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Zach Lowe on Celtics’ Season & Big Three’s Success


We’ll have plenty more here at CelticsHub in the coming days looking at what this season was and how Danny Ainge and company should build from here. In the meantime though, good friend and co-CelticsHub founder Zach Lowe had a great reflection on this group during the past year and over this entire historic run together. As any long-time reader of this blog can attest to, Zach knows the C’s as well as anyone, so I implore you to check out the full piece at his SI Point Forward blog: In the meantime, enjoy a sampling of the piece here:

Boston lost point guard Rajon Rondo during its five-game playoff loss to the Heat last season and was missing guard Avery Bradley during its seven-game defeat to Miami this season. This year’s Heat series was eerily reminiscent of the 2010 Finals as a thin, aging team that was running on empty and could not score with a broken offense fell short.

But here’s the thing: The playoff injury luck shifted in Boston’s favor this season, and the team just wasn’t good enough to make the Finals. Power forward Chris Bosh’s abdominal injury changed the Heat into a different team, and Bulls point guard Derrick Rose’s ACL tear on the opening day of the playoffs removed a potential second-round opponent that has eaten Boston alive playing the same defense that vaulted the Celtics into the league’s elite.

As for Garnett’s injury, this is the deal a team makes in building around three stars on the downsides of their career. Garnett’s injury appeared traumatic, but it was really an extreme tweak amid the grinding regression of his knee into a semi-arthritic state, a common problem for aging players. The Celtics knew that such a chronic injury could derail their Big Three plan at any time; it was part of the risk they took in constructing a team this way, and it was not an unpredictable event.

Given that reality, one championship, one runner-up finish and a third trip to the conference finals should be considered a success. It was not the dynastic success Boston hoped for after that initial 2007-08 title, but it was a success nonetheless. This team and this franchise have very little to regret in the big picture.

In that half-decade of greatness, the Celtics changed the way NBA teams play defense and staked their claim as one of the greatest defensive cores in basketball history. Boston ranked first, second, fifth, first and first in points allowed per possession the last five seasons, and its basic philosophy and scheme now appear all over the league. It was a scheme built around both Garnett and the abolition of the old illegal defense rules, a sea change that allowed players to guard territory rather than individual opponents. The change allowed Garnett, in particular, to roam around the floor and orchestrate the roving of his teammates. He was the ideal defender, working under an ideal coach (former Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau) at an ideal time in the NBA’s rulebook history.

  • JR99

    Zach Lowe is usually an excellent writer, but this is one schizophrenic piece. "The playoff injury luck shifted in Boston’s favor this season, and the team just wasn’t good enough to make the Finals." — Really??? Gee, that's news to me. We were "lucky" that we lost: Green, O'Neal, Wilcox, then Ray's ankles and Bradley to top it off? This is "luck shifting to Boston's favor"?? In what universe? Why, because Bosh was out for 6 games, but then came back better than ever to kill us in the 7th game? Lotta good that did us. Oh, but he throws in DRose's injury like that tips the balance somehow.

    And that's not the only problem. Here's another gem: "Garnett’s injury appeared traumatic, but it was really an extreme tweak amid the grinding regression of his knee into a semi-arthritic state, a common problem for aging players." And he knows this…. how? Lowe makes his flat assertion as if it's a known fact that KG suffers from a "semi-arthritic state" — whatever that is. Since this is new news, how about a reference? How does he know this rather specific information about KG's knee? And Zach must have been watching some other playoffs, because KG looked anything but "semi-arthritic" this year.

    This is an embarrassingly bad piece of writing. Lowe should stick to game analyses, and stop wandering off into areas about which he (a) knows little or nothing, and/or (b) cannot write coherently.

  • Switcharoo

    agreed. Bad piece of writing for sure, I couldn’t tell which side of the fence he was on either

  • idywild

    True, Lowe seems to want to distance his Celtic beat blogging origins because he wants to fit in the general nba analyst role (though he is a definite Heat nut hugger, what will be his excuse for them when (if) they lose the finals I wonder).

  • Morpheus

    Agreed,he shat the bed on this one…disappointing. Zach almost dismantled the whole grit and balls pride in that one sentence.

    What? Like this Celtics team didn’t have their own injury struggles to deal with.

    Like Rondos wasn’t almost traded along with Ray and Paul.

    What the fuck

  • Jamie

    Anyone that wants to argue that the injuries shifted in the Celtics favor is just not paying attention.

    Green, Wilcox, JO (although he wasn't doing much), Bradley, Ray's ankles, Pierce's MCL and Stiemsma's plantar fasciatis and you compare that to ONE guy on Chicago and ONE on the Bulls?

    Come on

  • http://www.clarkwalkerstudio.com Luke Walker

    It's interesting – when he wrote here on the blog I liked his writing the least… he always tried so hard to be "neutral" that it was often times off based or just a strange viewpoint that was hard for me to see. Similar situation here. The first commenter nailed it – saying Boston got lucky with injuries this year is just crazy. It's very much that same style of "I'm so much of a non-homer that I'm going to blatantly write things like this so people will believe me!"

  • Jen

    Derrick Rose is just one guy on the Bulls? He's the former MVP and their best player. C'mon now. The Celtics had a bunch of injuries, but none were more devastating than that to the Bulls chances. The Bulls were knocked out in the first round as a result, and that definitely left an opening for the Celtics. Big difference between facing the Sixers and the Bulls in the second round, and you guys know that. Most people picked the Bulls to beat the Celtics for another Bulls/Heat ECF so that was definitely fortunate for the C's.

    Bosh injury was also huge because he drags KG out of the paint, but I think that cancels out with Avery Bradley's injury because he would've been a huge help on Wade, so I agree with you guys on that.

    Don't be so biased – I thought it was a good article.

    • GreenM&M

      Good call Jen. Lets' not be so biased. Lowe is right in saying the injuries shifted in our way.
      But I'd still give us a great chance to make it to the finals if the top 3 contenders were all playing with the the full roster.

      I think the Bulls got exposed last year in that they rely way too much on one guy. We have a great defensive team and would have been able to give hm a lot of trouble. It'd be a brutal series to watch (think Knicks-Heat cc 1997). I think we'd have pulled it out as we have more guys to to go to down the stretch when we need a bucket.

      I also think we'd have a great shot at beating Miami. AB could have guarded Wade one on one , eliminating the need to trap him every time. Guys could have stayed on Bosh instead of giving him those open 3s.

  • High Rollers

    Bosh was back for G5-G7. With Mr. Lowe’s logic, the only way the C’s would prove “good enough to make the Finals” was if they swept the Heat while Bosh was away. That’s the only way his injury logic works out. Even then, there’s a touch (to be kind) of the absurd about it.

    All East contenders had significant injuries to key players, making the postseason an inevitable and unpredictable dogfight. For some it seems hindsight is far from 20/20 and more like one of those distorted mirrors in a funhouse.

    Again, I’ll hang with Nine on this one and conclude with a “Could be. That’s your opinion.”*

    *Translation, “Nope.”

    • http://twitter.com/M_DeVelaine @M_DeVelaine

      The C's still should have won G2-5, because they were the better team all 4 games. Of course, the refs disagreed about G2, so that's why we're sitting here being miserable about this, while LeBrick and Co. are in OKC where they shouldn't be.

  • High Rollers

    P.S. Healthy Bradley, P, Ray. Healthy Rose, Noah, Bosh, Wade, Howard, Lin, Shumpert, etc. The shortened season surely robbed a lot of folks young and old. This was truly a complicated season.

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