Quantcast
Red's Army

Loss to Heat Provides Blueprint to Rediscovering Form

Sebastian Lena March 21, 2013 Celtics News 21 Comments

The Boston Celtics-Miami Heat matchup had it all.

One team came in boasting a historical winning streak, while the other continued to defy the odds with every passing week.

One team sat atop the Eastern Conference, while the other was busy fighting and clawing its way up the standings.

One team featured arguably the best player in the NBA right now, while the other featured a former All-Star who refused to allow the lights to dim on his career just yet.

After 47 minutes Monday night, it was nearly impossible to differentiate between the two.

However, the final 45 seconds provided all the clarity needed.

Coming out of a timeout, the Celtics had the Heat right where they wanted them. The score was knotted up at 103-103, and a raucous, sold-out TD Garden had the momentum entirely in the home team’s favor. It was as close to a sure thing that the ball was going to either Paul Pierce or the hot-handed Jeff Green.

Except it did not.

Instead, Brandon Bass found himself with the ball at the top of the key, dribbled past his defender and—still can’t believe I’m about to type this this—drove in for a wild attempt at the basket that wasn’t even close.

Was Doc serious?

Bass was the same guy who had only attempted four shots all game long. The same guy who had only scored two points since the opening minute and a half. The same guy who had essentially been a mere spectator on the court for much of the game.

Umm…

But before Boston fans could completely wrap their heads around what had just happened, LeBron James—not some scrub—was rising up for a well-contested jumper that would find the bottom of the net.

With 10 seconds remaining, the Celtics still had a shot.

But next thing you know, Pierce is chucking up a desperation three-point attempt—with his defender draped all over him—that clanks off the rim. It was an attempt so audacious that it made Jordan Crawford’s shot selection seem rational.

I guess someone forgot to inform Pierce of the full seven seconds he had to find a more reasonable shot.

With that said, Boston watched as Miami walked off the court, full of smiles and jubilation. While the Celtics, and their fans, walked away in disappointment, heads down.

The Heat’s winning streak grew to 23 games. Boston’s home winning streak expired at 11. Green’s career-high, 43-point performance was all for waste.

But more importantly, in the heavyweight bout of measuring stick games, the Celtics fell just a bit short.

And although Miami proved it was clearly the better team Monday night, Boston deserves props for a valiant effort.

However, don’t expect Pierce to settle for moral victories.

“There’s always positives from every game, but you’ve got to look at negative things when you play against the best team in the NBA right now,” he said. “It’s always going to come down to the little things and those things really add up at the end of the game when you have a two-point loss.”

In a game riddled with mistakes, Pierce won’t have to look too far.

Here are the Celtics’ most glaring needs that need to be addressed over their final 16 games of the regular season.

 

1. Protecting the Paint

Garnett has been the lone protector of the rim this season.

Sometimes, it’s easier said than done.

In Boston’s case, it’s not even done at all.

Protecting the paint has been an issue that has plagued this team since the beginning of the season. Opposing players have waltzed into the paint with ease, finding buckets easy to come by.

But that’s to be expected when the 36-year-old Kevin Garnett is your last line of defense and practically the only frontcourt depth on the roster.

It’s also what makes losing rookie Jared Sullinger to a season-ending injury in January so backbreaking (no pun intended).

In 22 games since, opponents have averaged 44.5 points in the paint per game. That’s an increase over the Celtics’ season per-game allowance of 42.4.

In comparison, Boston has only averaged 34.1 points in the paint per game during the same stretch. That’s down from the team’s season per-game output of 37.6. Only four teams average less.

On Monday, it was an issue that crippled the Celtics.

The Heat came into the game ranked 10th in paint production—averaging 42.6 points per game—so it was expected that they would have the upper hand down low. But no one could predict that they would outscore Boston 50-34 in the category.

Time after time, Miami would spend much of the shot clock struggling to find an open look. Then, right when the Celtics thought they had stopped them, the Heat would dump the ball down low and be bailed out by an easy bucket.

In fact, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and James all combined for 30 field-goal attempts from inside five feet. They converted 22 of those attempts.

Boston’s 87-86 loss to the New Orleans Hornets was much of the same.

Not only were the Celtics outscored inside the paint—42-40—but they were also out-rebounded on the offensive glass. New Orleans collected 11 second-chance boards compared to Boston’s four.

Not surprisingly, it was an offensive rebound that led to the game-winning tip-in at the buzzer that sealed the Celtics’ fate.

You’re not going to win too many games like that.

 

2. More Green, Less Bass

Green is ready for his time to shine.

Fool Doc once, shame on you. Fool Doc twice, shame on him.

It’s what the majority of the Boston faithful are thinking when it comes to Green.

On Feb. 22, the 26-year-old received his first start of the season against the Phoenix Suns. In 39 minutes, Green made Rivers out to be a genius, finishing with 31 points, seven rebounds, five blocks, four assists and two steals. He shot 11-of-14 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range.

However, in the next 10 games, Green would only start two more times.

Then on Monday, with Garnett sitting out with the flu, Green started once again.

It was an occurrence that almost single-handedly delivered the Celtics with their biggest win of the season.

