Celtics-Sixers Off-Day Thoughts
Posted by Ryan DeGama on May 15, 2012
A few scattered thoughts on an off-day:
Is it time to reverse Paul Pierce’s and Ray Allen’s roles on offense? Because Pierce is so limited with his sprained MCL, he may be best camped at the arc rather than trying to attack the rim or fighting through double teams (interesting that Philly was still running two guys at him). At times, Pierce looked fluid in game two, moving well up and down the court, and even laterally on defense. But many times, he wasn’t able to engage the in play the way we’re used to.
What Pierce can still do is nail the three-ball if he can find space. Even if his percentages drop as a result of his knee injury, as a defender you can’t leave him alone at the arc. So, perhaps he should spread the floor on the weakside and the C’s should put Ray Allen into more pick and roll actions. Allen shot 7-14 last night and looks more like his old weaponized self. He can’t get himself free without help but maybe running Brandon Bass over there to set a pick will open up things for both of them. That’s an organic set for Boston, as the second option off a busted double-baseline screen is usually Allen creating off a ball screen. And then Pierce can sit on the weak side, rest his leg and wait for open threes. He might even have more luck attacking the basket if he’s facing a defender who’s closing hard to the perimeter.
I’m a little mystified at the criticism some are directing at Pierce. He has a habit of taking plays off even when he’s locked in but I think we’re lucky he’s on the floor at all. If he’s taking plays off, I have to think it’s because he’s limited in what he can do. Doc Rivers seems disinclined to rest him any, so this might be the Pierce we see the rest of the playoffs because this injury appears to need a long stretch of time off and that’s not coming until the Celtics are eliminated or champions.
Bass is a mess right now. The Celtics got him a number of great early looks and after a surge that had everyone thinking this would be his breakout game, the misses piled up and he finished 5-15 in 24 short minutes. Sometimes it seems like Bass is short arming his jumpers but that might just be me looking for a technical explanation for a problem that’s born of something else. These misses aren’t a function of having Josh Smith draped all over him. They’re shots he buried during the regular season. Bass has range to about 17-18 feet. As long as he’s squared up, feet set and he’s not shooting off the dribble, he hits those shots. The most frustrating thing for the Celtics is Bass is one of their few healthy players and they’re desperate for scoring right now. Bass is coming up small right when the Celtics need him to elevate his game.
Rajon Rondo is all over the performance map. On the offensive side, he’s been everything from dominant to sloppy to a passenger during the first eight games of the playoffs. And his defense has had some serious polarity problems. For a game or two (particularly the closeout game against Atlanta) he was expending more defensive energy than he has in weeks (months?). He was delivering on his rep as a great perimeter defender. In other games, he’s let guys race right around him. All of which is to say that he’s been himself. In fact, if you’d only seen him play the last three weeks, you’d know as much about him as if you’d seen him for the last five years. His game seems too loose to me, especially on the turnover front, but with Allen and Pierce and Avery Bradley limited, he’s carrying a lot of weight right now. Speaking of which…
Are the Celtics going to ride Kevin Garnett into the ground? He’s been incredible in the playoffs, a level above his excellent second-half performance and worlds away from the KG we saw before the all-star break. Last night aside, he’s even lived up to all that preseason talk about being more assertive on offense. Garnett could make an argument to being one of the two or three best players in the playoffs on any team. He’s up to 37.4 minutes a game (after 31.1 during the regular season) and, along with Rondo, he’s carrying the team on offense (53% FG, 19.5 PPG). But we may be entering a danger zone for diminishing returns. These are much harder minutes than he played during the regular season. If we know anything about KG, it’s that this offensive output isn’t sustainable, even if the rebounding numbers are. If the C’s go back to KG in the post in game three, and the Sixers double, who’s going to hit the open shots and reduce the burden on him? Who’s going to step up when the C’s need a basket? It can’t be KG all the way through the playoffs. Can it?
Second last thing. The 76ers were awfully lucky to win game two (one of the single least enjoyable, least watchable games of the whole year – and not just for the outcome). Without those crazy shots by Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen down the stretch, the C’s walk off with a 2-0 series lead and the Sixers leave thinking their best efforts aren’t enough. The C’s could easily go into Philly and take two straight, which may prove a necessity to get everyone a little down time before the next round.
Last thing. Good luck to Larry Bird and his Pacers tonight. Let’s hope that series goes long and deep and gets more physical. We want both these teams to wear each other out.