|Posted by paul on December 27, 2011 at 11:10 PM|
What a game! One hardly knows what to say in reaction to it. Miami appeared to be on the verge of blowing the Celtics out again and again, but the Cs hung in there and came withing three points of the Heat at the very end of the game, the closest they had been since the earliest part of the game. One is left holding such a basket of mixed emotions! What heart the Celtics showed to stay in the game the way they did, and even crawl back to the verge of possibly stealing a W!! Barely losing tonight makes two moral victories in a row for us. Hmmmm. Well, considering that this is a team struggling to establish its identity, that's by no means awful. In some ways it's pretty good. That said, moral victories will lose their appeal pretty quickly.
Possibly the best thing we saw today was Rajon Rondo again playing a brilliant game. He came close to a triple double, and continued to virtually carry the team on his shoulders, again with help from Ray Ray's brilliant shooting. This is the single most important thing we need to be seeing, and we are seeing it. Rondo has been stepping up, in a big way. But there are two flies in that ointment. One is that we seem to be seeing a clear pattern where the opposing point guard to Rondo also has a brilliant game. In this case, Norris Coles decisively outplayed Rondo in the homestretch. As important as it is for Rondo to play a kind of free safety on defense, he also needs to stay home more effectively on his man, and if he is going to gamble and wander, he needs to make more steals. Rondo had seven turnovers today, and no steals. That's discouraging. Most importantly, HE NEEDS TO FINISH GAMES STRONGER, on both offense and defense. Rondo seems to thrive in the second and third quarters. As great as that is, and as much as we need it, we need more from him in the first and last minutes. Rondo DID seem to play more aggressively for most of the fourth quarter, yet wilted in the final minutes.
Also very encouraging was the play of the bench. The bench players, led by Dooling and Bass, were the main reason, along with Rondo and Allen, that we managed to make this a game. Dooling seems to be a bit of a wild card, with a Nate The Great tendency to throw up wild threes, but he was huge tonight. Bass? This guy seems to be for real. He is the inside presence we have missed since Shaq and JO went down to injury last year and Perk got traded.
But that leads to the most disturbing problem. Garnett seems to be playing pretty well, but is not really rising to the occasion, and Jermaine seems to have virtually disappeared. It's maddening to think that Rivers was hyping Jermaine so much during preseason. It just seems like he and Danny cannot be trusted. Everything they say seems to be a PR operation, sometimes. What we are seeing so far from Jermaine is precisely what seemed to be predictable; he could perhaps be a fine backup center these days, but as a starter, he seems to be nearly completely ineffective. I mean, basically, HE'S KILLING US, ISN'T HE?! There seems to be some kind of chaos on offense and defense that seems to trace back to JO. It's not his fault. He's just being asked to fill a role he cannot fill. We end up being a team that has a gaping whole at the center. Rajon was our leading rebounder tonight. That stinks.
Of course, having Pierce out isn't helping, though I think our weakness at center is hurting us a lot more. It was thrilling that we got back into the game tonight, again, but it was frustrating that we were - again - in the position of having to desperately charge back. If we've learned anything the past two days, it's that we seem to be potentially a very good team. We outplayed both the Knicks and the Heat for much of the past two games. Zone defense apparently played a big role in our comeback against the Heat. If we could start stronger and finish stronger, without sagging in the middle, we could be a heckuva team.