Green finished with 43 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals over 40 minutes. He was 14-of-21 from the floor and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Miami had no answer for Green in the first half, where he scorched them for 26 points.

But this recent surge shouldn’t be surprising anyone.

In 24 games since losing Rajon Rondo to an ACL tear, Green has stepped up, averaging 15.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks over 31.3 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 49.8 percent from the field and 42.7 percent from distance.

During that same stretch, only Pierce has averaged more points a night than Green.

So why is he still not starting regularly?

It can’t be because of Bass’ gaudy stat line over the past 10 games—7.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks over 27 minutes per game. Don’t forget, he’s also shooting a stellar 54 percent from the field. Then again, anyone can accomplish that when they’re only attempting five shots a game.

On Monday, Bass was the only starter who attempted less than 10 shots. And he was the one who Doc decided deserved a chance to try and beat the Heat?

He was practically non-existent during the 48 minutes. So it comes as no surprise that Boston is actually better off when Bass isn’t on the floor.

Over the 1,659 minutes he has been on the court, the Celtics average just 91.8 points per game, while posting an offensive rating of 99 and a defensive rating of 102.5.

In the 1,397 minutes Bass has been off the court, Boston averages 96.6 points per game, while registering an offensive rating of 102.5 and a defensive rating of 94.3.

I repeat… why is Bass still in the starting lineup?

 

3. Close Out Games

Rivers had found himself baffled after some of Boston’s losses this season.

Building up a lead is the easy part. Putting the finishing touches is a little more difficult.

The Celtics probably know that better than anyone else.

Through 67 games, they have already lost six contests in which they held a double-digit lead at some point. That includes leads of 16, 17 and even 27.

To put in perspective just how important those six games are, consider this: Boston currently trails the New York Knicks by 4.5 games in the Atlantic Division.

How badly do you think the team wishes it could have those games back?

But instead of looking in the rearview, the Celtics should aim to correct the cause of these shortcomings.

The catalyst might just be the team’s poor play in the fourth quarter.

In the final period, Boston holds an offensive rating of 97.4 and a defensive rating of 101. The team averages 22.1 points in the quarter, while allowing an average of 23.2.

The numbers get even worse in the clutch (i.e., under five minutes with neither team winning or trailing by more than five points).

The Celtics have been in 34 such situations this season, going 18-16 in those games.

However, they have shot just 36.6 percent from the floor and 30.5 percent from beyond the arc. Boston also has an offensive rating of 92.3 and a defensive rating of 97.1.

A team is supposed to play its strongest in the fourth quarter. That’s when the games are won.

Just imagine where the Celtics’ season would be now had they been much better at closing out games.

 

Summing It All Up

Luckily, Boston has plenty of time to right the ship before their next encounter with the defending NBA champions.

While these issues are severely detrimental to the well being of this team, they’re also not impossible to fix.

And if there’s something Doc is good at, it’s learning from his mistakes. Don’t expect that to change this time around.

Heck, this recent slump might even prove to be the wake-up call that ensures the Celtics a date with Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.

Sure, the Heat will probably be heavy favorites.

But then again, everybody loves an underdog story.

You can follow Sebastian on Facebook and on Twitter

Like this Article? Share it!

  • LA Flake

    Your brief recap of what happened at the end of the game is wildly off the mark. First, PP did NOT have a defender draped ALL OVER HIM like you claim. Terry set a good pick on Queen James and Pierce was wide open. It’s a shot that he routinely made throughout his career and it’s a shot that he’s more than capable of making. Except he didn’t this time around. Still, you live with that shot every time because Pierce is one of the most clutch shot makers in the history of this game. And if Pierce had tried to dribble or pass to find a better shot, there was no guarantee that we would’ve ended up with a better shot. LBJ would’ve recovered and really been “draped all over” Pierce. The way the game was going, Pierce could’ve turned the ball over. Many things could’ve gone wrong. That Pierce took the shot when he did was a good move as it gave us a chance to rebound the ball. Except we didn’t. But you gotta live with that. Still, we didn’t lose because Pierce missed the last shot. We lost because we missed a ton of FTs and we turned the ball over 20+ times. We also made poor decisions throughout the game and the refs slowed the game down for the Heat in the second quarter to help them catch up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/SP7988 Sebastian Lena

      Can we please stray away from blaming the refs for every high-profile loss the team suffers?

      • LA Flake

        Tell that to Sacramento, Phoenix, Dallas and a host of other teams whose championship dreams were dashed because David Stern and his minions got in the way.

      • ShawnCVD

        Um… Refs are an all the time thing. When Cs play well enough to win and refs cheat for the Heat (see ecf game 2 Wade slapping Rondo, countless LeBron no calls) they’ve earned our vitriol. Doesn’t mean we’re not recognizing Cs shortcomings. The 2nd quarter WAS a joke last Monday. Boston’s energy got sucked out constantly due to ticky tacky fouls and video reviews.

        • ShawnCVD

          Oh yeah and Chalmers/Battier play the refs like a fiddle

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Errick-Cotto/606220736 Errick Cotto

      pierce had a mna all over his face!

