|Posted on November 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM|
Last night's loss to Detroit was pretty stunning. Here is a team which has proclaimed itself to be in the championship hunt losing to the worst team in the league, and not just losing, but getting blown out. Blown out big time. By the worst team in the league. Talk about falling into the manure pile and then rolling around in it. I'm sure a lot of Celtics fans had to talk themselves into letting that team back into their hearts after that stinker of a game was over!
The primary excuse on offer is that this was the last game in the season's toughest streak of games. With three of our four top players being of an age to start making movies with Sylvester Stallone, that's a pretty good excuse. And, for a team that has earned 'worst team' status, Detroit can be scary. They have a top coach, and a center who can be the best in the league on any given night (tell me again that centers don't matter anymore? Funny how a decent center crushed us almost singlehandedly last night). Consensus seems to be that we should just forget about this game, like it didn't happen. In the crucial third period last night, the Cs missed shot after shot after shot after shot. Their shooting numbers at the end of the game didn't reflect their true futility when it counted. Nor did they try to attack the basket, hit the offensive glass, or in any other way change the situation. Nope, they just chucked one hopeless J after another. This was a team that had pretty much given up, or so it seemed. I guess a veteran team is gonna do that sometimes.
Rondo has been catching a lot of grief for artificially extending his record, by staying in the game till the bitter end trying to get that tenth assist. I don't know why that particularly bothers anyone. I don't get it. No one ever seems mad at the hero vets when they fail to show up for games. They do it ALL THE TIME, and never catch hell for it, the way Rondo catches hell if he has a bad game. How many times, since Rondo became more consistent about halfway through last year, has he been THE ONLY ONE WHO SHOWED UP? For example, remember the first game of the Hawks series last year? Remember how we were well rested, and how it was the first game of our supposedly intensely motivated playoff run, and remember how Rondo was the only one who showed up? Remember Heat Game Six, where once again, Rondo was the only one who showed up to play and tried to fend Lebron off single-handed? It was the same last night. It seemed like Rondo and Sully were the only players who showed up.
If I were to blame Rondo for anything, it would be that he, as the leader of the team, should have found a way to get the guys going, and at the very least he should have attacked the basket more. I continue to think that there is something really perverse about the way this team doesn't push the tempo, even though we have the best up-tempo pg in the league, and doesn't build its offense at least in part around a penetrating point guard, even though we have the best penetrating guard in the league. I'm sick to death of the relentless Js. I just don't get this team. They supposedly have this massively sophisticated offense, but you can't get them to do something simple like playing off the amazing ability Rondo has to go on the attack and attract defensive attention, then passing off.
It seems plumb stupid sometimes. If I were Rondo I'd be spending time with all the other players, figuring out the best ways for them to spot and cut when he goes on the attack, working out all kinds of strategies, the way Magic supposedly choreographed fast breaks. We just seem to underuse our best asset, and that's especially glaring when we have a game when we are just chucking bricks all night long.
But really, I just can't blame Rondo for last night. He did almost everything well. He shot well, he mixed up drives with Js in his own shot selection. He set the other guys up well. He played strong defense. If he didn't pull a rabbit out of his hat, if he didn't uncork lightning, maybe that was just as well. Maybe a hard fought game just wasn't in the cards last night, because his teammates weren't into the game, and how can one force it? Maybe this is where we wish Rondo was an even better scorer. Maybe last night he needed to score 40 if we were to have a chance. Maybe that's why he might not be ready for MVP consideration. When people are thinking about you as a candidate for MVP, they aren't just thinking about how you play when your team is playing well. They are also thinking about how you do when your team isn't playing well. Then again, the last thing Rondo needed was a major injury at the hands of Greg Monroe, and the refs seemed pretty unfriendly last night. We saw the refs blithely watch Monroe hammer Rondo into the floor last year. Maybe this just wasn't the game to be a superhero in.
So forget about it. Just put this game aside. Sully played well. That means a lot. Green played poorly. I think maybe we need to think about making some kind of move there. He was one of the key guys for our hopes this year, and one can understand that when one sees how well he plays when he's motivated, but when he isn't, which appears to be most of the time, he's a big drag on our team. Can Doc and the rest reach him? If the guy just isn't that passionate about basketball, is it even possible? Was Ainge just being stubborn when he signed Green for so much money? Was he just trying to somehow salvage The Trade, in retrospect?
I''m just tired of Rondo getting the blame when it's really KG and Pierce who come out flat, sometimes for really important games, and Rondo is the only one who really came to play. I could give a crap about his fake ten assist game. For God's sake, at least he came to play. I don't blame him for trying to keep the streak alive. It gave us fans something to feel good about, especially with Sully being the one who stepped up to help him. I guess it's understandable that the old guys come out flat at times. They have full lives, and basketball is only a part of what they have going on. That's only natural.
I have to laugh when I think about how excited I was about this team this summer. My goodness me. Right now they seem to be more likely to contend for the lottery than for a championship. I'm starting to think about next summer. Will KG retire? Will we have a high draft choice? Should we try to make a deal for the likes of Josh Smith? I think that's a silly thought, though. The league clearly intends to make sure that if Smith leaves Atlanta, he goes to a marquee city, like LA. Always LA!!
Meanwhile, the nice thing about hopes dashed is that you can settle into watching this team evolve, and Rondo along with it. Will they be great? Will they be mediocre? Will they be bad? Game by game, the story unfolds. It was nice to see Sully and Rondo connecting last night. It would be great to see more of that.
In an unsurprisingly nauseating moment, Dan Shaugnessy declares Rondo's assist streak to be "who cares" worthy.
Sigh. What the hell is wrong with these old time writers? Assists are an important statistic in basketball. Shaugnessy said it didn't compare to Dimaggio's hitting streak. Says who! And who's kidding who here? Does anyone seriously think that Dimaggio didn't try to chip off a cheap hit here or there to keep the streak going? Staying in the game might have helped Rondo build up some camaraderie with Sully. That could be a really good thing for us. But to denigrate the significance of a streak where Rondo is approaching the heady heights inhabited by Magic Johnson shows how unwilling these old timers are to appreciate what they have in Rondo. Sickening, really.
Donny Marshall was talking about Rondo trying too hard for assists last night, and showed a play where Rondo attacked the hoop, and as he approached the lane, he was sort of walled off from it by Detroit players, but two Celtics (Bass and Garnett) had inside position. Rondo through an incredibly lame alley oop attempt, apparently to KG, that went out of bounds. Obviously Rondo should have shot the ball, and obviously he got confused about whether to pass or shoot. That's going to happen sometimes. Either would have been good, but probably he should have shot, and anyway he ended up doing a little of both. But I don't think this was a case of Rondo trying to pad stats. It was almost a case of being unable to decide what to eat at a fancy buffet! Mmmm. The shot looks good! But the pass looks good too...