Offensive Efficiency: 90.4 points/100 possessions (second to league-worst)
Defensive Efficiency: 95.7 points/100 possessions (teetering on the edge of Top-5)
Pace: 94 possessions (exactly average)
WHEREFORE ART THOU OFFENSE?
Many believed that the Celtics would be alright if they could just get back to playing Championship-level defense. The Celtics were at that level last night and they are still not alright.
There was a moment in last night’s game (alright, two moments but we’ll get to the second one later) where I tweeted something to the effect of, “good offense will ultimately triumph over good defense.” This was right after a play where Kevin Garnett was blanketing Dirk Nowitzki and the reigning Finals MVP still banked in an off-balance jumper.
The Celtics don’t need Dirk Nowitzki-offense, they just need some semblance of one. They have shown flashes in the season’s early-going but it has almost come at the expense of the Celtics’ usual defensive intensity. The Celtics should have put it all together by now and taken care of business on most of the non-back-to-backs but alas, they have not. The fact that the Celtics weren’t on the second half of a back-to-back and the Mavericks were is probably the most depressing about last night’s loss. The C’s need to be winning these games because they sure as hell won’t be winning many games played in consecutive nights.
IT WASN’T ALL BAD
Okay, I’m done with the pessimism for a bit. While I will refuse to keep doing the “the Celtics just need one more piece/need to figure out one last thing” song-and-dance if the Celtics don’t find themselves in playoff contention, I will keep it up for now. It’s still early enough to have hope that the C’s will get it together to make the playoffs, which, I might add, should be the only goal of this regular season. Forget seeding. The C’s just need to concentrate on getting in because as it stands right now, they’re clinging to the eighth seed in the East.
Premature playoff implications aside, there really were some positive take-aways. The Mickael Pietrus era in Boston has officially begun. I don’t think the C’s could have asked for a better first game from Air France. As I mentioned in the Rapid Reaction, he got a steal, a dunk, and made a three. He also, along with Keyon Dooling and Avery Bradley applied really great pressure to the Mavericks’ ball-handlers, pushing them way beyond the three point line.
Along with the pressure defense, the Celtics also neutralized the Mavericks’ drastic height advantage through shear effort. At one point, the match-ups consisted of Lamar Odom on Pietrus (6’11” to 6’6″) and Brandon Bass on Nowitzki (6’8″ to 7’0″). I don’t have the exact +/- figures but I would be interested to see the actual numbers. I got the feeling that the Mavericks were trying to take advantage of Odom and Nowitzki post-ups but couldn’t. Meanwhile on the other end of the court, there were times where Garnett was being guarded by Shawn Marion and KG was able to hit a couple over-the-top turn-arounds.
I glossed over it earlier, but Avery Bradley is an absolute menace on defense. When I’m at the TDGarden, I’m usually up in the 9th Floor Halo and everything has a different perspective up there. For example, I saw so many of the Celtics’ shots take weird bounces off the rims. I’m sure you saw these too from whatever vantage point you had but from up high, I could tell very quickly how inaccurate those shots were. I could also see how confident Bradley is on the defensive side of the ball. He keeps his hands active, his butt low, and really stays attached to his opponent. If his guy has the ball, he is attached to him regardless of how close they are to half court.
The Celtics shot 28% in the first half, a shooting percentage predominantly cultivated by the aforementioned “in-and-outs”. It’s mildly encouraging to know that the Celtics were getting good shots in the first half, they just weren’t knocking them down. It’s incredibly DIScouraging to see that the Celtics only attempted 64 field goals to the Mavericks’ 79. The Celtics did attempt 32 free throws, but the disparity in field goal attempts still isn’t offset when you factor in the Mavs 25 free throw attempts.
The Celtics were just bad on the offensive end last night, especially the all bench units. When Doc trots out the all bench units, two things a pretty apparent: 1) Keyon Dooling is there to initiate the offense, and 2) if his opponent makes him give up the ball, no one sets up the offense.
There isn’t really a stat that separates these from other turnovers (at least that I know of) but the Celtics forced the Mavs into a ton of shot-clock violations. I lost count after five. It’s nice to see that the Celtics’ defensive intensity remained constant even when they could not make a bucket to save their lives.
Did anyone else see KG miss a wide open 13-footer and completely blow a layup in the fourth quarter? The shot is forgivable because even the best shooters miss. The layup attempt, on the other hand, is a virtually unexplainable phenomenon that will periodically happen to KG . The ball will inexplicably fail to travel anywhere after KG releases it. It’s almost as if Garnett’s X-Men power is to turn composite leather into stone.
3. Mickael Pietrus debuts in the “Abbott and Costello”
I have been trying to come up with a nickname for this play. It’s just hilarious to watch as Ray Allen and another viable three point shooter spin around the lane setting half picks for each other until one of them decides to break for the three point line. It’s like musical chairs or a merry-go-round. I ultimately settled on the “Abbott and Costello” because it’s circuitous and absurd.
Even though Pietrus misses the shot and doesn’t really set a pick for Ray, I included this in the highlights as a kind of prayer for the future. It seems like an Allen and Pietrus combo in the “Abbott and Costello” will work really well. We’ll see if it makes an encore on Friday.
2. Keyon Dooling Fouls Roddy B.
From where I was on-high, I could not tell if this was a foul or not. After watching the replay, I believe it’s pretty clear Dooling grabs Roddy’s shoulder and pulls him down. The most frustrating thing about the play is the late whistle. It’s as if the officials have been instructed to wait until the ball either goes in or misses on a 50-50 play and make the call accordingly. I caught the end of the Miami game when I got home and Dwyane Wade got a similar call in his favor only the whistle blew after he screamed in the refs’ face. Conspiracy theorists won’t like it, but either it’s a concerted effort or the officials become fans for two seconds before realizing they actually have to make a call.
1. Last Turnover
It was a tough pass to handle, for sure, but Allen should have been able to collect it. I’m not sure he would have been able to get a shot off cleanly but he still should have secured the ball.
0. Momma There Goes That Man
Ryan cut these highlights for me and aptly titled this one “Dirk Nowitzki Will Kill You”. This doesn’t really need commentary but the one thing I will say is that Brandon Bass was far too late on the help. C’mon Brandon, you played with Dirk. You know what he can do.