Last night, the final outcome of the game versus the Miami Heat probably wasn’t what most Celtics fans expected. There were some positives you could take away from the game, but the negatives are much more concerning, and there is a possibility that these issues may linger early on in the season. What we saw from Boston in the preseason was displayed nationally, and quite honestly that’s not something to be proud of.
Once again the Celtics failed to play defense off of pick and rolls. While I had pointed this out in the preseason, it was mainly directed at a few players, but last night the whole team was slow rotating off picks. The type of offense the Heat played was very similar to what Boston had seen in Turkey; uptempo offense using the pick and roll many times. The Heat’s torrid three point shooting didn’t help, but when it comes to giving up easy points in the paint, I’d rather leave the perimeter open. Overall, Miami’s offense dominated the Celtics defense, but to give up 120 points is unacceptable. It’s highly possible that lack of chemistry had an effect on Boston’s defense, and to go up against a team that’s basically the same from last season, the Celtics had their work cut out for them.
Tommy Heinsohn had pointed it out all preseason, Boston is lacking chemistry and playing time together. Back in 2007 when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen first came to Boston, Heinsohn kept referring to how the team was lacking chemistry even though they were winning games early in the season. After last night, I see his point. In 2007, the Celtics hadn’t played a team of Miami’s caliber until December versus the Detroit Pistons, which they lost to Detroit at the TD Garden. Throughout the month of November, Boston steamrolled over opponents, but looking at the talent level of the teams they played, the Celtics were able to accumulate wins early in the season.
Looking at the upcoming games, the Celtics have the opportunity to get a foothold, and gain that chemistry. Playing the Bucks and Wizards twice is a great chance to seal up four victories in the early season. A few people talked to me about last night’s game and how concerned they were about how the Celtics looked last night, but you can’t gauge a season off of one loss, there are still 81 games to go. If my memory serves me correctly, the Celtics started the season 0-3 last season and ended up going to the Eastern Conference Finals. So, despite the lack of defense and chemistry, there is a lot of time to get those issues corrected.
Offensively I was very impressed with how Boston operated throughout most of the game. In the first half, every time Miami went on a run the Celtics counter punched with a run of their own. Last season we didn’t see that in some games, and consequently Boston would have to fight back down by double-digits. Overall the offense was in-sink, despite Jason Terry and Jeff Green having off nights. But one thing was clear, it was the lack of defense that cost Boston the game, not the offense.
Leandro Barbosa was a pleasant surprise contributing 16 points in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t only his offense that impressed me, his defense on Ray Allen in the fourth was very good. For the last two weeks all I’ve heard was how he wasn’t a defensive minded player, but in 14 days he’s already bought into the system.
The loss may have been disheartening, but the Celtics fought back to get within four points after being down 19 in the fourth. That resiliency and fight is what’s going to get Boston deep into the playoffs. This team may have a lot of new faces, but mentally, they are still the same.