Why I Like This Team: Celtics 114, Nuggets 76
Posted by Zach Lowe on Feb 24, 2009
That’s three wins in four games on this pre/post All-Star road trip against teams playing .667 ball at home (New Orleans, Dallas and Denver, with the loss coming at Utah).
You can write this one off as meaningless, and I wouldn’t blame you. The scheduling was weird, both teams were on the second night of a back-to-back, and Denver was coming off an eight-game road trip that ended Sunday in Milwaukee. The Nugs were missing Nene; the C’s were missing KG. And, really, the game ended sometime in the middle of the second quarter, when the Nuggets got frustrated over three shaky offensive foul calls and their complete inability to get free for open looks. They packed it in for the night, and I’m not sure half the teams in the league wouldn’t have done the same thing. Really, the most significant thing to happen tonight is probably another injury–a neck sprain for Scal, prognosis unclear. More tomorrow.
But you learn little things about your team in games like this. Here are two moments from an easy win that tell you everything you need to know about Boston.
• 2nd Quarter (4:07), 47-31, Boston: Billups dishes to Carmelo, who’s wide open at the foul line because of some frantic switching gone bad. The paint is unguarded, and Melo takes one dribble before going up for an easy slam. Big Baby rotates over from the left baseline to challenge. He’s late, but he goes up right in front of the rim and raises both hands toward the ball. Melo posterizes him with a two-handed power jam. It’s ugly. But you know what? I love the challenge. We’ve all seen defenders facing a potential posterizing take the easy way out and kind of slide toward the rim, turning their back to the dunker to avoid the facial. I respect the guys willing to risk SportsCenter humiliation for the sake of saving a point or two.
• 3rd Quarter, 6:33, 70-43, Boston: Billups dribbles above the three-point line as Johan Petro (?) prepares to set a screen to his right. Petro’s man (Perkins) telegraphs the switch by drifting toward the spot on the floor where Billups wants to dribble should Petro actually set a screen. This leaves Petro an open lane to the hoop, one Glen Davis is responsible for cutting off by coming over from the right side of the court. But Davis is late, and Petro takes a Billups pass and goes for the dunk. Davis fouls him. The entire team (especially Rondo and Doc) lays into Baby for missing the rotation. The score is 70-43.
A couple of other observations from an easy one, after the jump.
• Leon Powe: Is Powe the potential offensive savior for the second unit or one-dimensional, kinda out-of -control offensive player who can only score when presented with a mismatch? Doc handed the offense to Powe in the second quarter tonight, and I’m as confused as ever. A quick sample of Powe possesions (Powe po’s?):
• 11:37: Posts up Chris Andersen on the left block, goes hard to his right (and into the Bird Man’s chest) for a jump hook. Score.
• 10:18: Posts Andersen up on the right block, shoulder fakes toward the paint before turning to the baseline for a jump hook. Draws a foul.
• 8:33: Andersen concedes the right baseline to Powe who dribbles to toward the rim, leans into Andersen (shoving him back into the paint) and creates space for a lay-in, which Powe either air-balls or Andersen blocks. (The game log says it’s a block). Davis misses a put-back, but Powe grabs that rebound and pops back up with a thunderous one-handed jam, and one.
• 6:51: Powe tries the same jump hook/one-handed jumper moving left-to-right in the lane; Andersen blocks it.
• 1:39: Powe against Andersen again in the left block, and Powe again lowers his left shoulder to create space for a jump hook. Score.
My opinion of Leon’s game switched several times in this sequence alone. He basically overpowered Andersen (who’s two inches taller but 10 pounds lighter than Leon) to get scores and trips to the line. He still doesn’t look ready (to me, at least) to contribute offensively against good defenders. There’s no way he goes off like that against Nene, for instance.
I ask you guys: Is this Leon’s ceiling offensively? Is he a bench guy who can take advantage of mismatches and nothing more? Even if he is, we need every point he can give us against opposing second units in the playoffs.
• Kudos to Big Baby for taking three charges, even if two of them were questionable calls. Love the effort and the no-easy-baskets mentality.
• Baby Jumper Watch: He was 1-of-3 on jumpers tonight, and, not coincidentally, he knocked down the one jumper when he had the most time and space. A defender flying at him–even one just rotating toward him–and his percentage drops big time. Shoot only when WIDE open, Glen.
• I love what Rondo is doing with KG out. He scored 11 in the first quarter, and you got the feeling he was ready to score 30 again if the game had been close. He’s looking to finish on fast breaks and he’s attacking big men who end up guarding him off switches or botched rotations. And the rebounding…these aren’t just cheapie long rebounds that bounce out toward the guards. With about 3:00 to go in the first quarter, he leaped up between Carmelo and Chris Andersen (deep in the paint) for a rebound off a Pierce jumper. I expected him to pull the ball back out and restart the offense. Instead, he went right back up between the two defenders and laid the ball in. Great stuff from Rajon.