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Celtics-Sixers Off-Day Thoughts

 


A few scattered thoughts on an off-day:

Is it time to reverse Paul Pierce’s and Ray Allen’s roles on offense? Because Pierce is so limited with his sprained MCL, he may be best camped at the arc rather than trying to attack the rim or fighting through double teams (interesting that Philly was still running two guys at him). At times, Pierce looked fluid in game two, moving well up and down the court, and even laterally on defense. But many times, he wasn’t able to engage the in play the way we’re used to.

What Pierce can still do is nail the three-ball if he can find space. Even if his percentages drop as a result of his knee injury, as a defender you can’t leave him alone at the arc. So, perhaps he should spread the floor on the weakside and the C’s should put Ray Allen into more pick and roll actions. Allen shot 7-14 last night and looks more like his old weaponized self. He can’t get himself free without help but maybe running Brandon Bass over there to set a pick will open up things for both of them. That’s an organic set for Boston, as the second option off a busted double-baseline screen is usually Allen creating off a ball screen. And then Pierce can sit on the weak side, rest his leg and wait for open threes. He might even have more luck attacking the basket if he’s facing a defender who’s closing hard to the perimeter.

I’m a little mystified at the criticism some are directing at Pierce. He has a habit of taking plays off even when he’s locked in but I think we’re lucky he’s on the floor at all. If he’s taking plays off, I have to think it’s because he’s limited in what he can do. Doc Rivers seems disinclined to rest him any, so this might be the Pierce we see the rest of the playoffs because this injury appears to need a long stretch of time off and that’s not coming until the Celtics are eliminated or champions.

***

Bass is a mess right now. The Celtics got him a number of great early looks and after a surge that had everyone thinking this would be his breakout game, the misses piled up and he finished 5-15 in 24 short minutes. Sometimes it seems like Bass is short arming his jumpers but that might just be me looking for a technical explanation for a problem that’s born of something else. These misses aren’t a function of having Josh Smith draped all over him. They’re shots he buried during the regular season. Bass has range to about 17-18 feet. As long as he’s squared up, feet set and he’s not shooting off the dribble, he hits those shots. The most frustrating thing for the Celtics is Bass is one of their few healthy players and they’re desperate for scoring right now. Bass is coming up small right when the Celtics need him to elevate his game.

***

Rajon Rondo is all over the performance map. On the offensive side, he’s been everything from dominant to sloppy to a passenger during the first eight games of the playoffs. And his defense has had some serious polarity problems. For a game or two (particularly the closeout game against Atlanta) he was expending more defensive energy than he has in weeks (months?). He was delivering on his rep as a great perimeter defender. In other games, he’s let guys race right around him. All of which is to say that he’s been himself. In fact, if you’d only seen him play the last three weeks, you’d know  as much about him as if you’d seen him for the last five years. His game seems too loose to me, especially on the turnover front, but with Allen and Pierce and Avery Bradley limited, he’s carrying a lot of weight right now. Speaking of which…

***

Are the Celtics going to ride Kevin Garnett into the ground? He’s been incredible in the playoffs, a level above his excellent second-half performance and worlds away from the KG we saw before the all-star break. Last night aside, he’s even lived up to all that preseason talk about being more assertive on offense. Garnett could make an argument to being one of the two or three best players in the playoffs on any team. He’s up to 37.4 minutes a game (after 31.1 during the regular season) and, along with Rondo, he’s carrying the team on offense (53% FG, 19.5 PPG). But we may be entering a danger zone for diminishing returns. These are much harder minutes than he played during the regular season. If we know anything about KG, it’s that this offensive output isn’t sustainable, even if the rebounding numbers are. If the C’s go back to KG in the post in game three, and the Sixers double, who’s going to hit the open shots and reduce the burden on him? Who’s going to step up when the C’s need a basket? It can’t be KG all the way through the playoffs. Can it?

***

Second last thing. The 76ers were awfully lucky to win game two (one of the single least enjoyable, least watchable games of the whole year – and not just for the outcome). Without those crazy shots by Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen down the stretch, the C’s walk off with a 2-0 series lead and the Sixers leave thinking their best efforts aren’t enough. The C’s could easily go into Philly and take two straight, which may prove a necessity to get everyone a little down time before the next round.

***

Last thing. Good luck to Larry Bird and his Pacers tonight. Let’s hope that series goes long and deep and gets more physical. We want both these teams to wear each other out.

  • High Rollers

    Good solid points, DeGama. It's like hitting the reset button when you crystallize it like that.

  • BRP

    Hey Homer, the Sixers should have won game 1 as well, they were up by 13 points 5 different times. It is the Sixers who should be up 2-0. Sixers in 6 games, see ya Celts!

    • Phil

      Six? Clearly the league will retroactively grant game 1 to the Sixers after they win by twenty points in each of the next two. I mean, they deserved it and all, since blowing five (I think it was 2, but whatever,) double digit leads clearly means they're the best team. You must be an undercover Celtics homer, otherwise you know its Sixers in 4!!

