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Nine Hopes For Nine Games

 

The Celtics have nine games left before the playoffs.

Here are nine things we’d like to see happen over that stretch:

1. A Lasting Return By An O’Neal. The Celtics need an O’Neal – any O’Neal - they can count on for 25 minutes a night over the next three months. Both Shaq and J.O. have reportedly lost the weight they should have lost last summer. J.O. is due back tomorrow night against San Antonio with Shaq due to follow in the next week. Plugging either one into the center spot should have positive ripple effects on the eight items below. If neither proves reliable, banner #18 is out of the question. Isn’t it?

2. Offensive fluidity. Ray Allen is frustrated with his lack of touches. Rajon Rondo suggests the Celtics aren’t sure what to run in crunchtime. Jeff Green’s place in the offense remains a work-in-progress. Until recently, Paul Pierce seemed content to take jumpers rather than attack the basket. Of course, we know Boston isn’t a great offensive team. They’re a mediocre one. But to achieve even that level of efficiency, they need five men working to generate good shots. Defenses are about to get stingier. Does Doc Rivers have enough time to pull this thing together?

3. Shoring up the defense. In the eighteen games since the Perk trade, the Celtics have allowed 98.6 points/100 possessions, which would rank second in the league over the full season. So, statistically, they’re still elite. But there’s clearly room for improvement, given failures in both perimeter defense and interior defense over the last few weeks. On the flipside, there’s reason for optimism given some of the shutdown quarters they’ve submitted lately.

4. A narrative shift. By the final buzzer on April 13, the story we want to be hearing about these Celtics goes something like this: “despite some dark moments and ugly games after the Kendrick Perkins trade, Rivers got his shellshocked troops refocused on working together on offense and rallied around their identity as a badass defensive team, which never went away (see #3). The struggles through the last third of the season proved merely the inevitable growing pains that result when you switch out almost half your roster halfway through the season.” It hasn’t felt like it lately, but there’s still time for this narrative to take prominence over the current one, which amounts to something like, “the Celtics aren’t trying ’cause they’re sad, ’cause they’re injured, ’cause they’re evolving into a fringe player in the NBA title quest this spring.”

5. Victories against Chicago and Miami. The Celtics could reaffirm their standing amongst the elite (and their standing in the standings) with wins against the Bulls and Heat. Victories in those games would also be a small validation of the changes Danny Ainge wrought because this new Celtics amalgam has beaten neither yet. Miami, in particular, stands to benefit from a late-season win, as the Celtics have been in their heads all year long. That whole throat-stepping-on thing Tommy Heinsohn and Larry Bird advocated? Now’s the time for it.

6. Cockiness. This team is supposed to be arrogant. When Garnett is sneering at European players, when Pierce is bowing to opposing crowds, when Allen is mocking teams that don’t belong on the court with Boston… that’s the team you want to see heading into the playoffs but it’s been in short supply lately. A relevant question – is this mentality a product of good play or a cause of it?

7. The return of the starters. There’s a chance this is the last run for this Celtics team, particularly if those Garnett-may-retire rumors have any truth to them. And if he retires and Rivers finally moves on, it probably undoes Pierce and Allen’s chances to add second titles to their resumes. It’d be nice if the big three attacked this last stretch with that in mind – we may never get back here again.

8. Jeff Green, essential rotation piece. I’m nowhere near Nate Robinson-level cynicism about his fit on this team, but I’m still unconvinced about the Jeff Green experiment because he seems to have no elite skills, no position for which he’s ideally suited, and an unassertive personality on the court. I’d like some more declarative performances out of him before the playoffs, the kind that make clear why Ainge thinks this trade made the Celtics stronger this year. I’m so ready to be convinced on this one. Will I have to wait until the playoffs?

9. Rest. While we’re shooting for the moon here, it’d be nice for Allen, Garnett and Pierce to each get a game or two off, like Rondo did on Sunday. Friday night, on another SEGABABA, seems a good place to start.

Is there a #10 I missed in there?

  • talesofJP

    Rest everyone against Atlanta, that game is a loss anyway.

    Other wise, I'd like to see all of those things too, particularly the Jeff Green bit. He needs to show the team and the fans why they got him. I have had confidence in Green, but he needs to play better.

  • Batman

    I wanna see Jermaine go back to his Pacer days. Lofty dreams!

    • Chris O

      Would love it but never going to happen, not a snowballs chance in hell, a green squirrel snowball at that

    • MikeD

      In his limited time this season, he played good defense. If he can do that (5-7 rebounds, 1-2 blocks in 15-20 mins) then that would be a huge win for us.

