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Celtics-Nuggets Grades

The Celtics’ win was so overwhelming it broke the recap generator, so we go old school with the grades for this old school win.

Kevin Garnett (A+): As the game tightened, KG shook off his early shooting problems and the exhaustion of playing the entire fourth quarter and first overtime to hit several massive shots in the third OT. If anything, he seemed to find another gear as the game developed, a testament not only to his will but his recognition that most nights there’s nobody else at the 5-spot who can offer relief for even a few minutes. Without KG in there, opposing teams attack the paint with confidence and break down Boston’s pick and roll defense due to failures at the big spots. Without KG, Boston’s offense has no interior presence. Without KG, the picks aren’t as hard and rebounds go astray. Garnett knows all this. He just owns the burden this team places on him and responds with the appropriate elevation and elongation of his effort. One day, they will write books about this man. And if we’re smart, we’ll read them to kids to make clear the way this game is supposed to be played.

Brandon Bass (C): Bass came out energetic in the first quarter and made a few crisp rotations on defense (usually a good indicator that he’s locked in) but he became less effective as the game went along (he took at least one obvious verbal thrashing from Doc Rivers) until he found himself on the bench watching his teammates. The C’s desperately needed better rebounding out of him tonight and he didn’t deliver. After a brief uptick in his work on the glass, he’s slipped again: he has only 12 rebounds in his last 82 minutes of action. You don’t need advanced stats to know that’s terrible.

Paul Pierce (A+): Of course, you have to love the ludicrous off-balance three-ball to tie the game at the end of the second overtime. That’s another one for the inevitable DVD set the C’s will issue sometime after he retires (but before they hire him back into the front office?). Pierce did it all tonight, with a point-forward game that was effective from first buzzer to last (not everyone on the team can claim that). Fun fact: Pierce got stuck on Ty Lawson on a couple of switches and actually shut him down. Fun/Horrifying Fact: Pierce (14) and KG (18) combined for 63% of Boston’s total rebounds.

Avery Bradley (B): A strange game for Bradley, who was arguably more effective on offense than he was on defense due to a couple of rough matchups. Fault him not a whit on effort, but Ty Lawson blew by him a few times, Andre Miller backed him down a couple of times, and he completely lost Miller on the controversial free throw that allowed Denver to regain possession at the end of regulation. He went for his shots and drives with a ton of confidence though and if the current results are spotty, his efforts in their service are going to enable a big jump at some point down the road. Also, 46 minutes of run tells you all you need to know about how much Doc trusts him.

Courtney Lee (C): Let’s have Courtney review himself tonight: @CourtneyLee2211
Damn that was a game!!! Didn’t play as well as I wanted to but we still got the win, and KG and Paul showed their value today, oh and Jet!

Jeff Green (B+): I’m so conflicted. On one hand, Green’s 4 rebounds in 42 minutes is disastrous, just an epic failure for a guy of his height and hops. It’s the single biggest flaw in his game and it has so many negative downstream effects on the rest of the team now that Sullinger is out and Green is playing a lot of PF in small lineups. It directly undercuts the work KG and PP do every night on the glass. Doc made the point recently that he needed more rebounds from Green but couched it in terms to make clear he doesn’t really expect that to happen. So, that was bad. On the other hand, Green made three massive clutch shots when the lights were brightest, including two game-saving jumpers from the baseline in the fourth quarter and the first overtime. Those count far more than the missed shots in the first half. And his defense should be a growing point of pride.

Chris Wilcox (D+): He played 6 minutes in the first quarter and I counted at least five problems (including a missed rotation, a failure to box out, getting beat playing post defense, etc). Doc noticed too because Wilcox spent most of the rest of the game on the bench, even when the Celtics were desperate for anyone to give KG a break. The book on Wilcox as a Celtic is this: will get you a few impressive points in transition and on putbacks and will give back at least that much on defense. Doc doesn’t trust him. Neither should we.

Jason Terry (A-): After all the big plays in this one, Terry made the two climactic ones, the dagger three on one end followed by a steal on the other to ice the game. Before that, he shot relatively well, if far too freely (26 points on 22 shots). In his good moments, you can see the swagger dripping off him. This bodes well for the future.

Leandro Barbosa (B-): Couldn’t find the seams to make a difference on offense tonight.

  • CelticsBIG3

    Jesus…. Just when I thought the Heat game I was at a couple weeks ago was nuts, I go to this game. Holy crap. That was intense; the game tying Jeff Green corner three, the Pierce game tying insane three point shot that I was cringing at as it was released, the Jet clutch shooting, the Garnett clutch 3rd overtime; WHAT WAS BETTER? I don't know. One of the best wins the core of Pierce and Garnett have put together in my memory; and to be in the building to see it was the cherry on top. Holy shit.

  • Phil725

    Watching Pierce defend Lawson on those switches was a thing of beauty. Anyone who watched the Heat/Lakers game earlier today can compare it to Ron Artest not reacting to Lebron's drives until he was three steps past him and just appreciate PP's play. His footwork is incredible; he kept him squared up at all times, and Lawson seemed so stunned he couldn't get around him that he couldn't even pull up for a shot.

