the last four years as an intimidating gang of bullies that snarls at its opponents, dares them to match its intensity and effort — and then mocks them when they fall short.

For better and worse, that is Celtics basketball.

Or it was.

Boston is a solid 6-3 since the Perkins trade, but has looked tentative at times, confused at others, in both wins and losses.

That’s entirely expected, of course.

But everyone from fans to players to management will be rest easier when the team has reestablished itself as the clear favorite for the title in June, a burden this group carried rather lightly up until the trade deadline.

QUICK HITS

  • Clunky Start: It wasn’t all perfect, of course. The Celtics turned the ball over 7 times in the first quarter alone and shot an unspectacular 45.8% for the game, a percentage reflective of an offense that finished to close out a batch of first quarter possessions with scores, and that staggered — but didn’t fall — due to a lack of cohesion amongst the new Celtics in the second quarter (no such problems would occur in the fourth).
  • Baby Back: Glen Davis made his return to the lineup, his mere presence a stabilizing force (and perhaps his extra weight as well? He looked heavier than usual to me, although that’s subjective — and possibly petty). Davis put up 9 points and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes, very impressive numbers for that kind of court time. Still, I’d attribute that more to the Bucks’ ineptitude than anything else.
  • Rest & Relaxation: No Celtics starter played more than 30 minutes (Ray Allen). The others: Rajon Rondo (23 minutes), Paul Pierce (28), Kevin Garnett (25), Krstic (27). Speculation: KG and Rondo need the short minutes way more than the other three. Garnett seems to be laboring, perhaps as a function of some minor ailment or three.
  • Running: The Celtics’ second quarter offensive slump ended when they started to run off defensive stops.
  • Unsung: We almost never talk about Allen’s defense unless it’s in the context of “he’s better than you think, especially on Kobe Bryant.” Well, Ray came to play tonight. He was working hard out there, especially in the first quarter, before the Bucks had given up.
  • Erratum: Andrew Bogut looks tentative, nowhere near the force he can be. Jeff Green’s favorite spots on the floor seem to be: all of them. Carlos Arroyo seems a good bet to get spot playoff minutes, one way or another. He looks incredibly comfortable out there.
  • ElRoz

    If Delonte comes back and Arroyo continues to improve, Doc will likely go with West-Arroyo instesd of West-Wafer in the playoffs. This way he'll have something like two back-up pointguards while also able to use West as a shooting guard. Pavlovic might alos get a playoff spot due to his defense and size if he covers shooting guard.

    Playoff bench – limited to 7, right? – could look like this:
    backcourt: Arroyo-West
    center: Kristic and either Murphy or J Oneal (JO if he is healthy and in tune with the game)
    forwards:Davis-Green-Pavlovic

    left out: Von Wafer, Bradley, and either Murphy or J Oneal, if cannot come back and contribute.

  • http://lovemyceltics.blogspot.com mycelts

    THE BUCKS STOP HERE–ENCORE
    The Bucks came to town tho’ they didn’t really show,
    They had tired legs, nothing would go.
    They shot 31.4% from the floor,
    They probably couldn’t wait to find the door.

    A few things stood out for the Cs tonight:
    Krstic’s a great addition, doing everything right,
    In the last two games, he had rebounds twenty-nine,
    His interior play is fitting in fine.

    Then there was Murphy who just needed a hoop,
    To begin to feel like he’s part of this group.
    Baby came back, no hoops til Q4,
    Several rebounds, and 9 his final score.

    Arroyo knows our plays, he has learned them already,
    He’ll get better and better when his play is more steady.
    An aside: number 11 worn by a Buck and a C,
    Baby is 6’9, Boykins just over 5’3.

    Right from Q1 possessed were the Cs,
    They were light on their feet, each shot a breeze.
    Fewest points allowed in the half and the game,
    Because tonight, to play basketball, all the Cs came.

    Coming off two tough losses, no defense per se,
    They had to change that starting today.
    In all of Q4 the starters got a rest,
    Watching them cheer the new guys is the best.

    We have Baby, then Delonte, maybe Wafer soon,
    With a full roster the coaches will be over the moon.
    You know, as always, it must be said
    Of Reggie Ray is now 31 ahead.

    lovemyceltics.blogspot.com

    by mycelts on Mar 13, 2011 9:30 pm

  • Nate teh Great

    I know that a lot of C's fans don't really pay attention to players on other teams, but I thought it was hilarious that people were claiming (and some still do) that Perk (a great guy, a really hard worker) was a better basketball player than Krstic.

    There really was no comparison between them. Nenad's offensive game is really polished. Even though he didn't get many touches with OKC, (if you know anything about basketball) you could see that he had all the tools to be a significant factor on the offensive end. Really soft hands, good footwork around the rim, and very decent range on his jumper make him ten times the scorer that Perk will ever be.

    As for his defense, the C's "D" is really all about the system and the willingness of the player to buy into it. Just watching these last few games you can see Nenad's commitment to learning that system and being a major cog in it.

    I will admit however, that even I am surprised by his rebounding prowess. As they say, "rebounding is all about desire", and he certainly seems to have no shortage of that!

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