Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks: The Boston Celtics' Week in Review

Welcome to the Hardwood Houdini’s “Boston Celtics’ Week in Review!”  In our inaugural installment, we relive the hideous majesty of the Celtics’ 1-2 season start, blow by heinous blow…

Don’t Have to Like You

October 30, 2012
Game 1
: Boston Celtics (0-1) at Miami Heat (1-0)

“Don’t have to like you if you’re my man
Said I’m gunning for you ’cause I know I can”
The Pack A.D.

The Boston Celtics returned to the spot of the dashing of their 2012 Title hopes Wednesday night and, after watching their most hated rival[1] hoist a banner and unwrap presents, got their season rolling with a 120-107 loss to the defending champs.

Even without a full night’s worth of work from reigning MVP LeBron James, who put up 26 and 10 despite leg cramps that shortened his shift to 29 minutes, the Miami Heat looked nitrous-powered, terrifyingly sharp, fast, and strong.  They left the net in smoldering tatters, ripping it at a rate practically unheard of in the Garnett Era.  It was just the thirteenth time since the ’08 season that a team had put up a field goal percentage of 54 percent or better against the Celtics, and only the fourth time that one had gotten 120 points or more on the scoreboard.

Offensively, the Celtics had something of a banner game, at least for them.  Their 107 points translated into an offensive rating of 113.2, a mark which they surpassed in only nine of their 66 games last season.   They connected on 52 percent of their field goal attempts after hitting that mark just six times in 2012.  They hit 46 percent of their threes and got up 28 free throw attempts (10 times each last season).  Most impressively, they pushed transition with great frequency and to great effect; their 27 fast break points would have registered as their second-highest total last season.

It was basically a bizarro Celtics game brought on by an off-season influx of more-than-capable scorers (35 points off a combined 13-21 from Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Leandro Barbosa) now facing down the consensus best team in the league — who were no doubt feeling pretty jacked up about the latest additions to their jewelry boxes — while probably still needing some time to nail down the finer points of their new team’s defensive system.  Unfortunate though it was, the outcome was, well, pretty much as expected.

Aside from generally being deliriously fast-paced and exciting, the game provided its share of memories.  There was LeBron’s sickeningly vicious second-quarter dunk, which was thrown down with such force that the basket mic temporarily fritzed on impact.  There were 16 out-of-nowhere points from Barbosa, which helped the Celtics close a 19-point gap to 4 with two minutes left in the game.  There was Rajon Rondo’s two-handed clothesline of Dwyane Wade, which further underscored the Celtics-Heat rivalry as quite possibly the most legitimately contentious one going in the NBA today.

There was also Kevin Garnett’s hilarious spurning of Ray Allen’s attempt at being a cordial, stand-up guy.  Just before checking in for his first official action as a member of the Miami Heat, Ray approached the Celtics’ bench to dole out a round of hugs and fist-bumps.  The last stop on the love train was Garnett, who responded to Ray’s shoulder tap with all the enthusiasm of a man fielding a request from a “street person” in need of a little help “getting some breakfast” whilst waiting for the express bus to whisk him away to his soul-sucking nine-to-five.

Of course, by Thursday, “The Snub” had been fully run through the sports media processing plant, where it had been transformed from “something funny that happened” into an “incident” which “meant something,” and was thus in desperate need of dissection and analysis.  That morning, legendary Globe columnist Bob Ryan appeared on Mike and Mike in the Morning to discuss the event.  The following is a verbatim transcript of a grown man talking to other grown men about a guy not being down for a handshake.

I just want to throw this in the mix for you to evaluate, that’s all.  The following: consider, the only reason Kevin Garnett is and has been a Boston Celtic (now entering year six) is the fact that Ray Allen was on the team.

Ray Allen was traded on draft night, 2007.  A conscriptee, against his will, was traded from Seattle to Boston.  He had no choice.  He now is there with Paul Pierce.  Garnett would neverunderline, boldface, italics – consider Boston-Mass as a place for him to be, ever, if Allen hadn’t joined forces with Pierce and the three of them had a chance to become something special.  In other words, only because of Allen’s presence did he even come to Boston.