    I'm aware that I'm basically an irrational Wilcox fan at this point, but the offense just looks so dynamic when he's in. Even in that six minutes in the first where there were a bunch of mistakes, the Cs went on a run to extend the lead. More impressive; that run came while McGee was on the floor, and he was a big problem for the Cs the rest of the game. His rim attacking/foul drawing game from the big spot is something you're not getting from anyone else on the team. I continue to think that they could benefit from a larger amount of offensively dynamic/defensively lacking Wilcox floor time a game.

    Totally agreed with the breakdown on Bradley. Weird to see him struggle defensively while looking so confident on offense. You can see his shot coming back. Numbers aside, it felt like a good shot when he was pulling up from ~15 feet. My feelings on Bradley are no secret, and he seems close to getting back to being at least the dangerous threat off others' drives that he was last year. If he can take another step up from that, even better. He's already creating more looks for himself than I remember from last year.

    I wish I ever had something to say about KG on these posts, but he's just so ridiculously consistent that it gets overlooked from game to game. The Cs needed everything they got from him and Pierce tonight though, and they continue to bring it.

  • elroz

    Wilcox needs to fu**ing get with the program!

    Wilcox and Collins need to put in quality minutes so KG can have nights like the Lakers game – 23 minutes in a win.

    • Phil725

      To be fair, if Bradley boxes Miller out, KG ends the game at ~33 minutes. It's more than you want him to play on average, but a 28 minute average assumes that he's at 23 in easy games and 33 in tough ones.

      PP is the one who was up near 40 before they even got to OT. And once you get into the OT, you're kind of stuck from a minutes perspective. You can just forget about minute limits, or probably lose the game; your choice.

      Now Wilcox playing better so we could play less Green/Bass frontcourts, I'm all for.

      • KillerGymRat

        I'm kinda with @elroz on Wilcox. I really like his athleticism and what he brings to that end, but his defensive lapses tonight were so bad I actually couldn't believe it. He wasn't a step slow, he just didn't cover a man a few times. On a team that puts defense first he'll never get run unless he learns how to at least play up to Bass' subpar level. He's got the talent to be a good defender so I don't know what the problem is. I for one hope he solves it because KG shouldn't have to play this hard and we need everything we can get out of our backup bigs.

        And I totally get KG playing so many minutes for a variety of reasons:

        1) It was a winable game and he knew without him on the floor we would lose
        2) winning 7 in a row would be a big morale booster and make it harder on any potential trades
        3) I don't doubt there's still a bit of concern these might be the final games of the dynamic duo, so go all out now and enjoy every last moment
        4) He's friggin' KG. He will never make excuses or sit when it's time to prove he's still the big ticket

        • Phil725

          Well, part of my love affair with Wilcox is that I'm extremely low on Bass' defense; I basically look at them as equals on that end, and certainly so when Bass plays center/without KG. Put Wilcox next to KG for the lion's share of his minutes and I bet his numbers look very similar to Bass'. Neither can rebound or control the paint, and they each play primarily because of a different dimension they bring to the offense. When you need spacing, you should play Bass, when you need someone to break down the defense to help you play inside out, it should be Wilcox. I'd argue that the team needs what Wilcox can bring more often than they use him.

          For the year, the Cs are scoring 5 more points with Wilcox and allowing 3 more (per 100 for both.) That's a solid breakdown for a bench big, and that's without giving him much help. Putting him in at center and telling him to just play is basically throwing a bad defender to the wolves. I'd love to see more KG/Wilcox lineups. I think that front court would be able to wreak havoc in small sample sizes, and no lineup with KG gets torn up on defense. He could make me look like a solid defender.

          • OKCeltic

            Phil – I too really want to see Wilcox succeed. I think he brings a dimension on offense that really helps this team. The only thing about pairing him with KG is that Wilcox is on this roster to spell KG. If we play them together, there's still the issue of who do you bring in so KG can get some rest.

          • Phil725

            Well, Wilcox isn't playing many minutes at all right now, so it's not like you'd lose his ability to spell KG; he already can't do it. Doc has been cobbling together lineups involving Jason Collins or Brandon Bass at center to spell KG, and if you're going to do that, you may as well play some lineups with Wilcox/KG on the floor instead of Bass/KG.

            If Wilcox' only run he can get is as a backup 5 to KG, I don't think he has a ton of value to this team. He's just not good enough defensively. He has something he could offer to this offense though, and pairing him with KG may be enough to turn him from a non-factor into a contributor. It's something I'll be looking for, but I expect him to ride the bench and keep me excited over small sample sizes for a while.

      • CelticsBIG3

        Pierce was on the floor non-stop. It was like a game in 2003 not 2013. But they gutted it out and it was F#CKING awesome. I dug my car out here down in CT from 36 inches of snow and had to snowblow half of my STREET to get to the game today. All the hard work I put in to get there was mirrored by the Celtics hard work to knock off the Nuggets tonight. Its 2 in the morning and I'm still jacked up on adrenaline from this game. Years from now when I look back on 40 some odd games I've been to during just the KG-Pierce era alone I will know that I saw probably the grittiest, toughest, bunch of players to get together on a team called the Celtics in the last 25 years.

