Picking Up The Pieces
Posted by Brian Robb on May 19, 2009
After hearing from Doc Rivers about the overwhelming number of injuries that this Celtic team had been affected by during this Orlando series, I felt an analysis was necessary of each of the ailments, to try to make sense of a disappointing series loss to Orlando.
With the amount of minutes Ray had to play in the Orlando series, any kind of hamstring problem likely would have hampered him and his shot greatly. The thing about Ray all regular season long was that he was the most consistent offensive option on the team and had one of best overall seasons as a pro.
That’s what made his lack of production for this entire Magic series so surprising. The last time he had a stretch of games this bad, was during the Cleveland series last year, when it was widely documented he had been suffering from ankle pains all year long.
He was also phenomenal for the majority of the Bulls series, carrying the team through stretches when Paul went cold. There was no sign of any let up from Ray as he looked to be on his A game despite the additional minutes he played this year.
Thus the hamstring injury popping up for Orlando makes sense, because it takes an injury to slow down Ray Allen’s shot for any substantial length of time. So while the Magic did a great job defending him, let’s not give them all the credit for limiting Ray for the first 6 games and anoint J.J. Redick as a potentially good defensive player just yet. Clearly there was more at play here.
Also give credit for Ray for not using this as an excuse once during the series. When you are playing poorly and facing sharp criticism because of your body’s limitations, its human nature to want to explain to everybody what the real issue is. Ray took the criticism in stride and continued to work through the pain by contributing anyway possible.
If he had leaked the hamstring issue, all it probably would have done was make the Celtics chances tougher, as the Magic could have made some adjustments knowing Allen was not a full strength. Kudos to Ray for being a consummate professional and putting the team first all year long despite his physical problems.
The mileage was up there for the Captain all year long and so had the whispers about him being hurt from Matt Moore at Hardwood Paradoxysm among others. Celtics fans had been in denial about this possibility, but his no show for much of game 7 put me in a state of alarm since a no show from the Captain doesn’t happen there unless something is really wrong with the guy beyond repair.
It’s likely the gas tank was empty as is, but to throw some potential bone spurs on top of all that wear and tear provides the formula for a great player that was unable to score a field goal for the better part of two quarters against the Magic Sunday night.
We all knew Perk was hurt, aggravating his shoulder problem both in the Chicago and Orlando series. Yet there was not one mention of this in any analysis I saw that chided the Beast for his lackluster offensive performance (3 of 11 from field) in Game 7. This is probably due to the fact he continued to due a tremendous job Howard on the defensive end, despite the pain.
You have to imagine though, bringing the ball above his shoulder or head on the offensive end could have hardly been considered an easy maneuver at that point and likely had some kind of effect on his shot’s effectiveness.
Putting all of these pieces together here, it really makes me admire this team’s grittiness to push this Orlando series to 7 teams in the full place. Orlando’s roster for this series, was the more talented 1 through 12 even before these injuries became apparent. The Celtics showed an overwhelming amount of resilience and willpower all year long.
They mounted comeback upon comeback during the regular season and postseason that taught any Celtics fan not to turn off the television too early when the team looked down and out. It’s always fun to root for the underdog and its even more enjoyable when you know you can never count them down and out. Both were true about this 2008-09 Celtics team without Kevin Garnett.
Finally, I applaud Rivers for taking out his starters at the first possible moment of game 7 when the contest game was no longer in doubt with about three minutes left. The entire Celtics rotation was an injured animal since their battle with Chicago. They had shown some signs of recovery over the course of the Orlando series but by the end of game 7, the blood loss had become uncontrollable and death was clearly imminent.
Instead of letting his team die a slow painful death in the next few minutes, Doc made the decision to show some mercy and put the animal “down” as quickly as possible in game 7. Rivers and his staff were likely the only people that knew how much suffering their squad had gone through these past few months. This season had died but his team needed rest and recovery as quickly as possible for the future before any of the injuries got any worse.
Knowing now, what Doc knew all along, the loss in game 7 may have been a hidden blessing for this team, since who knows how much more damage would have been done to those players in the Cleveland series with the prospect of winning virtually impossible. Instead now, the team can pick up the pieces and let the recovery process begin. God knows, they’ve earned it.