      • Swag City

        i love the sarcasm Phil

    • Lantrell Walker

      Should have, could have, but didn't
      Just goes to show the composure & maturity of the Celtics, down but never out
      It pays when you've been in foxholes time & time again

      #WeBelieveIn18

    • ElRoz

      Sixers were helped Soooo much by injuries in Chicago series (Rose, Noah, Deng)…and the injuries are still helping them – if they win two games this series, it will be clearly due to injuries.

  • Phil

    The way I see it, unless we get some miraculous recoveries, its either gonna take big steps up from the Pietrus/Bass/Dooling group, or continued time machine work from KG. I think the former is a lot more likely, especially since Pietrus showed signs of waking up in game 2.

    I still can't see Ray scoring an efficient 20 when he can't create any separation even on a good night, but him staying at his game 2 level would probably be enough if the Cs could get anything from Pierce. I think the Cs need to force switches and have him attack Turner and other Sixers not named Iggy, though I'm intrigued with spotting him up more. Anything that leaves Iguodala out of my nightmares would be nice.

  • Phil

    Oh, and it doesn't seem fair to acknowledge the lucky shots for the Sixers without acknowledging Pietrus' ridiculous falling out of bounds three from behind the backboard. That was possibly the worst shot taken in the entire horrible game, and he made it.

  • MannyCaribe

    I can’t understand people who comment about Sixers performance in the past two games or whatever… with a healthy C’s there were close to be history. However the most they did was to keep a close score (one point…). Pledge of injuries no matter how Celtics outrebound them and force 19 turnovers… the lucky one were the Six’s that barely scape with a win…!!!

  • ElRoz

    If Bass and Rondo make a concerted effort to contribute – Bass can do it through rebounding if he makes a mental and physical effort – around KG, Boston should win even with a limited Pierce. But if Bass and Rondo continue to be average-sub-par…it will be a long series for Boston without a clear victory.

    Bass and Rondo – WAKE UP! The team needs three players to make impacts, not just KG.

  • CG12

    Bass looks like his issues are mental. He is definitely short arming / pulling the string on his J. He isn't bursting into it like he does when he is going well.

  • IBleedGreen

    Both games could have gone either way, so I guess 1-1 is fair.

  • Anthony

    It's simple, the Celts underestimated the Sixers and thought they can just show up (with homecourt advantage) and win. They took quarters off and played without any energy. Game 1, they got away with it and Game 2 they didn't.

    The Celts will wake up and show up for Game 3 for sure.

  • I_Love_Green

    We're going to win both of the games in Philly. I promise you guys. One of them will be an easy double digit victory and the other will be a close one, but our guys will pull through.

    Doc is going to challenge all of them, and all of them will answer the call. Everyone knows this is the last run, and they're going to make sure that if they lose this year, its because the other team was simply better. The Sixers are NOT better, therefore we will not lose.

    • janos

      i totally agrees point, give plus one , also call my bookie accordedly

  • IBleedGreen

    Can’t wait to see Skip Bayless shit on Lebron tomorrow haha

    • CelticsBIG3

      Ha ha ha, kids in the school I work at were telling me that he is "clutch now"; in reference to this postseason.

  • janos

    is some good talk game, general here. ROndos, consider he ready game three play on top, forward beyond. no time worry him, deliver always but other wised is fair to player , happy see articles deliver day off, no job today work so apprecate your posted, work, if study further rondos see my point

  • Greg Allan

    Indiana got over the Heat in Gm 2. May the Heat continue to live in interesting times.

    Celts need to get to the line before the winner of that series. Extra couple of days off critical.

  • JR99

    It's time to sit Bass at the end of the bench. He has failed, despite many, many chances to shape up. If the Cs keep waiting for him to get out of his funk, they could easily end up with an early vacation. No… Doc has to gather the testicular fortitude and lose Bass, starting immediately. Pavlovic, Stiemsma, Hollins and maybe even Williams will have to fill in, as needed.

  • The Cardinal

    Sometimes ya win, sometimes ya lose, but ya dance with the one that brung ya! Bass is Bass and Rondo is Rondo; Pietrus is hurt but playing, Pierce is hurt but playing, Ray is hurt but playing, Avery is hurt but playing, Steimsma is hurt but playing, Wilcox and JON were lost in season, Jeff Green was loss before the season, and I guarantee every player on the team is doing the best he can given his circumstances. Doc has done a tremendous job, and the would-be coaches out there really ought to get some perspective.

    I want the C's to win as much as anyone, but win or lose, I appreciate the effort and the thrills that this team – which was written off too many times by the media and many fans – has given us in a season where management could have blown it up and we'd all be depressed because the C's wouldn't have made the playoffs – let alone win round one, and have a legitimate shot at making the Conference and NBA finals.

