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Center Stage: Playoff Edition

 

Quick rundown on the most volatile spot on the floor for the Celtics over the last three games, focusing on the win of yesterday. The center position is now split between four different players (Nenad Krstic has departed the rotation), with varying results production-wise. Let’s start with:

Jermaine O’Neal: It’s eternally frustrating that Jermaine O’Neal can only manage twenty-and-change minutes per game. Understand this, if nothing else: Jermaine has not had a negative plus/minus in any of the three games played so far. He was plus-2 in the series opener, totally even in a Game 2 blowout, and well into positive territory like all the other starters in Game 3. But it’s Game 2 that really deserves attention: O’Neal spent almost all of his court time with the starters, who averaged about a -10 for that game. Meanwhile, most of the bench players were in positive territory, except for Glen Davis who was a minus-14. That means that the scoring difference in the game took place in the fifteen-odd minutes when Davis played with the starters instead of JO.

Even with minimal offensive production, Jermaine O’Neal is absolutely an asset to this team. He’s an extremely rare defender in that he’s just as likely to go up for a block as take a charge. He does both expertly: when he contests under the rim, he always jumps straight up and focuses on disrupting the shooter’s momentum rather than swatting the ball, and he falls straight back when he’s going for the foul, not easy to do when you’re as big as he is. Any measures that could extend Jermaine’s minutes without sacrificing his production too much should be explored post-haste, including voodoo.

We get into Shaq, Glen Davis, and finally the team’s best center after the jump.

Shaquille O’Neal: “Just wait,” we all told ourselves. “Shaq’s hitting the weight room every day. He’s slimming down, getting his strength back. Next time we see him in a game, he’s going to be the old Shaq. You’ll see. You’ll all see.

Well, we weren’t totally wrong. Except he’s just old Shaq, not the old Shaq. The most lasting image of this series might actually be the first time a player has ever vomited from exhaustion all over the court, because Shaq definitely didn’t look like he was far off last night.

But he was tired because he was playing very hard. He showed on screens, jumped out to confront drivers from the perimeter, and shoved the crap out of everyone around under both baskets. And that’s his value. Shaq’s body is a disruptive force even at age 39, and it will be long after he dies in Game 6. Against an undersized team like Miami especially, Shaq changes the game, and his contribution to the win last night shouldn’t be underestimated.

Glen Davis: I’m ecstatic to report that Glen Davis is not a center anymore. It was widely presupposed that Shaq’s return would mean less playing time for Glen Davis, and all the presupposers were right. Davis played only 11 minutes last night, down from 26 in Game 2, and 8.5 of them were with Shaq on the court, making Davis a power forward. But Glen’s minutes reduction was really the result of a performance reduction as much as anything else. Davis had seen the Heat outscore the Celtics by 35 points in the 49 minutes he’d played in the first two games, hurling himself into the depths of Plus/Minus Hell. Combine that with 4-12 shooting and only six rebounds, and Glen had a horrible Miami vacation.

Accordingly, Glen didn’t play much last night, but when he did he had moments of actual excellence. Like, for example, when he pulled down four rebounds in one minute early in the fourth. I know what you’re thinking: when Glen Davis gets multiple boards in quick succession, it’s because he went up for a layup and had the ball handed back to him a bunch of times by shotblockers. But these were on four consecutive possessions, two defensive and two offensive, and none were on his own shots. Sure, those were his only boards of the evening, but he ended up with as many as the O’Neal brothers got in almost three times the minutes.

Even more encouraging was the limited usage for Glen: only one attempt. Most scientists agree that the low point of Game 2 and possibly human civilization was when three crucial late-game possessions in a row went to Glen Davis for aborted jump shots and layups. No such problem tonight: Doc sent Davis to get the ball on the boards and give it to somebody else. This opens up questions about Glen’s role: he’s not generally a great rebounder, and he’s at best an average defender, so if he’s not scoring then he’s mostly on the court to fill space. And “space-filler” does not a free-agent signee make.

