I hate when I have to lead off my postgame thoughts with a comment about inconsistent officiating. If you’re a Celtics fan, the only thing you feel after this game is annoyed. The officials were allowing a lot of contact on the wings, and to Denver’s credit, they took full advantage. Especially guys like Corey Brewer and Andre Iguodala. I would have been totally fine with the officials not calling fouls for this type of contact had it been consistent. You could feel it throughout the game but the discrepancy was especially evident with just under a minute to play. On one end, there’s Kevin Garnett pushing Kenneth Faried in order to snag a rebound that elicits a looseball foul call from the referee juxtaposed with a no-call on Garnett’s subsequent contact-laden layup attempt. What gives? Either make both calls or make neither.This is far from the reason why the Celtics lost tonight- we’ll dissect some of those later on- but it certainly eliminated any thought of a C’s comeback in the fourth quarter. In the end, the Nuggets were awarded 36 free throws to the Celtics 16. I can understand a little discrepancy given Denver’s depth versus Boston’s, but 20?
Denver is an awesomely deep team. They’re so deep, they don’t even have to play Javale McGee if he’s giving away points by needlessly goaltending their opponent’s misses or clapping when his home crowd boos him. They can just move Faried to the five spot and have him use his super human rebounding ability to gobble up every available board. Tonight, the Nuggets used their depth to exploit mismatches. They played Corey Brewer on Avery Bradley. They had Ty Lawson run pick and rolls with whoever was guarding Jeff Green because they knew he would switch the pick. They made guys like Brandon Bass defend some of their bigger perimeter players. All of these strategic decisions worked in the Nuggets favor. Wicked smaht.
Denver’s depth served as a stark contrast to Boston’s deficit. It was very clear midway through the third quarter that Denver had won the pacing battle. The Celtics wanted to play small and consequently fast. Denver was not only able to match their pace, but they had the depth to stay fresh. As fatigue set in, the Celtics once crisp ball movement quickly became sloppy and laborious. As soon as the Celtics were unable to carve up the Nuggets with their execution, they stumbled and Denver took full advantage.
In order for the Celtics to beat a good team like Denver, they need their premier players to play well. Unfortunately, Paul Pierce left his shot wherever he spent the All-Star break (LA, I believe). Pierce finished the game with 10 points but only on 2-14 shooting. Man, that is just awful. I didn’t mind the misses at the rim, but he took a lot of bad threes. His one make from deep was probably the most contested shot of the night. Luckily, the C’s head to LA tomorrow where, as I mentioned earlier, I presume Pierce’s shot will be waiting for him to come collect.
It wasn’t all bad for the C’s. As I said before, the C’s executed well in the first half and looked like the more energetic team. It was just unfortunately unsustainable. Along with the first half execution, I was impressed by the C’s transition defense. Even when they turned the ball over, one player (Avery Bradley, Jason Terry) would hustle back to slow down the odd man rush while another would come and attempt to make a defensive play at the rim (Jeff Green, Avery Bradley). This kind of hustle will be necessary to compete against the better transition teams.