    • zach

      excellent points, this season is gravy and gave us many unexpectedly meaningful games and victories. They clearly overachieved given their age and injuries. If they can somehow get healthy (or if Rondo can elevate his game and live up to his potential) they can still do damage, especially with Bosh hurt and LeBron still not clutch. I also really want to see everyone back next year (except Ray if he asks for a huge salary).

  • CG12

    I really cannot believe that some people are suggesting that Doc should have given Pietrus more run, in place of Pierce, because MP hit two 3s and PP was struggling. MP is now 4-for-18 for the postseason from 3. He has taken 4 2-point shots. It is easy to second guess going with your guys when it happens not to work out, but it mostly works out for Doc. Fans were reaming Bradley early in the year – Doc kept feeding him a steady diet minutes (in part because he had to) and look how that has turned out. Dooling struggled for a lot of the season, but kept battling. Now that has turned a bit and Dooling is making valuable contributions.

    Bass will, and should, continue to get a lot of minutes and shots. The shots he was taking are shots you like to see him take. A player has to take his shots. And Bass could just as easily hit some big shots when it counts. You just don't know, and it won't help to kill his confidence by cutting his minutes. Which as already happened a little, with Doc seeming to prefer a closing lineup of Rondo-Avery-Ray-PP-KG which I love, especially against a smallish team like Philly.

    • High Rollers

      I was one who thought Doc should have given MP a little more run in that key late stretch of Game 2. MP was finally finding his weapons all of a sudden, and there was plenty of time to bring back Truth with like six or seven minutes still to play. I thought Doc rushed his rotations just as much as players rushed plays out there that night. Figuring out rotations of subs must be migraine-inducing for a coach, especially with so many injuries that are serious enough to hamper performance but not serious enough to force guys out. Doc needs a little bit of luck on his side tonight… and patience. I too think Bass will break his funk, and when he does he'll find a flow again. It won't be here today gone tomorrow, like it so often was with loveable Baby. At least I hopin'.

      • High Rollers

        I'm also hoping we see the Rebounds version of VoltRondo tonight in the off-chance the C's shooting touch is still off. The true Achilles' heel of this team is that when shots stop falling, possessions become one-and-done. Move that rock! And if it still doesn't splash, then get one of those sneakier bodies in there for the board! And for the basketball gods' sakes, two hands!!!!!! When the C's find their fundamentals, they're as beautiful as their counterpart Spurs in the West.

      • CG12

        I can see why people think that, I just happen to disagree. When I think of Pietrus, I think "bricked step-back 3-pointer." When I think of Pierce, I think "step-back dagger from the elbow" or "pull up 3 dagger." I do like Doc's apparent philosophy of giving guys the minutes he thinks they should get based on a general body of recent work, as opposed to reacting too much on what has happened in any particular game. That does mean you might sacrifice some "hot hand" time, but it also means that your guys can play free, knowing where they stand, without worrying about their minutes while they are playing.

        • High Rollers

          Agree with you for the most part. You go with the superstars when it comes right down to it. KG, Ray, Paul. Even Rondo at this point has to be counted on to make the right decision in the clutch (although some folks are probably still rolling their eyes at that one… not me). But if your superstar is limited in any way and you're going to put him out there for his clutchness, then you have to maneuver the play differently. Paul's going to need a pick if he's not able to create space due to the peg-leg problem. That's probably a lot easier said than done. But I guess that's why they get paid the big bucks.

  • IBleedGreen

    I have faith in Bass. He's too good of a shooter to be left wide open like that in Game 2. If I were Doc I would tell him to keep shooting because they are good open shots. Just take them with confidence and they will eventually go in.

  • Jonny

    The weird thing I've noticed about Bass's jumpers lately is that he's shooting them on the way down. It seem like every brick he lays, he jumps, hits his peak, and then releases on his way back to the floor. I'm sure a coach has noticed this if my idiot eyes have, and I'm not sure how easily a mechanical hitch like that can be fixed when practice time is nil, but it's insanely frustrating to watch.

  • red

    Doc needs to call more plays for Bradley. I know he never will, but bradley is at his best when either Pierce or Rondo is not in the lineup, because he needs the ball; using him for just spot up shots is a waste with Pierce and allen hurt and he needs to be a more integral part of the offense if we expect to win.

  • Dmitry

    I can't stand it anymore.. LETS GO CELTICS!!! Sending my supportive mega power rays of winning energy through Atlantic ocean!

  • Josh

    Celtics have ALOT to prove after 2 garbage games in Boston. Take your opponent seriously, bring a professional mentality for all 48 minutes, and play unselfish. Hope Bradley has a good game 3.

  • Jman

    Penetrate and get fouled. IT loosens their defense and creates easy points. Also run offense thorugh KG unlike they did the other night. Even if he gets doubled up, he can pass it out at his height and he freed up a shooter or a penetrator by getting doubled. They have Rondo, Pierce and Ray defended well, so it has to be KG until they change defense to stop KG then that'll open up others. Stop playing pretty ball and as Doc said the other night stop hero ball…One on one with youth isn't going to work

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