A little bit of a recap from last night’s game against the Raptors, plus a preview of tonight’s game in Hartford vs. the Knicks. I’d like to give a special thanks to Doc Rivers and Shaquille O’Neal for making yesterday’s Trifecta look ridiculous. Let’s start with some highlight, shall we?
Rondo Delivers: I talked about Rondo’s ability to take over a game earlier this week, and he did it again last night against Toronto. There are very few teams in the league that can stop his penetrating ability, but that wasn’t the most impressive part of his display last night.
Rondo finished 12-15 from the line in this one, one of the most pleasant sites of the preseason thus far. His struggles at the stripe in the Finals last year were a big reason why the Celtics lost to the Lakers. If Rondo’s best attribute is his ability to get to the bucket, it can be made moot by his free throw shooting. Last year he seemed to unravel at the wrong time; to be fair, he was not great all season (62 percent), but he had seemed to improve early in the playoffs.
But in last night’s game he was almost perfect. If he can improve his performance at the charity line, you might see Rondo average well over the 13.7 points per game that he did last season.
Wafer Wakes Up: With Stephane Lasme back home in Boston and Delonte West also absent thanks to his back troubles, Von Wafer finally had the chance to step up and prove he deserves a spot on this team.
And he did just that, finishing the night with 14 points and hitting all three of his 3-point shots in his best performance in a C’s uniform by far. Wafer was finally aggressive and looking for his shot, and he showed the stroke that made the Celtics bring him into training camp.
The truth of the matter is that the Celtics might actually need Von Wafer early in the season with Delonte West out. Though he has struggled most of the preseason and was not impressive on the defensive end last night, he might make the team simply because of need. If he can perform like he did last night, though, he will have deserved it.
Marquis Continues to Impress: With Paul Pierce getting the night off after his game-winner on Wednesday, Marquis Daniels stepped into the starting role and energized his team early on.
The Celtics jumped out to a big lead, and Daniels did a little bit of everything. He hit shots from the outside—including a long three to end the first quarter—finished in the paint, rebounded well and played solid defense. He finished the night with 14 points, seven rebounds, and two steals in a great all-around effort.
Daniels is the type of player who seems to get better with the more minutes he gets. He is comfortable as a starter, and that showed yesterday. Obviously he will have to make an impact off the bench playing behind Pierce, but he is going to get plenty of minutes this season. The key for Daniels will be staying healthy, but if he does he is showing he can deliver.
KG’s Quick Start: Garnett was 3-3 and added six rebounds in three minutes of work. He had his jumper working and looked strong. Garnett has yet to play major minutes this preseason, but he seems to be rounding into shape.
The Fourth Quarter: It really should be in the “ugly” section, but the Celtics almost fell apart in the fourth quarter. The Raptors outscored them 39-16 in the final minutes of the game, and it just looked like the C’s thought they had the game wrapped up.
Obviously Doc Rivers was deep into the bench at this point, and at least those guys showed some resolve in keeping the lead. It’s not something to worry about at this point, but the team as a whole has to know how to finish out games.
This game has lost a lot of its luster for me because there will be no Amar’e Stoudemire for the Knicks, thanks to the fact that it is the second night of a back-to-back for NY. So let’s quickly go through a few things to watch.
Lasme’s Chance: Stephane Lasme missed the game in Toronto, as the Celtics did not want to deal with Visa-related issues for the Gabon native. With Wafer stepping up against the Raptors, now it is Lasme’s chance to do the same. He should get major minutes, and with a long layoff before the next preseason game there is no telling if Doc and his staff will let go of a player before that time so he can try to catch on with another squad.
The Knick’s Going Small: Mike D’Antoni might be looking at a small lineup, particularly without Stoudemire. It will be interesting to see if the Celtics decide to match it, and if so who is on the court. Last time out the C’s were forced to play that small lineup thanks to foul trouble for the big men and KG’s ejection. This time around D’Antoni could force their hand.
Nate vs. Old Mates: It is not a big deal anymore, but Nate Robinson has arguably been the best player on this Celtics team during the preseason. He poured in 23 points last night and has become a real leader on the second unit. I just want to continue to see him get better.