So, you would think he might consider that when he’s evaluating his own actions here and his feelings, his true feelings, which we really don’t know because he’s such a poseur, Garnett.  This is all part of his self-conceived persona.  He’s got a public persona, he’s got a private persona.  He’s very, very, very scripted, and so, just consider that.  Does he have a right, ask yourself, to act any way publically negatively toward Allen when he, in fact, owes Allen all the good things that have happened to him in Boston, starting with the Championship.  It was because Allen was there and he wanted to be with Allen! 

What we think Bob was trying to say was that Kevin should have been more considerate to Ray because Ray had played such a critical role in the great success that the Celtics had enjoyed over the past several years: two trips to the Finals, one Championship win, three other playoff runs (two of them to the Conference Finals), and lots of regular season wins.  While we don’t necessarily agree that Garnett should have done anything other than what he felt he wanted to, we at least understand this argument, because it is logical and based on the unwritten code of interpersonal relations that a genteel society would have us at least aspire to uphold.

One or two additional reads through Ryan’s comments, however, reveal a sizable gulf between what he is (we think) trying to say and what he is actually saying.  This is, essentially, that KG should be grateful to Ray for luring him to a place that he never wanted to come to, and then splitting town.  This central point comes gift-wrapped in a swipe at Garnett for maintaining a carefully considered separation between his on-screen and off-screen selves (which we’re fairly certain is standard operating procedure for every single person who has “object of entertainment and/or public scrutiny” in their job description) and a belief that there are actually rights to what a person can think and feel.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to ask you, dear reader, to ask yourself if Bob Ryan has the right to express dominion over the inner-workings of another man’s heart, mind, and soul.  We quickly realize, though, that, as a human being living and breathing under the protective umbrella of the greatest democracy known to any sentient creature throughout the infinite reaches of time and space, Bob Ryan has the right to say whatever he wants, especially when he’s being asked to fill air time by providing his take as a respected journalist on some schoolyard nonsense gone down between two dudes he probably doesn’t know that well.

Avery Bradley Watch #1

When we last saw Avery Bradley, he was in a white t-shirt and a sling, spectating on the Conference Finals while pretending with every ounce of his being that he didn’t notice his boss talking to Chris Rock about him behind his back right in front of his face.

He had much better seats for the season opener and nicer threads to boot, working the no-tie look to Bargnani-like effect.

Penetration

November 2, 2012
Game 2
: Boston Celtics (0-2) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (1-0)

“Penetrate…
Penetrate me…
So fine, so fine, so fine…”
The Stooges

And so the Celtics shipped it back up north, hoping to write opening night off as nothing more than a tough beat against a worthy opponent.  A little bit of home cooking with the clearly inferior Milwaukee Bucks seated across the table would be just the thing to get the flag flying on the 2013 season.  Wouldn’t it?

As a matter of fact, no, it wouldn’t.  The Bucks laid a 99-88 thrashing on the Celtics in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.  Led by fleet-footed point guard Brandon Jennings (21 points and 13 assists) and sophomore swingman Tobias Harris (18 points off 8-11 from the floor), Milwaukee pushed relentlessly into Boston’s soft interior, getting 56 points from within nine feet of the basket while running their lead up to as much as 20 as late as halfway through the fourth quarter.

According to Hoopdata, last year’s Celtics gave up an average of 38 points per game from within nine feet.  Opponents shot 52.5 percent from this distance, the third-lowest mark in the league.  In the three games the Celtics have played so far this season, they’ve given up an average of 43 points from up close, allowing opponents to connect on 71.3 percent of those shots.  The Bucks’ 56 were the most gotten at that distance so far, obtained at a clip of 66.7 percent.

The Celtics would need to put on a net-shredding clinic similar to what they had administered in the season opener if they wanted to cover the ground they were losing on the defensive end.  What they did instead was serve up a warmed-over version of the dreck they had on offer last season.  Their marks of 44.6 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three were each just a hair off from the 46.0 and 36.7 they put up in 2012.

