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.