        • janos

          hi big3 you are the crazy guy for go on snow game 'hope you travle safest game

      • Rav


        We can't expect Wilcox to be the saviour of this team. He's been mediocre everywhere he's played; that's why he's now with us on a minimum contract. We can hope for him to be a little better than he was in this game, but not much better.

        • Phil725

          No one's expecting him to be a savior. I'm pretty much his biggest fan, and all I want is for him to crack a rotation involving Brandon Bass playing over 30 minutes, Jason Collins and Jeff Green at the 4. Mediocre is a huge step up over that.

          He's a ~10 minute a game player, 15 if he's on.

    • emg

      Wilcox is one of the losses of not having Rondo.

      • CelticsBIG3

        I totallly agree here. One of his strengths is running the floor for alley oops. C's don't have a legit lob thrower without Rondo.

  • NZNICK33

    Can we finally give Jeff Green some loving? Though he still has as many tentative moments as assertive ones, he is finally providing a consistent boost off of the bench.
    Though his rebounding numbers are poor, I always seems to notice him boxing out opponents helping other C's to collect the board. Maybe this isn't ideal, but he's no longer a liability.
    And if you believe the soundbite during the Nuggets game, he should only get better as he recovers from his heart surgery. Hopefully the same is true of Wilcox.
    Go C's!!!

  • jr9901

    Does KG get a half-point deducted for shooting 37.5%? Yeah, but… da man is AWESOME anyway.

    About rebounds (and JGreen, et al): Cs grabbed 74% of available defensive rebounds in this one, which is right around league average. But Denver got 86% of theirs… and we're usually incapable of reducing that number by much because Doc doesn't give a damn about offensive rebounds. So we gotta make it up by at least matching the other guys in defensive rebounding…i.e., we gotta do better than league average. If Green could snatch 3 or 4 more def rebounds, we'd be ok.

    But we'd have been ok if the refs weren't blind as bats, too. (The game shoulda been over in regulation.) And if my grandma had had wheels, she'da been a bus. I think poor vision and small brain pans = prerequisites for becoming an NBA referee.

    • Rav

      Theoretically, we make up for that 12% differential by how much our transition defense improved by not going for offensive boards :) Not trying hard on the offensive boards doesn't mean we can go harder on the defensive boards, sadly.

  • Danny

    What a win, that was outstanding. Well all is lost you can never count out pierce. Truly an ice cold OG. That said I was very impressed by Ty Lawson, I don't watch the nuggets much but Im surprised by how good he is. This team has really moved forward sicne the melo trade. A rare trade where I think both teams got better.

  • OlSkool1972

    You gotta love Paul Pierce. He's like that old cat that shows up on the playground who just finished smoking a cigarette and drinking a brew and he still comes in and drops bucket after bucket.

    • Josh_5

      He's the old guy that people avoid picking for their team, than when the games starts, he lights you up!

  • I like where Boston is at. Only half a game behind Atlanta and 3 games behind Chicago. I do agree with EMG about Wilcox. I'm excited to see what happens on Wednesday against the Bulls.

  • Phil725

    Something I didn't notice until now: On the replays of Pierce hitting that huge 3 in double OT, you can see Andre Miller walking back to the Denver bench just cursing profusely at the ground.

    It definitely seemed like that play broke the Nuggets' spirit to some extent, and the shots the Cs got in triple OT would support that. Understandable given the situation they were in, but it makes you appreciate how the Cs came out for overtime after losing a similar chance to win in regulation.

    • hydrofluoric

      Pierce's effect on the game can't be understated. I think I was more or less right about Pierce's being exhausted beyond effectiveness (on the offensive end) in the fourth quarter, and it showed in the first OT too… but he got us back into the game on pure will in the second OT and that seemed to light a fire and key KG's jumper to help us dominate the final OT. Up until that point Denver had been dictating terms to us, but when Paul took it hard to draw the foul and then hit that monster 3… it just sent the C's into a frenzy.

      • hydrofluoric

        Can't be *overstated*, not understated.

    • CelticsBIG3

      I saw it Phil. I was there live. Miller was pissed about his inability to stop Pierce. Probably more made that Karl made him try to check PP34 for the whole game. LOL

    • Rav

      Haha it messed Miller up enough to compel him to take that awful 3 on their last possession.

  • IBleedGreen

    Let's bury the are-we-better-without-Rondo question for good

  • skeeds

    Thank god this team is getting fun to watch again. I mean, I won't ever miss a game, but it was seriously becoming a chore through this season… Now, even if it took Rondo getting hurt, the C's have regained their balls.
    Sure, I still know we have limitations, a ton of problems, we're nowhere close to being a favorite and will probably hit a wall somewhere in the playoffs. But who cares? We can f@!#ing root for this team with pride!!!

    P.S. Jeff Green's getting it. He's starting to look like a KG disciple, he's playing meaner, no dead look on his face anymore. I love it.

    • CelticsBIG3

      If Green can turn into at least a defensive beast like KG I'll be happy. A defensive anchor is what this team will need when KG retires (gulp)