Today’s Highlight Gallery features a parade of Celtics heading to the basket. It starts triumphantly but ends badly, and includes some bile directed at one member of the Toronto Raptors.
3. It’s been such a brutal month for Avery Bradley that some extended run in garbage time was a desperately needed tonic. Things started out poorly (the specifics of which we won’t rehash here) but then he found his footing and registered a couple of dunks. One came on a smart baseline cut and this one off a mid-court steal.
2. For three quarters, the only way the Raptors could stop Rajon Rondo was by fouling him. Here, he’s too quick for even that.
1. On this play, Rondo loses Jose Calderon off a Paul Pierce pick and gets a mismatch on James Johnson. The C’s clear the side and let Rondo attack Johnson in an ISO, which he finishes with a driving, spinning layup.
Notice, too, how Calderon puts in exactly zero effort at avoiding the mismatch in the first place.
0. I hate everything about this last play after Kevin Garnett passes Rondo the ball.
The NBA’s insistence on penalizing based on outcome rather than action means this was downgraded from a flagrant-2 to a flagrant-1, but this is about as dirty as fouls get.
Rondo makes a back cut along the baseline and has a clear lane to the basket. Linas Kleiza rotates to cut him off. As Rondo takes off, Kleiza hits him once with his left arm. That’s defensible as a good hard foul, and even more understandable considering the lifelessness that had permeated the Raptors defense up until that point (Boston had basically gotten anything it wanted all night, usually off of three passes or less). Kleiza was trying to wake his team up and act on new coach Dwayne Casey’s mandate to prevent layups.
I’m good with that.
But then Kleiza comes down with his right arm and gives Rondo an extra shove towards the floor – while Rondo is in mid-air and unable to protect himself. This play could easily have resulted in Rondo walking off with a shattered or dislocated elbow or wrist. That’s not tough defense. It’s a cheap shot. And it’s cowardly.
This is exactly the kind of play the NBA should be cracking down on. But Rondo walked off, so they won’t.
Here’s another thing I hate about this play, because it’s emblematic of the softening of this Boston roster: nobody did anything about it. There was no confrontation between the C’s and Raptors and even if it would have amounted to just pushing and bluster, it would have indicated this team still has the fire necessary for me to believe they can turn this season around.
Imagine what would have happened if Boston had James Posey, Tony Allen and Kendrick Perkins on the floor when Kleiza pulled that move. I don’t long for any of their returns (okay, maybe TA) but for the collective attitude and physicality they added to this team over the last four years. It’s not there anymore. Boston is a team that can be pushed around. And they won’t always push back.
So yeah, the C’s are back on the winning track, but there’s a lot of ground yet to gain if they expect it to lead anywhere.