Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Celtics Season to Date

Heading into Sunday's game against the Pacers the Celtics are roughly a quarter of the way through the season. What better time to take stock of where things are right now.

Oh, and unless you were hoping for an 82-0 campaign, there really is not too much to be down on but tons to be pumped about.

We'll start with their record:

19-2 to date and on pace for 75 wins or so.

Wow. That is just awesome. Even more exciting to me is an idea that was brought up by's John Hollinger the other day.

His thought was that because the Celtics and Cavs are so far and away better than the rest of the East they could legitimately push each other to hit 70 wins. While normally gunning for 70 would be a more or less pointless pursuit assuming the team gunning for it would have the 1 seed locked up, this year it could be different with both team's figuring to be in the neighborhood and both wanting the 1 seed. Imagine if this year ended with two teams in the same conference finishing with 70 wins? How awesome would that be?!

Answer to the rhetorical question above: only awesome as long as the Celtics finish with the 1.

Best Player to Date

Would it be crazy for me to say that to this point this year, their best player has been Rajon Rondo? Well, he leads the team in assists, field goal percentage, and steals. Secondly, since his play has really taken off over the past three weeks the team has taken off also. And what has been the difference? As you've probably heard ten million times he has finally started to use his speed as his number one attribute and the results are just stunning. Sure Steve Blake isn't exactly the fastest point guard in the league, but Rajon destroyed him on Friday night. Sodomized him even.

Simply put, when Rajon is destroying people with his quickness he opens the entire floor up for the rest of the team and gets KG but I'd say even more importantly Ray Allen WIDE open looks which they will convert more often than not. Amazingly, it seems like he can get his teammates fast break looks out of half court sets and when your point guard possesses a skill like that then you are in really damn good shape.

OK, but what about KG, Allen, and Paul Pierce?

OK, fair question.

Pierce is still the guy you lean on in close games. Just because Rondo may be the team's MVP to date it does not mean that Pierce has done nothing. Seems to me that in pretty much every single game they have needed a big fourth quarter or late game jolt to get over the top that Pierce has been that guy. If you are asking me if I think Paul Pierce is the best player in the NBA my answer would be no, but if you are asking me if he is in the conversation my answer would be yes, and if you are asking me if I like having him on my team's side for late game and big game situations my answer is an unequivocal F*** YEAH.

Then there is KG who seems to have figured out that he best serves the team offensively, hanging back and draining wide open J's when Rondo gets them for him and then picking and choosing a few strategic times per game for him to attack the rim and come up with that huge dunk or two. Would I like KG to be a bit more of a post presence? Of course I would. But at this point I am done bemoaning the fact that he does not play down on the blocks. What I give him credit for this year though is that even if he leads the team in field goal attempts per game by about one each over Pierce and Allen, it seems like his touches are not forced and they are coming within the flow of the offense. What this tells me is that he is completely fine with averaging the 16 and change per game he is averaging this year and does not care about being a 20 and 10 guy which is of course the magic number for big guys in the league. Of course this is not a surprise seeing as KG really is the ultimate "I WANT TO WIN!!!" guy, but I still thinks it bears mentioning.

(With all of that being said, KG is 7th on the team in free throw attempts per game. Of the ten guys that average over 10 minutes per game, only Eddie House and Scales average fewer free throw attempts. I know I said I don't want to bemoan the point, but you really would wish that a 6'11" power forward that shoots 80% from the line would actually get there a bit more.)

Finally, we get to Ray Allen who I think has been outstanding this year. Every time he plays I still marvel at how great he is at attacking the basket and finishing around the rim. Honestly, I always took him as kind of a soft Reggie Miller type jump shooter but the guy gets to the rim and he can finish like nobodies business. I can't say enough about that skill and I honestly believe he is the team's most consistent finisher when you factor in the tendencies of Pierce, sometimes KG, and especially Rondo of missing layups.

What I wanted to say about Ray for this year though is that it seems like he has benefited the most from Rondo's improvements. I mean, how many WIDE-open looks does this guy get? It's jarring actually and when you combine that with his aforementioned sneaky good finishing and attacking skills you put it all together and are able to get the best of Ray Allen. And did you realize that at this one-quarter point he leads the team in scoring by a smidge over Paul Pierce at 18.4 per to 18.3?

Biggest Strength

I think I outlined pretty much all of their strengths above. They seem more cohesive this year and with the vastly improved play of Rondo and how much he helps the whole team especially Allen and KG it seems like once again the sky is the limit.

Oh, and the defense is still great.

Biggest Weakness

One million times I have said it, but their free throw shooting is their biggest weakness. At 76.4% they are right at the middle of the pack as far as percentage goes (16th in the NBA). I know this is not terrible, but shaky free throw shooting can and will cost you big games and other than Ray Allen there really is not a person on the team that I trust to hit two out of two with the game on the line. The same was true last year and they survived. So there certainly is a precedent, but it does make tight games even more interesting.

Most Maddening Habit

This one has not changed either. The Celtics seem to play their best when they are down by six or so and then extending the lead to ten or twelve. However, once a lead gets into the high teens they start trying to showboat and get away from their offense which allows their opponent to get back into the game. You know something is wrong when I root for the Celtics lead to stay in the 8-14 range so as to avoid the sloppiness that comes when it stretches into the 20s.

A good problem to have I guess, but I cannot underscore how maddening it is when in a game like Friday against Portland the starters are forced back into a fourth quarter in which they have no business appearing in.

Most Maddening Habit (runner up)

Rajon, I love the fake behind the back pass and then lay it up move. One problem. I have NEVER seen you actually convert the layup. This drives me absolutely insane. The move is awesome and you know it would be all over Top Plays the following day. You always deke your opponent out of his shorts and get a wide-open layup for yourself. Now finish the damn shot!!!!

A Few Random Thoughts That Have Nothing to do with the Celtics

1) That cell phone commercial with the faces on the fingers of the person while they text message creeps me out to no end. Seriously. I hate it. It is weird and mildly horrifying. I know I am not alone.

2) I saw an ad the other night during the Celtics game which also weirded me out in a different way. I think it was a local ad so you have probably never seen it but the gist was a woman found a contractor online to do some work on her basement. The contractor went way over his time estimate and it annoyed the woman. So one day she went downstairs to check on him and found him lounging on the couch in the basement watching movies. Innocent enough. BUT, earlier in the ad you see him ordering a movie through On Demand. What else you see is him highlighting and selecting the "Adult" option of the On Demand movies. WTF? You know what this implies right? It implies that not only is this dude slacking off at this ladies house when he should be working, he is making himself so comfortable down in the basement that he is ordering porn and jerking off. Filthy. We all know what the end result of an ordered porno movie is and it is not a polished off bag of Sour Patch Kids.

That's enough for today.

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