Well, three games down for the Celtics, and three victories. This one went down to the wire, much like the game against New Jersey. The Celtics didn’t really seem to play that well, but they pulled it out in the end.
Some noticeable trends from the first three games before getting into it.
- I’ve been keeping an eye on the rebounding numbers after the C’s struggled there last year. Much better, as the C’s won the battle on the glass again.
- Three games, three times the opponent has shot 40 percent or less. Defense will be this team’s identity, and it looks strong early.
- Last year it took awhile for the C’s to develop an identity off the bench. I don’t think that will be a problem this year.
JO is A-OK: He only played eight minutes, but there were a lot of positives in Jermaine O’Neal’s debut tonight. Most of them came on the defensive end.
His rotations were excellent, and he made a couple very nice blocks from the weakside. I thought that was what the Celtics were going to miss most with Kendrick Perkins gone, but I think that JO might fill that defensive presence nicely. It’s that defensive presence that makes me wonder if he will get the nod over Shaq in the starting role when all things are said and done.
The Bench: I’m talking about the guys who are going to be key factors off the bench. I was worried that the second unit was starting to rely too much on Glen Davis on the offensive end, but with the injury that kept him out of most of the game we got to see a few other people step up.
Delonte West really came to play. He is clearly on a mission to prove that he can fit in on this team and make people forget about a few of the, ummmm, ugly incidents that he was a part of in Cleveland last season. One thing that Delonte has not lost is his ability to finish at the bucket, and he had some great moves tonight.
But I think the play that was indicative of his effort was his block in the final minute that sealed the win for Boston. The second unit dug its heels in and won the game, and West epitomized that effort.
But he wasn’t the only player to have a great night. Nate Robinson had his shot going tonight, and he made a number of hustle plays on the defensive end as well. I said after the Nets game that I liked that tandem, and tonight did nothing to dissuade me.
And Marquis Daniels, once again, put up a great effort. He was instrumental in keeping the Celtics in this one in the second half with a number of good finishes and another clutch three. He displayed a lot of confidence in his offensive game, and he will hopefully carry that over into the regular season.
Rondo and KG get offensive: It’s not that Rajon Rondo played poorly in the first two games. In fact, he played pretty well, and he had great looks. It’s really just that I’ve been waiting to see him showcase his jumper to see how it has progressed.
Well, he finally had a few good looks, and he converted them. Four of six from the field, but they were good shots in the flow of the offense (with a few semi-desperate looks with the shot clock winding down). Rondo didn’t hesitate when he had an open look, and that is an encouraging sign.
As for KG, he had a few ugly looks, but I liked what I saw out of him in this one. He finally got a few 20-footers to go down, and he was actively looking for his shot. I was also impressed by his rotations on defense.
In short, he looks like he is already in regular season form in his limited minutes. At least we know that he is treating these games that way. Did you see how fired up he was after Stephane Lasme’s dunk?
Battle for the Final Spot: It’s not pretty in the fight for the 15th roster spot between Lasme, Von (Nilla) Wafer—get it, because he still hasn’t hit a shot—and Mario West.
It’s not West’s fault he didn’t get to play, but that can’t be a good sign for his hopes in sticking with this team. But the two guys who did get some time at the end of the game did not impress.
I was looking for Lasme to possibly put his clamps on this spot, but outside of that loud finish against a woefully out of position Bargnani he didn’t do much. He got a chance to play some extended minutes and really failed to make much of an impact. His outside jumper near the end of the game was not even close, and that showcased his lack of range.
Wafer finally scored, and actually took a shot. Of course, he missed. The more you see him, the less likely it looks that he stays with the team come the regular season.
Shaq’s Post Defense: Maybe it was because Jermaine O’Neal made such a great impact on the defensive end in his limited minutes, but Shaq’s lack of a defensive presence was particularly apparent tonight.
He just looked slow. He put up offensive numbers against the substantially smaller Reggie Evans, but he was a step behind on his defensive rotations. Obviously a 38-year old center is going to be a little slower to react, but Shaq’s strength can’t win him every battle in the paint.
Granted, it wasn’t just Shaq. Jarrett Jack, Leandro Barbosa, and even DeMar DeRozan had some drives to the lane that were way too easy.
Tighten Up: Brought to you by the Black Keys.
Look, I’ve said before that the Celtics are a team that will always have a high turnover count. But tonight it was about the way those turnovers occurred. From the beginning the team looked too loose, making some lackadaisical plays. That was also noticeable in the third quarter when the Raptors climbed back into the game.
Both teams were a little careless tonight. I would love to say that each team played better defense than I expected, but a lot of those strong defensive statistics were because of shooting woes and mistakes. I’ll chalk it up to preseason I guess. I just tend to harp on alarming trends.