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A Transitional Loss? More Thoughts on Pacers-Celtics

 

More on Celtics-Pacers…

I’ve not been nearly as convinced as others the Kendrick Perkins trade dissolved this team’s chemistry or will or crippled it on court. But last night, as Roy Hibbert put up 26 points, there was no denying the impact Perkins could have had. It’s a rare thing to face a 7’2″ center these days, but neither Glen Davis nor Nenad Krstic is equipped to handle one when they do come along.

I love watching Davis dig in on defense against bigger guys. He fights for every inch of position in the post and rarely submits a poor effort. But against Hibbert – like against Dwight Howard – Davis’ effort usually isn’t sufficient in the one area where it really counts: the result. Hibbert shot over him all night, scoring with ease, to the point where you had to wonder why Kevin Garnett or Jeff Green didn’t do more duty on him, while Davis switched onto the power forward.

And Krstic really needs to find a mean streak and put somebody down on the floor. As we’ve been told, he’s a backup center as soon as the enigmatic O’Neal brothers return, but even then he needs to toughen up underneath if he’s going to meet expectations in the playoffs. Right now, he seems too much a finesse player for a team lacking in toughness on the frontline.

As much as we wait for the new players to be fully integrated into the team from a schematic point of view, it’s also crucial they adopt the Celtics’ identity as their own, rather than change it for the worse (softer).

So anyway, Mr. Perkins, as we look ruefully at Indiana’s trips to the rim (42 points in the paint, many of the poorly contested variety), we can report that for very tangible reasons, you were much missed on the court last night.

***

And so it goes, right? The Celtics lose again and the late-season collapse continues.

Still, there are reasons to be encouraged.

For the second night in a row, the offense burst out of the gate, this time totalling 33 first quarter points. Rajon Rondo absolutely abused Darren Collison in the first quarter, beating him off the dribble in the halfcourt and outracing him down the court in transition on his way to 18 first half points (not that the Indiana bigs were much help after Rondo had broken down the first line of defense; as often as not they just watched him waltz in and lay the ball up).

That attack mentality has been much-missed during a stretch filled with jumpshots that often bailed out opposing defenses. And it wasn’t just Rondo last night. Davis went at the basket repeatedly on his way to 20 points, in what was, perhaps, a reaction to a batch of missed jumpers in Minnesota on Sunday. Paul Pierce also looks like he’s got his fire rekindled. He’s taking open lanes to the basket whenever he can find them and throwing down on guys.

Obviously, it fell apart in the fourth quarter, but signs exist this team might be coming around, in terms of its ability to score the ball. Next orders of business: Ray Allen needs to find his shot again, and Garnett needs to reassert himself in the post (how many times have we made that comment the last four years?).

***

Finally, and this probably deserves a post of its own soon, Jeff Green remains a mystery. He took only 3 shots in 28 minutes, and there’s a real question whether he is content to run up and down the floor without making his presence felt in tangible ways because he’s new to the team and (like in OKC) playing multiple positions, or because that’s simply his temperament. I’m concerned it’s the latter. Like with Krstic, his lack of overt fire seems to be shifting the identity of the team on the court. Shaquille O’Neal’s return can’t come soon enough.

  • James Patrick

    People keep talking about the return of Shaq or J.O. like all is going to be well when that happens. The whole Perk trade was frustrating because he meant so much to the team and the fans on so many levels. Plus, think about what else the team gave up. People were concerned about not having a decent back up for Paul Pierce, but we had four other players to work with. Still I would've kept Nate too.

    Bottom line, sure, we can't guarantee we would've won it all with Perk, but I'd feel a whole lot better losing with him than losing without him because can you honestly say Jeff Green or Krisnic are going to be back next year if we don't win? Then what do we have? A big bag of NOTHING!

    • Tos

      Right. People who say this trade was for future fail to realize that both these guys are free agents after this season, just like Perk.. If in fact we don’t resign Green and he doesn’t contribute this year what was the point of the trade…?