  • Chris O

    Rest? We can rest when we get the 1 or at least 2 seed. Being the 3 could KILL us. I agree with the assessment on Green, he seems to have all the tools but just not be ready. I think KG gives it one more go around next year since the team will still be together. I pray for a half seasonish lockout with about 50 games being played. Then the big 5 can roll next year, go about 38-12. Have one of the top seeds and make on last title run, to bring their total to 3. Banner 18 this year, Banner 19 next if its a shortened season. Then we get Dwight and Ray and KG come back for vet minimums WOOHOO

    • kricky

      Pass me some of that cool aid Chris! Powerful stuff!

    • blackd

      sad. hoping for a shortened season so that the geriatric crew can win a title*

      c'mon c's fans. you can do better than that.

  • Scott

    #10: Rajon Rondo. Get over perk, and lead this team.

    • Chris O

      Ooooooh…..true true

      • talesofJP

        agreed

  • Mike

    Since we're talking about the remaining games, and I meant to say this a while back but, does anybody find a little odd that the fakers only play like 2 or 3 games per week, always against teams on the 2nd game of a back to back and never play back to backs themselves?

    • Garvin

      The Lakers had a lot of games at the beginning of the season, where the C's had a softer schedule. At the time Gasol played a lot of minutes, which let to loses and concerns later on. Also, the C's never had to play 4 games in 5 nights this season, which pretty much every team has to go through at some point.

      • penny

        Thats not how I remember it but ok…. its not like they didn't play an absurd amount of home games….

  • kricky

    Shaq playing like he did at the beginning of the year.(GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!)

    Unlikely, but not entirely implausible.

  • Tos

    I really thought I knew where you were going with this list… 9 reasons, 9 games, and I was SURE the 9th reason would be #9 himself… Rajon Rondo! Like aforementioned he needs to break out of his depressed-hurt pinky-doc blaming sorry for himself rut and go back to owning point guards and dishing out clutch assists.

    • kricky

      Maybe the 9-9-9 would have gotten back the good Juju for RR.

    • Scott

      i said the same thing and got a -1, and you got a +2. Maybe cause you said it nicer?

  • MikeD

    Instead of Postpartum depression this team has Postperkins depression

  • I_Love_Green

    Come on guys, #10…..

    NO MORE INJURIES!!

  • kricky

    True that!

  • CG12

    For me, points 1 and 8 are the only genuine uncertainties about this team. We really need at least some O'Neal to have any chance in the playoffs. This team is just too weak in the middle without both Shaq and JO. Either one would make a difference and both would make a huge difference. As someone noted above, if JO can do what he did earlier this year – 6 boards, 1.5 blocks – it would be really valuable. And if they can get Shaq drawing double-teams and making 1- and zero-footers, then that will make things so much easier for the rest of the starters.

    The book on Green when he arrived was entirely accurate. Good guy, tantalizing skill set, but leaves you wanting more. I'm hoping that regular dosing with the Celtics Kool Aid can bring out an edge in him, but I'm not seeing it as of now. He is a weak defender and a horrendous rebounder. He runs the floor like a freaking antelope, though, which is awfully fun to watch. Counting on him for anything big this year doesn't seem like a good idea. If he can spell PP for 15 minutes a game, maybe play a little small-ball 4 (ugh), and abuse 2nd team defenses, that is all we can ask of him right now.

    • talesofJP

      I thought Shaq said if it were the playoffs he'd be playing? Or was that before the latest setback?

      Green needs to assert himself on this team, he is more offensively talented than Baby so he needs to be option #1 for the bench and Baby needs to try to pull down some rebounds.

      • CG12

        I definitely believe that if it were the playoffs, Shaq would be playing. They would shoot him up with something and run him out there. He would be less effective than if he got healthy on his own. They have been hoping to get him as close to 100% without doing stuff like that. That may not work out, but Shaq will give them something in the playoffs.

        Saying Green should assert himself and there being any reasonable chance he will actually do so are two very different things.

  • NHBluesMan

    if one O'Neal is healthy for the play-offs the C's have a fighting chance at #18. If BOTH are healthy and can split 30-35 minutes between them, i say they have an AMAZING chance at winning #18.

  • Far East Man

    We're gonna have a kick-ass party here in the Philippines with my fellow celtic fans after Boston gets another banner! I've been fattening up an organic pig at my farm and will slaughter it and will roast it for the June celebration! Hehehe. Too optimistic? Maybe. But still… Oh btw, the pig's name is Shaq. :o) Go celts!

    • Batman

      Yea! Roast a….pig?
      Y

      • Far East Man

        yup! roasted suckling pig is like the staple dish here for celebrations. :)

    • andy

      +1 for organic pig mention.

  • https://www.duedil.com/company/07961212/convocco-limited convocco

    I have Spend some time and actual effort to make a great article is appearing in the article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never seem to get nearly anything done

  • http://www.peopleperhour.com/freelancer/hayder/al-ani/managing-director/452441 Hayder-al-ani

    I don't see the Celtics letting garnett go until Jujuan Johnson can get to play with him and learn his ways. Hopefully KG can take him under his wing and buld him up.

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