The following post is written by Romy Nehme, CelticsHub contributor.
|Jeff Green, PF 48 MIN | 9-22 FG | 7-8 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 26 PTS | +2
Is there anyone in this league who can run after he’s left his feet like Green? Those slow motion playbacks from the rim camera angle are picturesque. Today’s highlight reel: mowing down Richardson (who was still tearing off his trackpants) on a power drive, taking a (dubious) charge on Melo, and breaking the Knicks’ extended defense on an inbound play — which temporarily stopped the terminal hemorrhage in the 3rd when it looked like the apocalypse was near and the refs were complicit.That said, you can literally feel Jeff Green battling his frail morale during the game, which pretty directly correlates to his fluctuating aggression and imprint on the game (at one point requiring a Rivers emphatic butt-slap on the sideline). Running Sheryl Sandbert’s “Lean In” might be beneficial. Quips aside, Green limited his turnovers, while mostly pronking down the court like a gazelle (I believe I counted four instances where Green ripped down the board, flew down the court, shut down his peripheral vision and headed straight for the basket). Make or miss, those possessions signal that Green is in the right mindset, and when he is, he’s a pretty darn good player.
|Brandon Bass, PF 31 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +6
Bass returns to the starting lineup, and with that, the Celtics can – for the most part – rest easy and stay at home on the Knicks’ 12182742 3pt shooters while trusting that Bass will do all that is humanly possible to prevent the ball from going into the hoop after leaving Melo’s hands. Some of those shots never even reached the rim.Bass is garnering quite the cachet for his prodigious ability to single-handedly do to Melo (10/35 shooting) what tandems and trios have been attempting to all year long. The downside is that Bass is only averaging 4 shot attempts a game (not his fault), had only 4 rebounds (in part due to his laser focus on his defensive duties and because Melo has attempted 113 shots in the series against 4 assists) and at times still bites on shot-fakes.
|Paul Pierce, SF 50 MIN | 9-20 FG | 7-8 FT | 8 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 6 TO | 29 PTS | -2
Because I’m in a crowdsourcing kind of mood, I’ll open up the floor for Kirk Goldsberry:22 NBA players have a usage rate higher than 25; only 4 are older than 30; only 1 is older than 35: Paul Pierce. The guy is tired.Despite that, and ample evidence that Doc’s misguided attempts at not disgracing the franchise have relegated Pierce to “the guy that’s trying to do too much and can’t anymore” (but who can still magically average 18-7-6 on 46% shooting (42% from 3) since Rondo’s injury when played optimally), Pierce did everything he could to avoid abject humiliation.
There were a few early line drives and sloppy turnovers in the second half, but for the most part, the early strategy of side-to-side offense, snappy passes, and limited “holding the ball” time, paid huge dividends. Pierce was hugely effective coming off screens, he nailed some ballsy threes, had the wherewithal to flip the ball to open teammates out of double teams with a tick left on the clock, and was generally nothing short of amazing.
As such, his decision making was 18238418% better today and he didn’t allow the Knicks to mash him on both sides in the middle of the lane because he was already thinking of his next move as soon as he made the catch (dribble away from the double team, elevate and shoot, or pass).
|Kevin Garnett, C 37 MIN | 5-7 FG | 3-3 FT | 17 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +16
Another key adjustment today was appointing KG as Bradley’s older brother: the guy who would look after him during recess and make sure no punks would steal his lunch money. KG was doing everything in the first quarter, including initiating and directing the offense with the poise of a maestro before being derailed by early fouls.The foul-induced rest probably resulted in fresher legs late in the game, when everyone else was dragging their carcasses on the court; We all know that KG’s body naturally produces 5-hour energy, but honor is why he was able to mix it up with life saving straightaway Js and huge shots down low against Martin’s single coverage.Never question the heart of KG. Never.
|Avery Bradley, PG 40 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 4 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 3 PTS | +8
I’ll let Bill Simmons say it:Avery Bradley took a huge step back in this series. Sloppy offensively, can’t shoot, getting abused by Felton. Just a total stinkbomb.For someone who wants fans to leave in awe of his defensive performance, Bradley has been uncharacteristically casual on defense compared to the baseline he set for himself. Remember, AB is the kind of player who’ll get into a deep invading crouch on D in the pre-season because he knows only one gear. While I thought he was more smothering and disruptive today (especially at the beginning of the 3rd quarter) than he’s been in the first 3 games, he was, at times, weirdly consumed by looking behind him to cut off passing angles into Carmelo rather than trying to muzzle the feisty Felton.
|Chris Wilcox, PF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -6
Wilcox: “Get that shit out of here”. The garden erupts in gratitude.
|Jordan Crawford, SG 7 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +8
Where has Jordan’s exquisite passing gone? In game 1, he attempted no shots. In games 2,3 and 4, he’s been exclusively shooting. Crawford was clearly envious of Nate the Great’s performance, leading him to sprinkle an unnecessary degree of difficulty on what should be the plainest vanilla ice cream cone. What? That doesn’t make sense, you say? Neither does Crawford’s game these days.
|Terrence Williams, SG 11 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 1 PTS | +5
Is Courtney Lee that bad? Didn’t he find his shooting stroke near the end of the regular season? Wasn’t he a part of the starting lineup that salvaged the season? Has he contracted the plague? I like Terrence Williams’ potential but the fact that he can’t shoot from ten feet out doesn’t help this team.
|Jason Terry, SG 41 MIN | 7-10 FG | 3-3 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | -2
Why hello Jason Terry. I still wouldn’t be smiling if I were you (or yapping between now and Wednesday), but I’d rather you have submitted the game you did today than what we’ve become accustomed to from you. You’re still sometimes a reluctant shooter because of the scars left from this season’s incomprehensible turdfest, but you can still get in the lane and make big shots. I thank you for those 9 points in overtime and hope we see a reprise of that in Game 5.
We’re witnessing a stodgy, risk averse coach with very little creativity at his disposal and a knack for being uncannily stubborn even in the direst of times.I give Doc credit in the first half for moving Pierce out of the shark pool, varying his looks, and putting KG in a table-setting role. Those things had a noticeable and favorable impact on the game.However, to not even try reuniting the five amigos that made it happen after Rondo’s injury (that includes Courtney Lee, who is being quarantined in Guantanamo, or playing Randolph, who’s been a gem in limited playing time) while everyone in green had 5.5 fouls with more than a quarter left of play is plain silly.