Kevin Garnett: The preceding three Celtics only combined for about 33 minutes at center last night, leaving the last 15 for Kevin Garnett, who won the game from this position. We’ve explored Garnett’s potential as a pivot before, concluding that he’s not much help in that capacity because of how far he’s drifted from the basket on offense in the last three years. But look at that shot chart. When Garnett matched up with Joel Anthony, he carved him to ribbons. Please peruse immediately Kevin Arnovitz’s analysis of KG’s scoring over at the Heat Index. Then do everything in your power to make sure he does it again, including voodoo.

  • Zee

    Glen loves his teammates. I will say that much. I'm sure he wanted to handle D-Wade in his own way after that play. Glad they held him back though. Baby may be struggling gamewise, but I bet he can fight! LOL!

  • talesofJP

    wow, love the KG shot chart. Baby is terrible right now, he is playing himself out of money by the game, this could be good or bad depending on your view as it might mean the Celtics bring him back, which could be bad or good.

  • ozcelts

    Great pic of BBD, Green and Mr Frank, were they reacting to:
    - Rondos elbow doing things elbows shouln't
    - Bibby's one on one defense
    - Shaqs lunch finishing up on the floor of the garden

    • hdavenport

      That photo is of Lawrence Frank saving Dwyane Wade's life.

  • lakershater13

    This Lakers and Mavs game is a beautiful thing. Can we take Kobe out of the discussion with MJ? Kobe stunk up the finals last year and got bailed out by Gasol, Bynum, Fisher, Brown, and Artest. This year Gasol is having a crappy series and Kobe cannot carry his team. Bye Kobe.

  • Guest

    Sing it with me…..NAH NAH NAH NAH! NAH NAH NAAAAAH NAH! HEY HEY HEY! GOOOOODBYE! All the Lakers can do now is play dirty like the assholes they are. See you later, Lakers. It's an end of an era.

  • lakershater13

    Lakers= Scum!!!!! Cheap shot queens!!!! Bynum will miss time next season!!!

  • Sweeney

    What was even better than the passes that KG received was where he was actually setting up in the post. They couldn't push him off the block. This allowed him to move quick with his TM moves. Also, since he was on the block it allowed the lanes for the pass to the wing to be less contested. When KG is active, Lebron cannot roam as much as he does and be a menace defensively. A great game for KG and it showed how the C's will have to play to beat this team from the inside out.

  • John V

    Regarding the topic of centers: the Celtics will not face Dwight Howard this postseason. Now we know they won't face Bynum and Pao Gasol, either. They have to get past Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and if they can, they'll face Joaquim Noah, and if they get past him, it will probably be Tyson Chandler and Brendon Haywood, or possibly Perk himself and Nazr Mohammed.

    I'm not trying to look past this series, just pointing out it turns out they really didn't need Perk and his one-on-one defense. What they do need from the 5 is someone to abuse Joel Anthony. Hopefully, KG will continue to do it, and maybe Shaq can join in for game 4.

    • Robert

      Shoot, they don't even need someone to score 30 on him – they just need someone to box his ass out.

    • Eric

      Well noticed. I really think Ainge was thinking future matchups when he made the trade. He figured the Cs wouldn't be facing Orlando, and that even if they did, the team around Howard was too terrible to harm the Celtics, that they could stick Kristic on Howard for 48 minutes and still win. And I think he greatly devalued the Lakers, enough to speculate that they wouldn't be in the Finals either.

      So he's been right about two of the three parts of his calculation, with the third yet to be answered: can the Cs beat Miami and Chicago? We'll see.

  • Paul

    I love it…good bye fakers! So funny how the true colors of the Heat and Lakers come out when theyre getting beat. Big difference between playing tough like the Celtics and playing dirty like both of those other teams…Good bye Lakers…you deserve all the bad karma you get!
    Go C's!

  • celtsemeraldtopaz

    I know BBD loves his team am not doubting that he will be one of the first to throw a punch to defend his teammates but he is a very irresponsible player who could be so much better if he took on the personal responsibility to lose weight and play with focus all the time BBd is talented enough where he should be a starter on most teams but his weight and lack of focus make him a bench player and not a very good one at that his playoff +/- has to be well over 100 points in the negative right now and that is a low estimate

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