Anybody scared of the Big Bad Celtics yet? Anyone? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The Celtics just barely escaped yesterday’s opening round contest versus the New York Knicks, emerging with a 1-0 series lead in the process. The victory, which was fueled behind a massive Ray Allen 3-pointer down the stretch, didn’t quite feel like vindication, it simply felt like a prolongation. A prolongation of a team who has yet to find its stride. This team has reached a point of virtual ineffability because of their overall ineffectualness, a feeling I’ve grown accustomed to as an overall sports fan, but certainly not with this group of Celtics.
For all intents and purposes, this is the same squad we have grown to love in years past. The core remains, and the defensive mentality has certainly withstood the test of time. In the last month of the season, (March 13th-April 13th) the Celtics only allowed 88.9 ppg on the defensive end. That is better than their overall season average of 91.1 points allowed per game, and bests all other teams in the NBA by a margin of a full 2 and a half points per game. As I’ve said, the C’s defensive intensity has never been anything to sneer at. Yet in that same time span, the C’s have only managed to muster up a meek 91.1 points per game, well off of their season pace of 96.5 ppg (this figure includes the late season drop-off as well). During this season ending 19 game stretch, the Celtics barely managed to stay afloat, finishing with a 10-9 record.
Presumably, losing Kendrick Perkins left potentially catastrophic consequences looming on the defensive end. To the bewilderment of all of Celtics nation, however, the adverse now seems to be true. Despite bringing in predominately offensive players in Green and Kristic, the Celtics can’t seem to buy a bucket these days. And this was more than apparent in yesterday’s contest with the Knicks. The C’s had only managed 39 points at the half, with many of our key guys off to poor shooting slumps. Even after recovering from the wreckage by game’s end, we still only had 2 players with respectable shooting numbers, Jermaine O’Neal who ended the game at a perfect 6-6 from the field, and Mr. Big Shot himself, Ray Allen, who ended at 9-15 from the floor. Garnett struggled at 5-14. Pierce 6-16. Rondo 5-14. Baby 1-8. Like I said, this team couldn’t buy a bucket. And what makes this so deeply concerning is the fact that this has become a recurring scene for this team. Miami effectively shut down all passing lanes with their athleticism, something we very heavily rely on. The Celtics looked like a dying squad that Sunday afternoon. The Bulls loss, just a few days earlier, only compounded the problem. Athleticism has always been an Achilles Heel for this team, but it has never really affected their pass first mentality or overall offensive sets. Now it has.
I thought this stretch of horrendous scoring started and ended with Rajon Rondo. Clearly the trade of Perk was disheartening for him, and his play struggled because of it. But with the playoffs right around the corner, I expected big things from the diminutive presence. After all, he’s only averaged a triple double over the past couple of postseasons. And to his credit, Rondo played the part. He was flying around out there yesterday, scooping up every possible long rebound and starting the break with authority. Despite a personally lackluster offensive performance, he still remained our floor general, ending with 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Yet the struggles persist. So what gives? I suppose only time will tell. I keep holding out for this team, hoping that they’ll finally get it to together and begin to gel. But with each passing contest, it looks more and more like this Knicks series is going to be a gauntlet. Does this team have the magic to pull off a run to the finals again? After the departure of Perk I just don’t see it. But in the immortal words of Kevin Garnett, “anything is possible.”
About the Author
Written by Michael Johnson
I am a recent graduate of Endicott College having earned my Bachelors Degree in Communications. I bleed green and will until I die. If you'd like to talk sports I'm available on facebook and my email address is Johnson3448@comcast.net. You can also follow me on twitter @johnsoncookie.