It could be easy to rip into the Celtics’ play tonight. Giving up a 25-point lead against a 17-win team (playing without its best player in Kevin Love), is hardly excusable. But tonight’s game wasn’t as bad as it may have felt as it was all unfolding.
The C’s shot 59% from the floor in the 1st quarter, which helped fuel a 17-0 run midway through the period…Then they went cold. After putting up 32 points in the 1st, the Celtics only managed 53 points for the remainder of the game, and finished with an overall field goal percentage of 40%.
However, as we continue to scrutinize the Celtics’ newly equipped offense, let’s not forget that this team, first and foremost, is a defensive team that relies on its ability to make open shots. Whether it be Kevin Garnett or Glen Davis from mid-range, or Paul Pierce and Ray Allen hitting timely 3-pointers, the Celtics have consistently been one of the best shooting teams in the NBA over the last few seasons. That’s not going to change anytime soon.
Even during the 2nd and 3rd quarters, when the C’s surrendered their large lead, I thought their ball movement was still quite good. Delonte West did an admirable job filling in for the injured Rajon Rondo, and Carlos Arroyo was active in his limited role. The Celtics continued to spread the floor, make the extra pass and find the open man. But Pierce, BBD, and others struggled immensely from the field during those middle quarters.
It’s unfortunate that the Celtics’ shooting woes occurred in this game. Coming off two losses, and with a difficult week ahead, tonight would have been a great night to rest the starters during the 2nd half. But at the end of the day, when the Celtics get open looks and hold their opponents to 82 points, they are going to win games.
However, that doesn’t mean the Celtics escape all criticism tonight.
The C’s inability/refusal to attack the basket when shots weren’t falling was effectively what allowed the T-Wolves back in the game. Ultimately, Pierce and KG saved us. But they should have taken control earlier, especially with Rondo on the sideline. Pierce has too many weapons in his arsenal to settle for 3-pointers when they’re simply not falling. KG had good matchups all night and should have attempted more than 11 shots. Perhaps he suffered from Rondo not being there to feed him the ball where he likes it, but still.
Summarizing Doc Rivers’ words from the post-game interview, this team’s philosophy is to never pass up open shots. But at some point, you need to go to the post. And it wasn’t until the last stretch of the game that the Celtics made that adjustment. When his team desperately needed him, Pierce carried the C’s offense late, finishing the game with 23 points. And I give him a lot of credit for that. On back-to-back possessions, he converted an And 1; then drained a jumper from his sweet-spot on the right elbow. That’s what leaders do. And that’s how you pull out a sub-par game in late March.
No, this game did not go 100% according to plan. But a win is a win.
*** Davis stat line: 4-15 FG, 8 points, 6 rebounds, 35 minutes
Jeff Green stat line: 4-5 FG, 9 points, 2 rebounds, 19 minutes
Davis definitely has a better understanding of the defensive schemes, especially when it comes to guarding players in the post. But that’s the only reason I can think of that would explain why he played almost twice as much as Green tonight. Green made two early jumpers in the first quarter, appeared destined for a big offensive night, and then was nowhere to be found. This guy was brought here for his offense. When your team scores 32 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, it might be a good idea to give him some more time.
***I thought Delonte played very well tonight. The numbers won’t blow you away, but he seemed to have total control of the offense as he was handling the ball. Especially in the 1st quarter. Executing the pick-and-roll, running the fast break, etc. If anything, I would have liked to see him look for his own shot a little more. Nevertheless, I feel very comfortable handing the offense over to West for 15 minutes in a playoff game.
***That would be 28 points on 11-28 shooting for Michael Beasley. And to think there was a time when he was actually projected over Derrick Rose.
***Love the plethora of no-look passes from Arroyo. Keep doing your thing.