|Posted by paul on October 31, 2012 at 6:05 AM|
My biggest surprise last night was that the loss didn't upset me that much. By the end of the first quarter, what the preseason told us had been confirmed; this is a Celtics team that has a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Thoughts of Mighty Revenge, or even of a Titanic Struggle between two basketball giants receded quickly. The Heat are a pretty amazing team, and they cut through us like a machine, but ... even though we were clearly outclassed by a superior team that was motivated and playing well, we managed to hang in there all game long, and in the end, we had a chance to win.
We were left with some encouraging signs. The Celtics' offense seemed more powerful than it has been, even against a top defense. Rondo seemed to be incontrol of things all game long. Pierce was in good form and he and Rondo seemed to be communicating well. Overall, the Celtics seemed resilient and cohesive. The feel of this team is very, very good.
Of course, the disappointments were many. KG seemed very passive. I think he was bothered by the whole Ray Allen thing more than anyone. The Celtics defense didn't seem to show up. That may have had a lot to with KG not seeming to be himself. It also seemed to have a lot to do with this being such a new team in so many ways; they just seem to have a lot of work to do to form themselves into a team, especially on defense. I think the most important thing may have been that Rondo seemed less intense on the defensive end. We really, really need him on both ends this year.
Of course, I'm not saying that Rondo was terrible on the defensive end. There was one play in the first quarter where Lebron was on a breakaway, and Rondo picked him up and basically rode him out of the play, preventing the breakaway Lebron MegaSlam. This kind of gutsy and tough defense disappeared as the game wore on. In a later play, Lebron was on a breakaway, and not only did he walz to the basket, but three Celtics scurried out of his way. Man, that is NOT Celtics ball, and one of the scurriers was Pierce. Come on, man! But Rondo is the key guy who has to step up his defense. He's too passive in his man-to-man D. He rarely pressures the guy bringing the ball up, and when he is guarding his man on the perimeter, he too often stands there waiting for them to make their move. Sometimes, Rondo, you've got to get out there and press the guy. The league's best ball hawk needs to get on top of people more often. Get after them. Take them out of their game, Take the ball away if you can.
I feel like we still play like we have Perkins and Garnett back there. It's not like that anymore. The perimeter guys have to be the power part of this defense. We need to attack the ballhandlers. That will be easier when Bradley returns, for sure. But this defense can't set back passively allowing opposing offenses to set up their half-court with ease, alway reacting, never taking the game to the offense. Our defense needs to go on the attack. Come on guys! It starts with you, Rondo. We need you to have a more aggressive mentality on defense.
On offense, it was clear that we didn't seem to have a clear idea of what we were doing. Sometimes we looked a lot like the team we've been in recent years. Other times, we began to show that we are a team with many weapons, run by a maestro, in Rondo. The biggest disappointment was probably that we didn't attack the post more when Garnett was in the game. We really have GOT to attack the basket with Garnett. Sully had the right idea when he came in, but got swallowed up on one big play and quickly pulled by Doc. Doc, don't show Sully a quick hook every night, please.
Possibly a bigger disappointment, though, was the way we didn't seem to react to the extraordinary defense the Heat unleashed on the Cs. I know that defensively-oriented teams often try to trap point-guards on the perimeter these days, but the Heat went waaay beyond that, it seemed to me. Their whole defense was built around stopping Rondo, and they actually double-teamed him out at the three point arc all night. This was, I think, quite a compliment to Rondo, an indication of the respect Rondo has earned around the league. I don't recall seeing anyone consistently double-teamed out on the perimeter. Trapped? Yes, that happens a lot. But this was beyond that.
The question is, why didn't the Celtics take more advantage? Their response seemed to be to try to pass the ball around the perimeter. We've been doing that for years against the Heat. Can't we come up with some better options, especially now that they are giving up so much in order to try to stop Rondo? Come on, Doc! You are the master of the clipboard! Rondo, you are the genius. Can't we find more aggressive ways to take advantage of a defense that, however athletic, is willing to distort itself to that degree to stop one player?
Rondo tears defenses out of joint every bit as much as a guy like Lebron does. Why aren't we taking more advantage of this, in general?
Green's play was acutely disappointing. I thought he tried to rise to the occasion, but was pretty much swallowed up by the Heat on both ends. I'm not really worried about this, though. The Heat are a pretty tough test. What I did like about Green was the way that, especially in the first half, he tried some aggressive moves to the basket. We shouldn't expect him to enlarge his role on the team overnight, to grow into the high expectations around him. He is a key guy for us, but he too is a work in progress. A lot of top players have gotten swallowed up by the Heat.
Sully struggled. He too got abused on both ends, but he did make a couple of good plays, and tried a strong move to the hoop. Here again I'm not worried. The Heat are a tough test. My only worry is that Doc will bury bench guys like Green and Sully. DON'T DO IT, DOC! Play the guys. They can't get better if they don't play. They will get better, given a chance.
Lee gave us the tough D we expected, and some nice plays on offense. The refs got after him early, naturally, and that hurt us a lot. Refs can be bullies, can't they?
Overall, this wasn't a bad start, I think. I felt like we learned that we have a long way to go, but that we have a lot of potential. Basically, we sucked, and they played well, and it still was a game at the end.
Rondo is clearly very committed to his leadership role, but he's got to do it at both ends more consistently. There is no gloom in Muddville today, but there will be soon enough if the Celtics D doesn't improve.