    • MikeD

      Jeff Green is a restricted free agent, which means teams will be reluctant to offer him any deals. The C's will be able to resign him for a reasonable price. As far as Shaq and JO go, obviously Shaq is the important piece. If he can give them 20 minutes a game in the playoffs, they will be fine. If not, we are in trouble. It's as simple as that.

      • kricky

        Yes we can probably resign him for a reasonable price. But looking at the way he's played is he worth it?

        The window of opportunity was this year. We will already be rebuilding next year and committing any substantial money to Green makes no sense.

        He's never going to evolve into a star that can carry a team for stretches more than one game. And he doesn't really do anything particularly well that he can fill a niche.

        • james patrick

          so you're basically saying, what most people believe. why trade perk? we needed to go for 18 now, before the rebuilding begins!

          • kricky

            Sometimes the conventional wisdom is right.

        • willybeamin

          you don't know this at all… but obviously it backs up your line of thinking so stick with it!

          Jeff Green is still very young and has a ton of talent.

  • Chris O

    I am just sick of the blame being placed on the new guys. Its not the big 4's fault than it is there's. Also Ray needs to get the ball more and become a bigger part of the offense.

    • Morpheus

      Yep, this article is pretty lame. Criticising Green for a lack of fire…PLEASE. The Big 3 1/2 have NO FIRE and is starts and ends with them. No one should be criticising the new guys if the Big 3 1/2 aren't bringing it every night.

      • Ryan DeGama

        What a curious way to look at it. Criticizing a supporting player absolves the big three (and a half) of nothing.

  • Iamsuck

    Eff you, Danny, eff you…

    • Batman

      Um Danny got us Banner 17
      No need to hate cause even if we lose this year how do u know we would have won with perkins?

      • james patrick

        how do you know we wouldn't have? i knew what we had last year. i don't know what we've got this year. nuff said…

      • Sauce

        You dont know, but there is such a thing as probability, like we could or could not have more of a chance with him

  • kricky

    What is scary is the negative impact that the new guys seem to be having on the team's identity and the fact that our future now hinges 100% on Shaq's return .

    That wasn't the case at the beginning of the year. Our identity as a team was set. We were only counting on Shaq to come of the bench and give some rebounding and scoring pop against 2nd units. Now he is our almighty savior.

    Well played Danny……….

    • james patrick

      exactly. at the beginning of the year, everyone was calling shaq broke down, talking about maybe getting 15 quality minutes out of him. now, he's our Celtic Savior? great!

  • Phil

    Its amazing how furiously people will latch onto a juicy storyline at times like this. The Celtics are going through a major late season slump, and we don't know why, yet everyone assumes they know its because the Perk trade.

    The more likely scenario is that they're going through a lot of different things. This is a very old team for one, I recall that being a pretty big talking point last year and earlier this year. It stands to reason that they may face problems going through the grind at the end of the year, especially when they're playing with playoff intensity for seeding. Injuries, the new guys feeling out their roles, regression to the mean (I recall reading a Hollinger article earlier in the year about how the Celtics were shooting an unsustainable percentage,) there are a lot of things that are contributing. A lot of the problems the Celtics are facing have nothing to do with physically losing Perk. Offensive swoon? They can't replace Perk's 7 points a game?

    I'm not saying the Perk trade wasn't a huge risk, or that it hasn't negatively affected the Celtics in the short term, but to treat every loss as a referendum on Danny Ainge's tenure, or act like its the only reason for a horrible 12 game stretch solely on intangibles affecting a very veteran team just seems lazy and ignorant to me.

  • guest

    I think people are failing to remember the team was playing a lot better when Shaq was in and Perkins was out. They had their 14 game win streak without Perk. Shaq in my opinion also did a better job handling the ball than Perk. Sure he isn't GREAT at ball handling but how many times did Perk drop the ball after his return? Not to mention it's sad to say but Shaq's free throw percentage was getting better as well. The team is simply just being lazy and bored at this point. All players go through a slump at some point.

    Seriously, this kind of stuff would of happened even if the trade didn't happen. They played like this last year as well. I'll take losses like the ones against Memphis and Indiana any day over the ones like in Houston or Phoenix. At least with the ones in Memphis and Indiana they had a legit shot at winning and were playing alright, they just made a couple mistakes at the end. I doubt they'll pull the same stuff in the playoffs.