    • JG

      All very good points. The funny thing is, in the recap above, they blamed the Celtics/doc for “going” to Bass on the previous play and not pierce or green. Then, the heat went to James who hit a “contested” shot. Then, a few lines later, they talk about how bad it was that the celtics went to pierce for a tough fall-away which he makes about 50% of the time.

      They really can’t win in the eyes of this recap no matter how they execute, unless of course, a shot goes in.

      Finally, another point I thought this recap and some fans don’t realize. In basketball, and I’m sure in other sports (though I’ve really only played basketball), a play usually isn’t only made for ONE person and that’s the end of it. A good play consists of a series of options, sometimes even using mis-direction. One of the many things you are taught as a growing basketball player is to always “play basketball first, run the play second”. That is why Bass took that lane to the hoop. It was absolutely, without a doubt the right play. He was WIDE open. Now, whether or not he should have finished is another story. The celtics/Doc didn’t DRAW that play for bass like it says in this article. He made the correct basketball play and just happened to not finish.

      • LA Flake

        Agreed about Bass taking it to the hoop being the right basketball play. That he wasn’t able to finish…Well, he wouldn’t be Brandon Bass if he could finish strong now, would he?

      • Raoul

        Lol the recap was so off. That play was NOT designed for Bass. He was a decoy to pull the defense towards the paint so he could kick it out to Bradley on his left for a corner 3. That’s why Bradley only caught and passed the inbound, and then ran to the corner to wait. The defense didn’t buy it and kept 2 guys between the paint and Bradley. Bradley saw this and cut instead. Bass realized this mid-drive and tried to juggle from his left for a pass to his right for a basket. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the hands for that (in terms of quickness). Watch the play again, or the end of the game for that matter, and write a more accurate, less opinionated recap.

  • Mike C

    Good post, really like the breakdown of the minutes compared to our performance in different situations. Couldn’t agree more about Jeff Green starting over Bass. Need to add one note about beating the Heat specifically. Everyone knows Bron Bron is going to get his 30+ points, but the player that absolutely kills us every time the game is close, is Shane Battier. Everyone in the building knows he’s going to shoot a three from the corner, yet he still gets these all game long (uncontested) from the Celtics. Doc needs to tell whoever defends him to stay with him no matter what. If Bron gets another two points because he wasn’t double teamed, WHO CARES. I’d rather give up 2 points instead of 3. Battier in the corner is the first look for Bron & Wade. Take that play away and it saves us the few extra points we need to beat Miami in close games.

    • http://www.facebook.com/SP7988 Sebastian Lena

      While Battier definitely can hurt teams with those 3′s, I believe Chalmers was the one who hurt the C’s the most besides LeBron. He had 21 pts, I believe and didn’t seem like he could miss from three.

      • Mike C

        Yes, kicking it out to Chalmers for the three is there go to play also. I really believe that if we took these FREE three’s away, it is a key element to beating the heat.

        • LA Flake

          Yup. We need to stop double, triple teaming Queen James and stop the Battiers and Chalmers. Queen James will get his. Just gotta stop the rest which is why I was disappointed when Avery kept cheating off of his man Chalmers to guard LBJ. I hope AB learned.

  • Mike C

    One more comment. Sorry, but the refs in this league cannot be defended, EVER! They’re absolute trash. Its not just against the Celtics though. Alot of teams each week get robbed by these assholes. Just ask Cleveland about how there 27 point lead got erased last night by Miami. I’m sure the officials breaking momentum swings by the Cavaliers had nothing to do with it. Its about money and TV ratings. The Heat bring in tons of both. Stern wants to keep it that way, so the majority of calls are going to be in favor of Miami. Its NBA BUSINESS, and it SUCKS.

    • Mike C

      UPDATE… March 25, Golden State verses Lakers. Golden State up by 20 in the third quarter. Refs NEED to close the GAP. Kobe goes to the Line 10 times in the third quarter alone. Golden States ENTIRE team has been to the line 10 times for the whole game. Last foul called FOR kobe at the end of the third was three free throws. GS defender never left his feet OR moved, and kobe JUMPED INTO HIM while shooting a three. Keep up the GOOD WORK REFS, your all TRASH!!

  • RedsLoveChild

    Hornets, Pistons, Bobcats vs. Boston…….6-1 {.857%}

    Same three teams vs. Rest of the NBA…..56-143 {.281%}

    • LA Flake

      Ouch…

    • http://www.facebook.com/SP7988 Sebastian Lena

      Throw in the Bobcats and it’d be 6-1.

      • RedsLoveChild

        True….Throw in the Cavs and it`d be 7-2.

    • KGino

      Who cares? They’ve also beaten the Thunder and the Heat… We all know the celtics play to their competition

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Rotolo/1173768782 John Rotolo

    The art ,or rather science of boxing out is something the NBA in general , and the Celtics in particular , have forgotten.It`s particularly harmful when your bigs are not terribly athletic.Somebody needed to put a body on Anthony Davis at the end of the game.I only saw highlights , so I`m not certain who was matched up with him , but I`m guessing KG.Older players sometimes forget they can`t just outjump people any more.