Red's Army loyal occasional infrequent reader and good friend Rob Gill offers the following opinion on the Celtics. Every so often, he's motivated to chime in (usually with some negative, worn out argument). Consider him our Dan Shaughnessy. Enjoy….
I’m getting older at a frightening pace, but I’m still a relatively young man I guess. I’ll always be younger than such relics as the pyramids, the Roman Coliseum, Chuck McKenney, etc. Along with the last vestiges of my youth remains the fleeting naiveté that allows me to harbor somewhat foolish hopes and dreams. One of those dreams effectively died last night. I now know that I will not see the Boston Celtics win an NBA title in 2008.
It’s a simple equation really. A team that won 37 games during the regular season has absolutely no business extending a team that won 66 games to a seventh game. (I’ll go ahead and clear space on my mantle for my 2008 Captain Obvious trophy right now.) If the Celtics can’t show even the slightest hint of a killer instinct on the road in one of the three worst pro sports cities in the country (Miami and Los Angeles, you know who you are), then how can they possibly do so against infinitely better opponents in Detroit or San Antonio? I suppose it’s possible that they could create a Moses Roadmap 2.0 by going “sev’-sev’-sev’-sev’” and taking home the title without winning one game on the road. Feels like kind of a stretch though.
As a displaced Masshole living in New Jersey without the NBA satellite package, I relied largely on next day highlights, recaps and pithy blogs like those found on redsarmy.com (that’s another $500, boys!) along with the occasional nationally televised game to carry me through the Celtics’ magical regular season. Every game makes national TV in the playoffs, and in this series I have something in common with Atlanta Hawks season ticket holders: we’ve all doubled the number of times we’ve seen our favorite team play in the last week and a half.
Although I have immensely enjoyed partaking of the Celtics’ return to the postseason as something more than cannon fodder, immersing myself in every possession every couple days has opened my eyes to potentially fatal vulnerabilities.
Let’s start with one that had percolated in the back of my head all season long and has been confirmed beyond a doubt in this series. Leon Powe is a better basketball player than Kendrick Perkins. Period. On offense, if the ball comes to Perkins under the basket, he will dunk it. On defense, if the ball comes to him under the basket, he will rebound it. But other than providing a little more bulk against larger interior players, Perkins brings very little to the starting line-up that Powe wouldn’t bring as well. The same cannot be said in reverse.
While defense is on the table, where has the much ballyhooed Celtics team defense gone? Like many, I laughed a fat man’s laugh repeatedly this season remembering the preseason assessments by clowns like ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd that the Celtics “couldn’t possibly win a championship” because they “have no defense.” Well, who’s looking fat and jolly now? Boston gave up just over 90 points per game during the regular season. They have allowed almost 101 ppg in the three games in Atlanta to a team that essentially has one and a half consistent offensive weapons – if Josh Smith’s “half” can count as “consistent.”
But ultimately, the Celtics’ failures really rest on the shoulders of their – ahem – “Big Three.” If they lose this series, a law must be enacted immediately forbidding anyone to use that term in reference to Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce ever again.
Garnett is one of the most athletic 6’11” players in league history, yet on many nights he’s content to fire up 21-foot jumpers. The Hawks leapers seem to creep into his head whenever he gets near the hoop. Speaking of being content to fire jumpers, why does Allen categorically refuse to use his still ample athleticism by slashing to the hoop once in a while? At the end of Game 4 when the Celtics needed immediate points and a three-pointer was unavailable, Allen took three decisive steps along the baseline and emphatically threw it down. Does he believe that if he tried that two or three times per game he’d lose his rightful reputation as the best outside shooter in the game? As for Pierce, his hopes of earning a place of reverence in Celtics history are at Defcon 1. When he’s right, he’s one of the most unstoppable forces in the league, the perfect captain leading by example. When he’s wrong, he’s an immature whack job capable of putting his team’s chances in peril at the drop of a hat.
The Celtics loss in Game 6 leaves the series in a scenario worthy of one of the plots from that goofy (read: awesome) old Batman series starring Adam West. Each episode would invariably come to an end with Batman and Robin caught in some harrowing pickle, usually something like being tied together while dangling over boiling oil. Cue dramatic narration. “Will it all end this ignominiously?! Is this the final chapter for the Caped Crusaders?!” At beginning of the next episode, the superheroes always wriggled out of their fix in the nick of time.
The Celtics will also wriggle out of their predicament in the nick of time. They’ll dispose of the Hawks (owners of a whopping 12 road wins) in Game 7 and move on to face Cleveland in the conference semi-finals. Hell, they might even advance all the way to the NBA Finals. But this team has proven two things decisively in this first round: they are not superheroes, and they will not win the NBA title.