Apart from Rajon Rondo’s second double-double in as many games (14 points and 11 assists) and a combined 21 points off 9-15 shooting from second-liners Jeff Green and Jason Terry, the Cs’ offensive attack was lackluster and uninspiring.  Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett scraped together 26 points between the two of them, though they missed nearly two-thirds of their field goals along the way.  Apart from Brandon Bass (3-6 from the field), none of the supporting crew shot 50 percent or better from the floor.

On the plus side, it was great fun to be back in the company of Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn.  With 4:16 left in the first quarter, Gorman let out the first “rebound tipped around” of the regular season, the secretly jealous fraternal twin of the more ostentatious “rebound batted around.”  At the start of the second half, Tommy unloaded the following overly detailed old man metaphor, announcing that the duo was indeed back and firing on all cylinders:

We gotta talk to Dr. Frankenstein here and ask for a shot of electricity.  You know, put the table up into the castle and let the storm hit us with electricity.

Also joining in was new studio analyst (and former Celtic legend) Brian Scalabrine, who was charming and insightful in the quarter or so he spent talking shop with the boys.  Tommy, though, seemed weirdly aggravated by his presence, responding gruffly or sometimes not at all to most of what came out of Scal’s mouth.  A typical exchange:

Heinsohn: Udrih is a guy that Rondo oughta be able to push the ball right by.

Scalabrine: Do you feel like Rondo needs guys that run with him, [do you] think that the rest of the guys need to run more with Rondo?

(Five full seconds of silence.)

Gorman: Pierce trying to shake Marquis Daniels, can’t bank it home…

Speaking of Marquis, KG exchanged a nice on-court hug with the former Celtic, showing the world that he’s not the unrepentant asshole he’s commonly cracked up to be.

Avery Bradley Watch #2

In what should have been recognized as a harbinger of the Celtics’ poor performance, Avery took a step back in the threads department, opting for a pretty bankerish looking steel grey suit and navy tie.  We used a square instead of a circle here for a reason.

That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate

November 3, 2012
Game 3
: Boston Celtics (1-2) at Washington Wizards (0-2)

“Can I count on you if I fall apart?” Mission of Burma

The good news was that the Celtics closed out the week by getting into the win column for the first time in the nascent 2013 season.  The bad news was that they did so by the skin of their teeth (89-86) against a team that many expect to be amongst the worst in the league.  This team also happened to be missing its two best players.

The good news was that the Celtics finally held an opponent to numbers (almost) befitting the premier defensive team of the past five seasons: 86 points off 43.6 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from three with 15 turnovers.  The bad news was that they were once again victimized on the inside, allowing 30 points off 71.4 percent shooting from nine feet and in.

The good news was that the Wizards’ starters managed only 24 points off 9-35 from the field.  The bad news was that the bench, led by a combined 40 points from Jordan Crawford and Kevin Seraphin, erupted for 62 off 25-43.

The good news was that Paul Pierce was indeed The Truth, knocking down 10 of 22 from the field and 4 of 8 from three on his way to 27 points, while Rajon Rondo racked up his third straight double-double (12 points, 12 assists) and hit the first legit contender for Shot of the Year.  The bad news was that the Celtics’ transition game stalled out (11 fast break points), which probably went some way toward dragging their field goal percentage (42.9) down for the third straight game.

The good news was that Jeff Green was aggressive for the third straight game and productive for the second, hitting exactly half of his shots on his way to an 11-point night.  The bad news was that he was the only one outside of Pierce, Rondo, and probably Garnett (15 points, 7 rebounds) who you could call even just productive.

The good news is that it’s still early, and that last year’s Division-winning, Title-contending Celtics looked pretty shaky through the first few months, needing until March to get all the way over .500.  The news – neither good nor bad, just plain and simple – is that this ain’t last year’s Celtics or, for that matter, last year’s league.  Stay tuned.



[1] They are now, right?

Tags: Boston Celtics Miami Heat Milwaukee Bucks Washington Wizards

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