You know when you have a nightmare, and it feels so real, and you’re super scared because “Damn, that guy is really coming at me with a butcher knife!”? Then you wake up in a cold sweat, happy to be back in reality rather than whatever evil fantasy-land you’d traveled to for the night.
Well, the Celtics still haven’t woken up, and it’s looking more and more like that evil fantasy-land they travel to every time the ball is tipped might just be reality. That big, huge guy with the butcher knife running toward the C’s might actually be real life.
But let’s pretend it’s only a nightmare — hell, maybe it is — and that the Celtics can wake up if they can somehow find a way to pinch themselves out of their deep, disturbing slumber.
What do they need to change to snap out of the horror flick that’s been going on for almost three months?
You can take all your #1 defense stats and shove them up your ass. When the Celtics need stops, they don’t get them. When the game gets close, the Celtics almost invariably experience defensive meltdowns — missed rotations, failure to contest shots, easy layups — to let their opponents pull away. This is a team that wanted to defend like the 1985 Bears, but looks more like the 2009 Patriots. Mediocre.
I was watching Jason Kidd play against the New Orleans Hornets the other day, and marveled as always at his ungodly unselfishness. He catches an outlet pass and — Bam! — it’s immediately out of his hands headed to another player on the break. He catches a pass on the perimeter and — Vroom! — its swung to the next guy instantly. Kidd is old, he’s slow, and he’s not capable of doing half the stuff that will make him a Hall-of-Famer when his career is done. But, God damn it!, the man can still facilitate good offense.
After watching Kidd play, it’s even more apparent: The Celtics have had stickum on their hands most of the season. They catch the ball and seem to count “one one-thousand, two one-thousand” before making a move or passing it off. The ball movement is never instant, almost like Boston is playing in mental quicksand. Get that pill moving, fellas.
I’m fine with no offensive rebounding, I really am. Doc Rivers stresses getting back on defense, sacrificing a lot of offensive rebounding in order to improve transition defense. That is fine. I’m okay with it, as long as it’s strategy.
But to not defensive rebound?? With a physical front line of four big, strong, strapping gentlemen? When did Boston be converted from a tough crew to a team full of Sally’s?
Box out, you big, bored, bastards. Box out.
I guess this could be included in offensive execution, but turnovers have been such a big problem that they deserve their own category. It’s not just that the Celtics are throwing turnovers — even in 2008 they did plenty of that. It’s the carelessness of the turnovers.
Rajon Rondo has been a big culprit recently: he’ll float a lazy pass to the wing to initiate the offense, and end up passing it to the wrong team. Even KG has had quite a few dumb turnovers recently, especially trying to pass the ball into the post from bad angles.
I can take turnovers on aggressive plays. But swing passes and entry passes only get picked off if they’re lazy.
48 minutes of play
When’s the last time Boston put together a complete game? Probably Christmas, against the Magic. Since then, it’s been all spurts, peaks and valleys for the C’s. They’ll look great one moment, atrocious the next. Jekyll and Hyde, to say the least.
What it all means
Umm, if you couldn’t tell, it seems Boston needs to improve on just about everything. Offense, defense, rebounding, consistency; is there anything the Celtics are doing well right now? Not much.
But there is one thing that can fix just about everything on that list of improvements the Celtics need to make: Better focus.
What does boxing out come down to? Focus. What does running a play correctly come down to? Focus. What does closing out on a shooter with a hand up come down to? Focus. What does playing well for 48 straight minutes come down to? You guessed it, focus.
Boston has been doing all the little things wrong, and it has affected them in a huge way. Only 13 wins in their last 29 games. As WEEI’s Paul Flannery points out, “That’s not a trend or a slump, and it’s not a small sample size.”
But it’s not the end of the world, either. If Boston can regroup and start doing the little things right, the big things will fall into place.
After 128 regular-season wins the previous two seasons, this year’s C’s need to get back to the basics.