Gritty fourth quarter showcases defensive effort, C’s win Bucks 96-92.

The first half was pretty awful, so here’s highlights of the second half, courtesy of MrTripleDouble at Red’s Army.

The game was largely a grind. Samuel Dalembert looked like Shaq in the paint with his endless dunks with the ongoing problem of poor P&R defense. Fortunately, the Bucks’ lead was kept within striking distance thanks to their horrible three point shooting (3 for 19 3P FG%, 15.8%). The tide began to turn when the Bucks bigs went into foul trouble late game (Dalembert, Sanders), reducing the second chance shots. A huge defensive surge in the fourth quarter with the Celtics scrambling on defense with newfound energy, Green’s sudden aggressive efforts (including a chasedown block!) and the late game free throw parade with KG’s final two FTs sealed the win.

The Truth returns
PP led the team with 25 points, excellent hustle and energy throughout the game. It finally feels like the Truth is back in full form.

Bass time
Good hustle effort from both Bass and Wilcox. When Bass is under the board with the ball, only one of two things will happen: he dunks, or he pump fakes until he’s ready to get fouled and take free throws. He’s thinking too much on the outside though, has not found the balance between taking the shot and driving, choosing to drive too many times.

Wilcox’s energy
Good things happen when Wilcox is on the court. His energy and hustle brings movement, and Rondo is always ready to find the cutting Wilcox for an easy basket, regardless of whether it’s on half-court or transition. He’s not a shooter, but damn does his presence make a difference. Now if only he can set a solid screen, it’ll all be perfect.

JET getting settled in
Jason Terry made good on his presence as a starter, scoring when needed and taking his shot not only from the three line. 15 points from a combination of shots, he looks to be more comfortable doing the catch and shoot routine now, although he still looks best taking his shots off the dribble.

Ticket’s consistency
KG keeps it up with 18 points and 6 boards, consistent shooting option. He made two clutch free throws that put the game away for good, ending the flurry of fouls and trips to the line for botched shooting by everyone else.

Rondo’s near-injury
Rondo had problems getting it started at the game, but capped it off with some smart fouls in the fourth quarter, giving the fouls before any desperation three could be made by the Bucks. Two free throws wins a three pointer any day, especially with a fragile lead. He banged his knee with Dalembert (who shuffled his knee into Rondo after setting a pick), but seemed to be moving with no problems.

Trivia: Rondo continues his double digit assist streak with 10 dimes.

The ghost of C’s defense
This is one of the two big takeaways from the game: the return of something that looks like C’s defense in Q4. The fix for the recent abysmal pick and roll defense turns out to be switching and manic energy on help defense. This allowed the lead to be taken in the final quarter and maintained until the whistle blew.

Green’s resurgence
The other big plus in this game: everyone back on the Green bandwagon! Jeff Green made several big baskets with the aggression that was seen in preseason. Nothing definite at this point, but it’s certainly heartening to see Green getting back into his game.


The green season so far: Overexpectations, underperformance and adjustments.

The offseason/preseason had Celtics fans all over clamouring in excitement about the quality of offense, our lineup depth and how chemistry was being built during the Europe trip. Well now, it’s been 4 games into the season so far. With a 2-2 record, things aren’t looking too shabby.

However, there is a slight cause for concern if we looked closer at the games.

(via Red’s Army gallery – Celtics v Bucks)

  • v Miami (road): 107-120 (L)
  • v Milwaukee (home): 88-99 (L)
  • v Washington (road): 89-86 (W)
  • v Washington (home): 100-94 (W) (OT)

The wins so far have come against the same team, the Washington Wizards who are missing two key players hampered by injuries, namely John Wall (left patella) and Nene Hilario (sprained foot). The victories however have not been easy ones, the latest win being a home game that was secured only in overtime. What exactly is wrong?

These four games played thus far, are showing up areas that could be legitimate concerns later in the season.

Here is a look at some of them.

Lack of backup point, Rondo’s minutes
Rondo has been playing a minimum of 40 minutes in each game so far (43, 40, 40, 44), something that could wear him down in the year long grind. The original solution (i.e. taking turns to bring the ball up) has not proven to be the answer; we can see Rondo’s scoring and creativity are needed on the court right now.

Time could quite possibly sort this problem out, but Rondo’s minutes should be limited regardless, if we want Rondo to perform at an All-Star level in the playoffs. That being said, Doc and his coaches would know when Rondo should be reined in.

Teething issues: new players
Preseason is what it is, and the games so far have shown the new Celtics to be in the process of adjustment. The Celtics’ offensive style takes time to learn, the defensive schemes even more so.

Some examples:

  • The JET is clearly not comfortable running off screens and making shots the way Ray did, and is used taking his shots either in rhythm off the dribble, or as a set shot. On defense, he has proven to have slower legs, something the team defense will have to learn to compensate for when guarding Terry is matched up against quicker guards.
  • After a preseason scoring barrage, Green is once again finding his way on offense. It feels like a lack of aggressiveness at this point. Also, he appears to be showing too hard on pick and roll defense. This results in his man getting open while he recovers from the hedge.
  • Lee is somehow resigned to being a spot up 3 shooter at the baselines, when he has shown us that he can be so much more. The tenacious energy and hustle that was so impressive in the preseason somehow vanished. He seems to be struggling with the defense so far as well, which became very obvious when he was matched up against Wade, who resorted to backdoor cuts for the easy basket.

