Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Instant Analysis: Why the Celtics WON!

I'm going to try and be coherent here, but it just might not be possible. I just watched the Celtics nearly blow a 17 point second half lead at home and even though they won I almost feel like they lost.

That sounds ridiculous coming from somebody who watched their team just pull out a HUGE Game 5 victory to put themselves one game away from the Finals but I cannot help it. Tomorrow I promise I'll feel better, realizing that despite assuaging every Celtics fans fears on the team (I'll list them below) that they still won the game. Bottom line, the Celtics are one game away from the NBA Finals a season after they lost 18 straight, tanked the second half, and seriously considered drafting Yi Jianlan. I'm starting to feel better now. But they still need to win one more time. Not the easiest thing in the world.

Let's look at tonight's positives first:

1) Ray Allen awoke and hit the huge shots we've been waiting for all postseason. When the Celtics made their run in the third quarter he was absolutely unconscious. He also hit the jumper coming out of the timeout late in the fourth that put the Celtics over the top and some huge free throws. Well done Ray.

2) Kendrick Perkins had a MONSTER first half. Even if he reverted to form in the second half, he still finished with 18 points, 16 boards, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Even if big first halfs almost always get forgotten, they count the same in the end and you can't take that away from Perk (excuse me, "KP43") or the team.

3) KG was on absolute fire for about 2.5 quarters. He was not missing. Unfortunately he was on fire from the perimeter and was more or less an offensive non-factor in the late third and much of the fourth for this very reason. Once again I'll say it, "KG YOU ARE 7 FEET TALL, PLAY ON THE POST!". I do give him props for nailing the game clinching free throws though. I thought he was a lock for bricking the front end of those. (Cheap shotting I know, especially after he put in 33 points but seriously, I know that most everybody is with me in these thoughts.)

4) The good with Rajon Rondo; 13 assists to 1 turnover and 4 steals on top of that. The bad; 3-14 shooting with a few more missed layups and a new found penchant for throwing slow and arching entry and cross court passes that scream "steal me and bring me back for a dunk" that put Celtic fans on the edge of their seats every time they are thrown. Those passes have to stop. Please.

5) As for my obligatory Paul Pierce note, well he had a relatively quiet but solid all around game. He consistently backed down his defenders which I love to see from him, he shot around 50% (5-11), he got 5 boards and six assists, and he only turned the ball over once. Not a Hall of Fame performance but one I'll take. Especially when Ray Allen and KG are hitting nearly every shot and combining for 62. Hey, if you want 75 a night from those three, they gave you 78 in Game 5.

Now the bad, or as I said above, what Celtics fans fear/are terrified of:

1) The team absolutely cannot put quality teams away. Sure they could run the Hawks out of the building after a couple of big second half body blows, but when teams like the Pistons fight back and are able to spring quick 4-0 and 5-0 runs in 30 second spans it rattles the Celtics and they seem to start trying too hard and taking bad shots. Props to Van Gundy who even while the Celtics were good called this exact thing pointing out a couple of bad offensive possessions - points or not - mixed with poor defensive ones. The guy knows his stuff and even though the lead at the time was still in the teens he planted the seed for what became the ultimate tendencies that let Detroit back in the game. That and stifling defense mixed with horrible Celtic offense and some boneheaded plays on both ends to boot. (I'm looking at you Rajon and Perk. You guys gave Detroit 4 free points by fouling Billups while shooting a 3 and then getting a T on the other end.)

2) In a related note was I the only one thinking about that Kings/Lakers 2002 Western Conference Final when Sacramento had every chance in the world to take down LA but could not because their entire team save for Mike Bibby looked terrified to shoot the ball? KG and Rondo both looked absolutely horrified to do anything remotely resembling taking a shot. Pierce was being locked down on D by Rip Hamilton (WTF???) and Allen was aggressive in trying to get his shots but I got a very distinct "anybody but me" feeling from KG and Rondo in regards to shooting when the game got close late in the fourth. This in turned caused discord offensively and lead to all those awful fourth quarter possessions we saw.

3) We love to implore KG to get in the post more and not settle for long jumpers but unfortunately that is not who he is. Sure he'll tease us with that skill from time to time but for the most part he is a jump shooter. It's not just KG though, the Celtics are a jump shooting team as a whole. Yes, Pierce is good at attacking the rim and getting to the line but nobody else really possesses that trait. And that is pretty scary because as we saw in Game 5, while jumpers are great when they are going in and they can put points on the board real fast, they can stop falling as quickly as they can start. And when they stop falling, the team that had been relying on them is normally SOL and their opponent can almost always make things a bit more interesting than desired.

Other than MJ's Bulls when was the last time a team without a dominant low post game won a title? Exactly. There's a reason for that too and it's pretty simple. The closer you are when you take your shots the more likely that they'll go in. I'm not being flip here, I'm stating a fact. Then, if that does not suit you attack the basket. You could get a layup or free throws. You can score in the low 20's consistently without getting to the line or taking high percentage, close range shots, but it's real tough to get 30+ and when you want to win a championship, a lot of the times you need the 30+ games.

3) The Pistons are tough as sh*t and they know how to win. That is so freaking cliched that I'm embarrassed to write it but it is absolutely true. They possess a toughness and saviness that the Celtics simply do not and because of that, even though the Celtics are up 3-2, I am still very, very scared of Detroit.

That's it. This made me feel better. Hopefully a celebration will be in order on Friday? I'll be with a bunch of other Beverly delinquent in St. Louis so it could get rowdy. I hope so. Although it will probably get rowdy either way.

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