    • Phil

      It kills me to say, but I do think people are vastly overrating Perk after the fact. I love the guy, and there's a good chance they'll miss his toughness in the playoffs. But to say that the trade has killed the regular season and any hope going forward is just knee jerk reaction fanaticism at its finest. If we didn't make the deadline trade, we probably lose 3 or 4 more games during the time that Perk was out with his sprained knee. The drain on the starters during that time would have been even worse, and we may be in the same exact spot now with an overtired, slumping big 3.

      The trade was always a bet for Shaq. People get (rightly,) frustrated with his injuries, and it may be crazy to put your season's hopes on an enigmatic 39 year old, but that doesn't change the fact that the best Celtics team this year was the one with Shaq, not Perk.

    • james patrick

      but shaq wasn't never supposed to be option #1. he was there to give us quality bench minutes. his health is playing out exactly as it was expected. only problem is we don't have perk.

      • Phil

        We don't know that Shaq wasn't supposed to be option number 1. I recall the Celtics being relatively vague on whether they preferred Shaq or Perk in the starting role, and now, it seems like we know who they were leaning towards the whole time. The Celtics clearly believe that Shaq will be healthy for the playoffs. If he is, this 12 game stretch is meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

        • james patrick

          Well Danny's never been a big Perk fan, so he was the one who kept things vague. But I guess we know that Shaq is option 1 now. lol

  • Chris O

    Guys again, I'd hate to say it but I don't know how much we are missing Perk. It was the OFFENSE that lost us a bunch of these games and the big 4's ability or lack thereof to score. This is why we have talked about Rondo's 'slump' and 'tired legs' and injuries and complained about BBD shooting to much and Ray not shooting enough yadda yadda yadda. Its not Krstic and Green messing up this team. Its a lack of front court depth (which just Perk wouldn't make up for) and an offense that is INCONSISTENT at BEST (look at last nights 100 point effort two 30+ point quarters, 2 lower than 20 point quarters). Or look at the Minnesota game, where you score 30 points in the first 9 mins and then the remainder of the game your OFFENSE goes in hibernation. This is not a result of Perk not being here…

  • Strips

    About the C's current slump: could it be that the big four (or the entire team) are somewhat too complacent because they can 'turn it on' in the playoffs? I don't know how long they can bank on that concept. Yeah, we lost a good defensive big in Perks and it might have changed the team's defensive culture, but he isn't the whole defense. We got better guys (offense-wise) in that trade because that's what Danny felt needed to be addressed. We cannot keep on blaming the loss of Perkins for our current slump.

    So it must be because they 'think' that they can up the ante in the playoffs. It's just very disconcerting and uncommon to see the guys have a hard time or get blown out by really bad teams. Of course we do have to consider age as a factor, as well as how many of those losses were in SEGABABA's. We can think of more excuses, but in the end the starters all just have to go out there and make things happen. Ray said it best. They just got to play. Less thinking, more doing. They've got a few more games to get things together.

    Here's hoping they get things straightened out before the playoffs.

  • kricky

    RE: Perk. This is a team game and it's all about the way the pieces FIT. Not how good they fit individually. And let's not forget that the mental/ identity aspect of the game is far underrated. But it's intangible and gets overlooked. But if you want proof that it MATTERS just remember the fact that every guy in the NBA is a physical phenom. It's what's in your head that separates the mediocre from great.

    Before the trade we had swagger. Remember that clip of Ray saying that the Warriors don't belong on the same court with us? We go out, toy with them and play their style in their house and beat them handily. Like we were trying to prove a point. That was the last game before the trade and mentally we haven't been the same since.

  • Jon

    I believe that the team will benefit if Green is more aggressive but the starting 5 needs to come out better once the reserves are in most not all times the Celtics are down. They should be alright come playoff time. Celtics have been rolling all year so every team has a rough patch see Spurs, Lakers, Heat. All those teams has rough stretches it's just part of a LONG season. My guess is we will start clicking right in time for the playoffs. Coming for BANNER 18!!!

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