Note: I’m not saying the new guys are complete failures, but rather the fact that the sky high expectations we all had, should be adjusted. The entire process is definitely going to take some time. While this adjustment is happening, expect more of the above scenarios to happen. I am hoping that everyone gets onto the same page by the time All-Star weekend is over though.

Related: check out CelticsLife – It’s not easy wearing the green and 4 reasons JET is still taxiing.

Big Three shouldering the load
After that shaky loss to the Heat on season opener, the Celtics have gone back to the proven formula: namely, utilising the new Big Three of KG, Pierce and Rondo. In the past three games, the trio have account for half or more of the team’s scoring (40 of 88pts, 54 of 89pts, 53 of 100pts).

This strategy is definitely a step in the right direction, but the bench unit needs to step up and contribute much more in the way of offense. With KG’s limited minutes in the season, do not expect him to come out with 20 points every night. Pierce and Rondo are going to have nights when they struggle to score. Bass has been the quiet and steady performer, putting up numbers (10.2 PPG. 7.2 RPG) both as a starter and off the bench.

All that is left is for guys like JET, Green and Lee to step up.

Stay calm folks, let’s keep faith in our guys in green and keep on cheering for that banner #18!

What do you think of the season so far? Feel free to share your thoughts too.

Wizards fail to clinch game, C’s grab first W 89-86 in spectacularly heartstopping fashion.

What a hell of a game. The Wizards were missing Wall and Nene, but instead got a combined 62 points from their bench. They were so damn close to taking this win too, but a deep three from Pierce and two free throws from JET sealed the game. The win could have been a comfortable one, but the Wizards were on scoring binge, the C’s couldn’t buy many buckets whenever the starters were out, and so everything came down to the wire.

It was a good thing no foul was called on KG for that final shot. The refs apparently decided to let everyone play without making weird calls.

And if you missed this in the highlight clip above, you have to watch the amazing play Rondo made in today’s game. Attempts a shot, gets blocked, but moves to get the dropped ball and lofted it back through the hoop in a single motion.

Only Rondo, folks.

Game comments:
Core operation
The guys that stayed on from last season were operating at a better gear today. Pierce, KG, Bass and Rondo could be seen moving better and having good chemistry. They were carrying the bulk of the offense (accounting for 59 of the team’s total 89 points) and the offense was noticeably stagnant when Pierce and/or KG were not on.

Bench scoring
The bench managed to score at a decent clip, but we need more scoring, most especially from JET (8 points) and Green (11 points). JET seems to rushing his shots a little, and Green needs to take it in more. Granted he scored from outside today, but we don’t need three or four guys standing at the arc ready to jack shots, we need people who can take it in to the hoop!

Slightly less porous defense
Defense was moving better today in terms of communication (and less open shots) compared against the Bucks game yesterday. I’m looking forward to more improvement on this end.

The main takeaway from this game? A needlessly ugly win, but ah well win is a win. It will be good to see how the next game against the Wizards will turn out. The atmosphere of TD Garden should help the guys to play better, and hopefully not settle into complacency.

Bucks win 99-88, C’s scoring drought back in full force.

At its core, basketball is a simple game. Whichever team manages to put more shots through the basket, wins. Regardless of whether you achieve this by stifling the opponent’s game or by running an uptempo game to endless basket opportunities, this simple axiom still stands.

I had heard about this game being an absolute dump and was really tempted to skip it altogether. Discipline prevailed. While I steeled myself to endure the game in agony, the game did not seem that bad. Granted, they should have had this game in the bag, no questions asked. The Bucks weren’t exactly playing at a championship contender level, but it was enough to kill the C’s in this one, who seemed to be a little unfocused on defense, over-gambling for steals, giving open shots at times and letting the Bucks have their way on second chance points. They were in contrast, overly focused on the two man game to swing the ball effectively around the court on offense, which in turn led to guys standing around the court waiting for the kick out instead of active off ball movement.

Key to the game? The Celtics could not score consistently, even after getting stops. That basically doomed the entire game for them.

Milwaukee had 40 of 86 field goals, C’s had 33 of 74. The Bucks not only made more, they attempted more shots in the process. Hello, offensive rebounds (and lack of defensive rebounding). Not forgetting: turnovers, our much-loved Celtics stat. 18 TOs matched by the Bucks, this pointed to equally sloppy plays on both ends.

A few other comments on the game:

  • Terry looked uncomfortable running the point today. Dumping the ball off to the big in the paint when driving, not the best idea in crowded space.
  • Darko did not seem to handle the ball with ease today, injury still hampering him perhaps?
  • Courtney Lee was missing the boundless energy he exhibited in preseason.
  • Green needs to stop being so hesitant and drive more. He had mostly good results when driving in, and those eggs he laid at the baseline 3 (1 of 4) should have hinted that he needed to stop shooting. Add the obvious advantage he had over Mike Dunleavy, which was not exploited sufficiently, I would say Green had the potential to contribute more but did not accomplish enough.
  • Leandro needs to play off the ball and focus on scoring, it’s a waste of his offensive skills.
  • Rondo had another ho-hum double double, but did not seem to be doing enough, despite the improved aggression. Less setup, more attacking perhaps?
  • Bright spots: KG, Bass and Sully were playing up to their usual form – minor consolation.

A disappointing home loss, let’s hope the next game against Washington tomorrow fares better.