Offensive Efficiency: 89.7 points/100 possessions (league-worst by a comfortable margin)
Defensive Efficiency: 111.5 points/100 possessions (also league-worst territory)
Pace: 87 (slow)
The Boston offense cratered last night after two strong outings and the defense came up impotent for the third consecutive game.
With Paul Pierce out and on the back of the strong performances against Miami and New York, it’s hard to worry too much about the scoring right now. But the defense remains a mystery, because Boston’s proving to be one of the league’s worst defensive teams so far this season.
Process that for a moment.
So far, the Celtics are not just bad. They’re D’Antoni bad. Golden State bad. Raptor bad.
This is a team that draws its entire identity from a defense that chokes off the strongest offenses in the league with hyper-aggressive, arrogant delight. This is a defense led by Kevin Garnett, one of the greatest defensive players of all time and, as recently as last year, one of the 2-3 most impactful defenders in the entire NBA.
The defensive problems are impressively varied for three games into the season but here’s one key damning statistic: New Orleans put up 46 points in the paint last night. The night before, Miami put up 52 points. The Knicks scored a comparatively paltry 30 on opening day but in aggregate, we can conclude that Boston isn’t denying penetration or position effectively enough, especially with no force imposing enough to protect the rim when guys do get into the kill zone.
Which is our cue to talk big men. That, plus our new nightly video highlights, after the jump.
It’s barely an overstatement to note that J.O’s offense has regressed to the point of being a major liability. His PER fell off the table the last two years (from 17.92 in 2009-10 to 9.22 in 2010-11) and he’s hovering around 0 this season, while shooting 33% from the field (1-6 last night). You have to give him credit for coming into camp in better shape but his entire game is increasingly a worry, especially given his penchant for injuries and his declining mobility. Is this J.O. at full strength? If so, what happens when he’s not?
KG made a point of criticizing the rushed training camp, so it’s possible he’s still feeling his way into the season. But when have we ever had to think that of Garnett before? I’m not that worried about his defense and defensive rebounding, which will likely experience only moderate declines over the course of the season (it’s worth noting that Doc Rivers pinned much of last night’s defensive failure on the guards and you could see KG and the other bigs scrambling to cover for their breakdowns).
I am very worried about his offense. KG’s Boston years have rarely featured him making power moves towards the basket, but his game feels increasingly like it’s softening (more jumpers, avoiding contact in the paint) and becoming less consistent (he simply can’t do it night-after-night anymore). It’s all organic to his career-arc, I suppose, but that doesn’t make it any less depressing.
What a difference mobility makes! Stiemsma played 20 active minutes, ripped off 4 rebounds and 6 blocked shots and looked an excellent candidate for a backup center position on this team. Unfortunately, save for the odd day when J.O. is firing on all cylinders, there is no first-string center. Anyway, I am at least 25% more excited for the Stiemsma era than I was for our brief time with Semih Erden. Admittedly, that last sentence doesn’t mean anything.
Keyon Dooling has played 58 minutes this season and recorded 3 assists.
There is a lesson in that stat.
3. The Celtics waste 22 seconds swinging the ball around the perimeter here, including an aborted attempt to post up Stiemsma before the Hornets swarm Rondo on the perimeter off a pick-and-pop. Instead of throwing the ball back to Brandon Bass for a jumper, Rondo sticks a three-ball to beat the shot clock. Not how Doc drew it up, but tasty nonetheless.
2. New Orleans had great defensive energy last night. Here, Boston beats it. KG fires a pass to Pavlovic at the end of a nice, crisp sequence of punch-counterpunch ball movement and Sasha knocks down a three. I’d probably quibble with the decision to make the pass instead of taking it strong to the rim but, well, there’s another highlight coming that suggests Garnett made the right play.
1. A thing of beauty here and a lesson in how an aggressive Rondo and good spacing can open things up for the rest of the team. KG sets a pick but when Chris Kaman comes up to contest Rondo’s shot (or deter his drive), KG slips free and has a wide-open dunk off a Rondo feed. You’ll also note Belinelli staying home on Pavlovic at the arc rather than collapsing. That’s one of the reasons Danny Ainge notes that shooting makes up for a lot of sins. Or the illusion of shooting.
0. A lesson in the necessity of going up strong.
And now it’s time for:
TOMMY’S COMPLAINT CORNER
Here’s today’s fake Tommy Heinsohn quote.
You know how sometimes Tommy will redirect his wrath away from the officials and towards the Celtics because they’re just playing so poorly, but then before any venom slips out of his mouth he remembers that he works for the Celtics and bleeds green and cannot bear to express his real contempt for lazy efforts and bad decisions on the court? Well, even though I was watching the New Orleans game feed on League Pass, I suspect last night might have been a night when Tommy was feeling that way. In which case, I can sort of imagine him just scowling and saying, “hmmph.” And Mike Gorman nodding sagely beside him.