The Problem with the Celtics, as Boston Gets Stung by Hornets
The Celtics have lost 10 games since Christmas Day when holding a double digit lead. This team is unable to close out games. Tonight, against the Hornets, Boston held a 12 point lead early in the second half. Unfortunately, this third quarter is when they have been losing games. Tonight, they got outscored by 17 points, losing the quarter by a final score of 27-12.
Throughout the second half, they lazily closed out three point shots, were unable to keep up with Hornets’ players, and were unable to score. The team missed over 10 free throws in the second half, and turned the ball over 23 times.
This is not a team that will win a championship, and at this rate this team may not even be playing deep in the playoffs.
Looking at the team, it is obvious that there is very little camaraderie and a small amount of chemistry on the court. And, why shouldn’t there be?
For all of December Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett were out, and Marquis Daniels only recently returned. On top of that, Ray Allen missed his first game with back spasms, so the C’s have not had the time to develop chemistry.
Essentially, what you have is a team with a lot of skill, but very little chemistry, something that will not get you far.
Look at the 2004 Yankees (Red Sox won the WS that year, winning four straight games in the ALCS against New York).
The defense is lacking in the 2nd half, the offense seems energy-less, as players jack up seemingly random jump shots, and the free throw shooting is abysmal.
In terms of defense, the entire third quarter was marked by open Hornets players in the corners drilling threes, with Celtics players barely entering the frame at times. Late close outs, and an inability to stick with their opponents is the reason the Celtics need to worry.
But, looking at what I just said, what seems to be the problem? Why does this team seemingly lose every big lead they have, in the second half, especially the third quarter?
Well, that’s just it. The third quarter. All week I have been trying to figure out why Boston has been lifeless, when it occurred to me that this team is old. The core players, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, are all past their prime.
Kevin Garnett is clearly slowed by his injury, and with the rest at halftime his knee ends up cooling down and as a result he is not explosive in the second half. Same with Pierce, who is unable to quickly change directions due to a foot injury, and banged up knees.
Ray Allen, while playing every game, has had to take a lot of the load with Pierce and Garnett injured, and as a result has logged the highest minutes per game total on the team.
Remember, he 34.
It is the second half where these injuries start to act up, after playing a full half of basketball despite them.
Further supporting this idea is that the trouble generally occurs in the third quarter. Tonight, losing by 17 points in the 3rd. The C’s only lost by 3 in the fourth, 21-18.
Essentially, after warming up their injuries, guys like KG and Pierce could become major factors once again, and play well in the final period.
Against the Magic, on Sunday, they lost 34-11 in the 3rd, but won the 4th quarter. Again, when the injuries were warmed up, they began to play better.
So, you might ask, what about Allen, why is he not the same player in the 4th, despite having the opportunity to warm up again?
Well, being a 34-year-old, he is just nagged by the wear-and-tear which his body is taking (but really shouldn’t be), and thus unable to make plays he normally would be able to.
Perkins and Rondo, the other two of the starting five, can try to pick up as much slack as they can, but they both have free throw shooting troubles, meaning the normally game-changing three-point plays they pick-up are neutralized.
Off the bench, Rasheed Wallace is very inconsistent. At times draining big shots, and others throwing the ball out of bounds. When the team starts to play more games together, on the court (no injuries), then this will improve.
The good signs? Tony Allen is a spark, as is Marquis Daniels.
They both showed their defensive presence and made themselves known offensively as they slashed to the basket. Glen Davis is beginning to play well again, as well, as he grabbed some rebounds tonight, and showed his scoring ability by dropping some fall away jumpers.
Morale of the story? The All-Star break could not have come at a better time. This team needs the rest, so that their older players can re-obtain the explosiveness they had in the second half. The team is clearly talented enough, shown by their previous victories against the Cavs and Magic, albeit early in the season.
Based on the 3rd quarter struggles, it seems that this team just needs rest so that that they have the energy to play with come the 3rd quarter. Let Allen get some rest to heal his body, and allow KG and Pierce to heal their ailments, or at least further recover from them, and I think that you might see a team playing with energy and passion once again. Furthermore, Marquis Daniels gets a few days of rest, and at a perfect time.
He played some games, and definitely wore down his thumb a little bit, so this rest will help him out, as well.
Hopefully, the excitement of his first All-Star game and the confidence he will gain calms Rondo at the free throw line, so he can go back to shooting, maybe 60-65% from the charity stripe, but to me, that is still a major question.
Should Danny Ainge pull the trigger on a trade? Yes, and I think he will, but it will probably be for a small addition off the bench, to maybe add some length and rebounding or defense.
I don’t think the break will completely fix Boston, but I do think that it will give them the means to recover and thus regain their previous quarter of dominance.
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