It’s a win, right? I guess Kevin Garnett’s post game speech after the loss to Milwaukee lit a fire under the team. But let’s be real, the Celtics could have played a lot better tonight, especially in the second half. Boston had a 16 point lead, and shockingly, the supposed deepest bench in the league did nothing to maintain or extend it. Don’t get me wrong, finally getting on the board in the win column is great, but if they want to win, even against sub-par teams, they’ll have to do a lot better.
Over the last few weeks or so, I’ve stressed the importance of pick and roll defense. Tonight the Celtics seemed to rotate more than they have, and the help defense improved from last night. Halfway through the second quarter Boston’s intensity diminished, and a lack of consistency on the defensive end gave Washington the opportunity to crawl back into the game. Pick and roll defense however, still remains a concern for this ball club. The Wizards got way too many open looks on the perimeter tonight.
The bench so far this season hasn’t produced or contributed the numbers we thought they would. With Brandon Bass coming off the bench, Boston’s second unit did a little bit better offensively, but defensively, it was an absolute mess. Twice, double-digit leads were erased while the bench was in, and the concern for Celtics fans heading forward is if they can’t maintain a lead, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will have to play more minutes. We all know the consequences of that when the season is winding down.
If it wasn’t for Paul Pierce tonight, Boston would probably be 0-3. His 27 points lifted the team, and his clutch shooting bailed out the Celtics poor play on both ends of the floor down the stretch. Pierce, who came out flat last night, got it going early in the game and that was a big part of the Celtics early lead in the first half. Until all the players are on the same page, Pierce will have to lead this team, much like he did before the Big Three era, and he has shown that even at 35 years old he can still do that.
One of the only positives, other than getting the win, was the reduced turnover number. Boston only turned the ball over nine times which is a vast improvement from last night. They were much more comfortable and in control on the offensive end and didn’t force passes to players who weren’t open. What caught my eye though was at times, they’d over-pass. There were a lot of shots that Brandon Bass and Jason Terry turned down. Last night, there was no ball movement, tonight there was too much. I feel that once the players know their teammates tendencies there will be better shot selection and more open shots.
Tonight’s win was a step in the right direction, yet a very small one. As I look at this team, they remind me of a college basketball team after getting a whole new group of freshmen. It’s going to take time to gain that chemistry and become a cohesive unit.